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Why We Never Eat Airplane Food

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I believe the last time either of us ate a meal in economy/coach was 4 years ago and it was in a desperate situation on a flight from Asia to LA. Since then we have had salads and other items in first class, but only one 1 or 2 occasions. Even those meals are questionable, but compared to the shit they serve in economy/coach, it’s a step up. The quality of food most airlines serve to economy passengers is something we wouldn’t feed to a dog.  No nutrition labels, a plethora of preservatives, and quite generally nasty, unhealthy options, are some of the top reasons why we never eat airplane food, but there’s more than that. We also have some suggestions for you if you, in fact, want an alternative to eating airplane food; especially on long-haul flights that eclipse 2 or 3 meals.

Airlines care about the bottom line

Most airlines are publicly traded companies, so cost and efficiency are more important than offering good food to passengers. Cabin pressure, noise, smelly lavatories, and other variables certainly impact the taste of the food and the dining experience, but invariably, airplane food is filled with a bunch of shit that’s TERRIBLE for your body. Think of airplane food like an awful frozen TV dinner. Many airlines make their food 5 DAYS BEFORE A FLIGHT AND PACK THEM FULL WITH SODIUM TO PRESERVE THEM! In fact, the meals are even saltier than they seem, because you can’t adequately taste saltiness or sweetness because of the cabin pressure.  

Still, airline food is a $13 Billion market with an expectation to grow to $18 Billion by 2021!

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There is a SERIOUS problem if you type in airplane food in Google and the top results imply questions like:

  1. Is airplane food a joke?
  2. What are ideas of food to bring on the airplane so I don’t have to eat the prison meal they serve me on a flight for which I paid $1200?
  3. How many calories are in these awful meals?
  4. Is it safe to eat airplane food while pregnant?
  5. Does airplane food make one constipated?
  6. Has anyone died from airplane food poisoning?

Over the years, airlines have literally hired some of the greatest culinary experts in the world. 16 Michelin Star Chef Gordon Ramsey has been paid to consult with Singapore Airlines regarding in-flight meals, yet he still has the same staunch position that we do:

“There’s no fucking way I eat on planes. I worked for airlines for 10 years, so I know where this food’s been and where it goes, and how long it took before it got on board.”

Gordon Ramsey

Airplane food calories: How many calories are in airplane food?

Obviously, every meal carries a unique caloric content, but airplane meals typically fall in the 1500 calorie range? Have you ever had an airplane meal that didn’t make you feel like shit after? Invariably we feel constipated and bloated. Maybe it’s a trick to try to keep people from spending to much time in the lavatory? 

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So what do you do instead? Can you bring food on the airplane? Yes! Taking food on the airplane is the best way to go!

  1. Grab food in the terminal and bring it through with you – Typically we grab a meal that is ok if it sits out for a few hours…some of our favorite options include salads, veggie sushi, or grain bowls with veggies. Pizza is a great option as well, but be conscious of how long you let it sit out if it has cheese or meat.
  2. Bring snacks from the lounge if you have priority pass or other lounge access – If you have access to lounges with Priority Pass or thanks to status with an airline or a trip in first class, take advantage of the free snacks. Grab some fruit and fill your water bottle.
  3. Bring protein powder in a Ziploc and protein bars or other nutrition bars – Most of our travel bags have protein bars and nutritional supplements in them just in case we end up traveling with one over the other. We usually fill a Ziploc bag with protein powder as well and then buy an almond milk/milk or even a bottle of water to mix a protein shake.
  4. Bring fruit and veggies that don’t need to be refrigerated – You can bring these from home and bring them through TSA or you can buy them in the airport. If you have no snacks on the plane you’ll eat airplane food. If you have unhealthy snacks on the plane, you’ll eat unhealthy snacks. If you have healthy snacks on the plane, you’ll eat healthy snacks.
  5. Always carry a Yeti or Nalgene bottle (or any large, refillable water bottle that is at least 1 liter) – Bring your own water and drink lots of water to stay hydrated. Tests and studies by the EPA have shown that airplane water has elevated levels of coliform bacteria, which usually indicates other gut-rocking bugs like E.coli are present. This might be difficult if, for instance, you’re flying from South America into the US or Bali into Australia and you can’t bring water bottles on the plane, but if your flight doesn’t restrict water being brought on board, buy 1 liter for every 3 hours you’ll be on the plane and stay hydrated. If there are no restrictions, fill your water in the lounge with delicious fruit flavored water or fill it in the terminal with purified water.
  6. Make PB&J – The ultimate lunch, snack, etc. of our childhood. They are nostalgic, delicious, and if you use whole grain bread, natural, organic peanut butter that has only peanuts and salts and jelly that is just fruit and isn’t packed with high fructose corn syrup, you’ll get all your macros.
  7. Bring antibacterial wipes to clean the trays – Many passengers use these to change diapers and still, these trays are rarely cleaned 

Do you eat airplane food or bring your food on the airplane?

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