After now designing the menus for three major airlines I have learned a thing or two about what works in the sky and what doesn’t. So here’s my guide to eating right at 30,000 ft.
This is a quick guide of what I think is the right thing to order and the things which are usually not worth the bother.
Let’s start with specialty meals.
Most major carriers have these options for diet in-tolerances or religious reasons.
The airlines don’t really care much for developing these in a special way as these are seen as being more of a necessity. So what I’m saying is don’t expect gourmet cuisine just because you pre-order a vegetarian dinner. Sometimes I’ve seen better special meals in economy but rarely for business and first.
They design these menus to satisfy passenger’s dietary restrictions so they usually offer a kosher, halal, vegan, vegetarian or gluten free choice among others. They also offer health restricted choices as well such as low-fat, low-cholesterol, low carbohydrate, low sugar and so the list goes on.
There is an abundance to choose from with most carriers.
Recently I was on a domestic flight in the United States with Delta. Being very health-conscious and always wanting to stay trim while I’m on the road, I thought I try gluten-free. After writing two books on the Paleo diet which is all gluten-free, I’m very much adapted to that way of eating.
I’m afraid it wasn’t great. It was a chicken salad.
Now that sounds appealing enough, but it was not a fresh salad with grilled chicken, it was chicken drenched in mayonnaise. Not low fat at all nor healthy. Just gluten free as stated.
Now let’s take a look at what choice we should make when being offered beef, chicken or fish.
Firstly, the best food I think I’ve ever eaten on board is Japanese. If you can get a plate of sushi, it’s fantastic as the flavor never changes.
Hot food on an airplane has to be reheated for 20 minutes, often drying out the food.
So cold food to me is the best you could ever have.
Offer me some poached shrimp and a seafood salad, smoked salmon or sushi any day of the week and that’s what I choose to eat on the plane.
But most airlines don’t cater to that kind of palate.
Instead we have to make a choice with a hot dish.
If you’re traveling a Japanese airline chances are the Japanese food is going to be really good, Italian food on Alitalia, a cheese tray on Air France, Thai food on Thai Airways International.
Basically, my advice is go for the cuisine from the origin of the airline as they will know how to do this better than their competitors.
Next up, soups are a really good choice and so are stews because they develop more flavor, when reheated.
Things to avoid are seafood and fish when hot. Most seafood just cannot sustain being reheated. Shellfish only takes a second to cook so when is reheated it becomes rubbery.
So avoid the fish dish. The more liquid in the sauce the better as it will help the reheating process.
Risottos, pasta and rice are also normally a no no for the same reasons, unless you’re flying Cathay Pacific first-class where they actually make rice on board.
Hope that helps you to enjoy the food up in the sky. If not you can always do what I have done on many occasions; the Liquid diet 🙂
Daniel Green, the Model Cook is a Celebrity Chef known for his healthy approach to food and living well. With TV, books, magazines and live appearances, Daniel spends his time helping fans to cook better, feel better and live better. He’s also an avid traveler and a self-confessed Foodie.