Chef V, entrepreneur and originator of the concept of nationwide organic green drink delivery, travels frequently on airplanes. She lists several reasons why you might want to avoid most food served on airplanes and what you can do instead to ensure you’re eating healthy on planes.
The word “entrepreneur” sounds glamorous, right? As someone who is considered one, let me tell you it’s not all caviar, champagne and vacations on private Caribbean beaches. In fact, there’s a couple very dark sides to being an entrepreneur. The first is that you’re basically married to your business. You work your tail off. Free time is often a luxury. (Though I do make sure to make time for yoga and walks with my dog, Coconut and hubby, Brandon.)
And the other challenging thing about being an entrepreneur is all the travel. As a certified nutritional therapist and someone who oversees a cleanse/detox health food company, the hardest part about crisscrossing the country several times a year is airplane food.
Why eating airplane food is unhealthy
While it’s true that not all airplane food is of equal quality, in general, here’s what I don’t like about airplane food.
It’s not organic and fresh. Airplane food is highly processed and contains a ton of sodium. Moreover, the food is likely not prepared by workers wearing gloves, hairnets and other protective clothing; airplane food is a germophobe’s worst nightmare.
And then there’s the taste. In addition to the super salty taste, airplane food contains artificial ingredients. So if there’s any taste at all, it’s going to taste more like the periodic table of elements and less like nutritious food.
There’s no better succinct summary of healthy eating than food journalist Michael Pollan’s quote, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” When you get served a tray of airplane food, it’s not a huge portion. So that’s good. However, what do you usually get with your meal? A dinner roll that’s almost as hard as a brick. A tiny salad, if you can call it that, of iceberg lettuce, drowned in highly-processed salad dressing. The main course is an unsavory piece of meat or fish that looks like it was created in a lab.
Not what Pollan had in mind….
In light of this, you can see how eating healthy on planes is challenging. It’s amazing to me that all passengers on long-distance flights don’t tell the flight attendant, “no thanks, I’ve bought my own.” That’s because it’s actually easy to eat healthy on planes. All you have to do is prepare ahead of time.
Eating healthy on planes: refuse snacks, chug water
The obvious answer for eating healthy on planes is to bring your own food. You also need to resist temptation on flights. I’m referring to those freebies the airlines give you (and the ones you have to pay for) like those little snack packs on Southwest.
If you eat healthy an overwhelming majority of the time, maybe having one of those 100-calorie snack packs is your once in a blue moon indulgence. (If that’s the case, then indulge. However, if you’re on a long flight and you want to have good energy whenever and wherever you land, eating sugary snacks isn’t your best option.
So no regular soda, chips, pretzels, cookies, etc., on flights. And sorry to say, alcohol is a big no-no. You see, despite how hectic your day has been preparing for travel and dealing with security lines, you need to avoid alcohol both before and during the flight. That’s because of two reasons. First, travelling is stressful. Stress can dehydrate your body. So, too, does the bone-dry and stifling air that recirculates in the cabin.
The only thing you should be drinking is water. Or some other not-bad-for-you, calorie-free, sugar-free drink. Here’s what I do to stay plenty hydrated on a flight. I put an empty hydration pack in my backpack. Then, as soon as I clear security, I make a beeline straight to the nearest newsstand where I can buy bottled water. Because seat space is a luxury these days, I don’t like having lots of bottles clogging my seat space. With my hydration pack next to me and my laptop on the tray table, I get plenty of work done while making sure I’m drinking plenty of water.
Eating healthy on planes: can you bring your own food?
I’ve never had a problem eating healthy on planes because I’ve never had any carry-on food confiscated by TSA. However, I have had people tell me they’ve had sandwiches taken away and other food. So I decided to look into what you can and cannot bring on planes. Here’s what I found out….
Any solid foods you have can be go in your carry-on with no problem. But if you have any snacks or condiments that are liquid or gel-like, they can be taken away if they are larger than 3.4 oz. So let’s say you recently had oral surgery and the only thing you can eat is applesauce, if it’s in a large bottle, you may have trouble bringing it on board. (If it’s just because you like applesauce, eat a whole apple instead; way less sugar.)
And technically, you can’t bring on board a burger drenched in ketchup or other liquid condiments on it. While it seems highly unlikely that you wouldn’t be able to bring the burger on board, who knows … maybe the TSA agent is having a bad day and is going to take it out on you. So play it safe and get condiments after you pass security.
And if you love Organic Green Drinks, here’s one way you can bring them on a plane. It’s a little bit of a hassle. But when you’re 30,000 feet in the air and everybody else is drinking blood-sugar spiking soda, you’ll be glad you did it…. So here’s what I do. I take those mini bottles you can buy from any drug store (you know, those ones meant for shampoo), and fill them up with Green Drink. Ingenious, right?
Bring Frozen Green Drinks, Too!
Just make sure you wash them before you use them the first time. Also, if you live close to the airport, you can bring frozen Green Drinks on board with you. But if you live far away and the Green Drink starts melting by the time you get to the security line, they might not let you through with it.
Here’s one of my tried and true take-on recipes: Raw almond butter with apples and coconut. Easy to make and no problem getting it through security.
Eating healthy on planes: good time to fast?
I usually get a premade salad or wrap from Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s the night before my flight. Although premade sandwiches and the like aren’t usually as healthy as my own creations, it’s still much better quality than most airplane food.
Then again, unless hunger pangs are getting the best of you, maybe while flying, the best way for eating healthy on planes is not to eat at all? Especially if you’re trying the popular intermittent fasting diet.