Airline food, friend or foe?

So there I was flying home the other night and the thought hit me, I have rambled on about workouts while away from home but I didn't mention anything about food.

How does every overseas trip start? Well you take a seat on an aircraft and then generally presented with 2/3 menu options or maybe 5/6 if you're lucky enough to go Business Class, all of which hardly look appealling and generally do not fit your macros. (for the uninitiated out there "macros" are basically the combination of protein, carbohydrates and fats you want to see in each meal. The ratio differs depending on what you are trying to achieve)

Most of us stare at the less than desirable menu and then proceed to pick the most appealing item from the less than appealing menu. BUT you do have hope! The airline has filled their magazine or menu cover with glossy comments and articles about how their menu has been designed and tested by some top chef and is lovingly put together either in flight or by a crack team prior to departure. Your meal finally arrives and is presented to you on a plastic tray with plastic cutlery and most likely consists of a dried out piece of meat some over cooked veg and the dreaded bread roll.

Now it probably sounds like I'm bagging out the airlines but thats not my intention. The reality is they do the best with what they have to work with in something (aircraft ovens) that is really only designed for re-heating as opposed to something used in an episode of MasterChef. Aircraft are inherently difficult beasts to cook in as the pressurised cabin is low in oxygen, low is moisture and recycled constantly. This is further made difficult by the fact the flight attendants have to serve 3-4-500 plus people in a very short time frame, so cooking meals from scratch is out of the question.

So what do you do?

Well it's actually a lot easier than most people think so here are my tips to having a better flight and eating well.

1) Take food with you! Yip it's that simple, over the years we have been scared into thinking this is just not an option but the reality is very different. Whilst I very rarely take whole food with me on board as a passenger I often take better sources of protein to supplement the rather poor options on board. The protein powder I use comes in single serve satchets meaning it's easy to carry and easy to prepare. Now you're thinking "but I have to take a shaker" and my answer would be so what, do you want to have a good meal and feel fit and healthy at the other end or sluggish and tired? Take your shaker and ask the flight attendants to fill it up with water for you, they are always happy to help out. Another great source of protein to take as a snack is a good quality protein bar. Now do your homework on this one and ensure you are getting a bar that consists of Whey protein only and not a mix of Soy. 

2) Choose wisely; pick the meal on the menu that appears to be highest in protein and lower in carbohydrates, so your options will generally be limited to chicken, beef and fish. Personally I always go in the order of chicken, fish then beef, the reasons been that chicken is generally not overcooked these days and is the highest quality protein source. Fish because it's generally nice and light so you don't have a large slow digesting meal sitting in your stomach and then if all else fails beef. Beef is generally over cooked and smothered in some sort of sauce that is less than desirable hence it is the last go to option.

3) Avoid Carbohydrates; the problem with plane carbohydrates is they are generally not the type you want in your diet. White bread rolls, cheesy pastas or dehydrated potato mash are generally what you have to work with. It's for this reason I don't even touch the carb sources on a plane, I stay clear of the rolls, push the mash to one side and never order a pasta dish.

4) Consider the vegetarian option; I know I can't believe I'm saying this but I will often pre-order the vegetarian option in my booking if it looks good. Then all I have to do is have my shake with my meal and the whole thing is more balanced.

5) Avoid alcohol; another thing I can't believe I'm saying but to be completely honest it's the best thing to do and it will ensure your are feeling good at the other end.

6) Water, water, water; drink as much as humanly possible and you will feel great at the other end.

Now I know its all good and well that I give you these tips but the reality is your are going on holiday and you will want to make the most of your flight because your excited about what lays ahead. So if you can't do all of the tips just try and do the major ones, avoid the carbs, take some healthy snacks and drink plenty of water. Also plan ahead, nearly every airline has their menu options for flights on their websites these days and all allow you to book special meals. Use the information available to you to plan ahead.

One last tip on something I get asked a lot; YES you can take protein powder, bars, greens sachets and packaged food into most countries without it been confiscated. The two countries that have the biggest issues with food products are Australia and New Zealand. However if your product is in a sealed package and has it's country of production on it then both these countries will allow it in, just remember to declare it.

Hope this helps and as always if you have any questions just send me a message because I'm more than happy to help.

Lee