Airline business class meal in cabin
Food tastes different at various altitudes. For food to taste satisfying and delicious high up in the air, it basically needs more sugar, salt and fat.
And that's exactly what many airlines do to its in-flight meals - particularly in Economy Class.
Traveller.com.au reports that lower cabin air pressure, dry cabin air and the loud engine noise all add to our inability to taste food and drink, in the same way we would on land. So adding around 20-30% more sugar, salt and fat is needed to equate a happy meal taste sensation.
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And because of the boredom in-flight passengers also tend to consume more food than they normally would. It's free, it's there, so why not? Meals are often served at random times, which also confuses the stomach. You tend to eat robotically instead of actually eating when hungry.
Nutrition expert Charles Platkin's Annual Airline Food Investigation 2017-18 report found that in 2012 airline food had an average of 360 calories per meal.
In 2013 this amount increased to 388. And it kept rising. In 2014 it was 397, in 2015 it was 400 and in 2016 it was 392. Last year, it reached an all-time high of 405 calories.
The report ranked US carriers according to the healthiness of its meals, finding that Hawaiian Airlines offers the least healthy meal options to passengers, whereas Delta was listed as the healthiest.
Internationally, Singapore Airlines was voted the best long-haul airline, that's meal quality included, in the Telegraph Travel Awards last year.
Delta Airlines in-flight meal
Singapore Airlines in-flight meal
But as the report notes, calories are not everything.
We have to also consider the nutritional value of the meals. Active.com notes that a lot of airlines have changed their food programmes over the years, removing high-calorie snack items and adding more nutritious meal options like Nissin-Chicken Ramen Noodle Soup or a Roast Beef Wrap.
It might not exactly be low in calories, but it has a high nutritional value. Especially compared to a bag of crisps and a chocolate bar.
So in the end it's more about which meal option you choose.
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How to be healthier in-flight
Net Doctor advises that you opt for the vegetarian meal instead of the chicken or fish. Veggie meals should usually be ordered beforehand, especially on long-haul flights; these meals are often lighter and more nutritious than other options.
Also avoid sugary drinks, rather stay hydrated by drinking lots of water.
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