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Amelia Freer: How to avoid the plane food trap

August 4th 2014 / Amelia Freer


Stodgy, carb-rich and stuffed with salt, nutritional therapist Amelia Freer shows us how to protect ourselves from a plane food assault at 35,000 feet

We all love a good moan about the state of airplane food even though many of us still eat it! Something about the boredom or escapism of travelling seems to make us munch on the sloppy, salty plastic trays of “food like substances” whether we are hungry or not. I do think that some plane food has improved a little over the years but that still doesn’t mean it passes my “safe to eat” health net – it is still a devil in disguise for ALL of our health, not just those of us with health issues, food sensitivities or health goals.

I used to pick and moan at the offered food and would always arrive at my destination bloated and ravenous. So one year I decided to see how I’d feel if I just said no. And a little (OK I’ll admit, slightly OCD!) habit was born. I now take my own travel food pack whenever I set off for foreign destinations - long haul, short haul, delays - I’ve got it nailed. It’s now a breeze getting through an airport, lounge and boarding a flight completely ignoring the offerings. It’s actually more about avoiding the boredom of travel and not being lured by all the free stuff. But it’s empowering to know I’ve got it covered and an amazing feeling to arrive feeling like the trip has started off on a good, healthy foot.

The real culinary hazards when travelling are drinking alcohol, the excessive salt in the food, the fact that the food has been so nuked there are few actual nutrients left and our flagging blood sugar caused by the processed, usually carb rich foods consumed – all of which can lead to us feeling tired, groggy, bloating and hungry. Then add the cocktail of radiation, the bugs that circulate in the dried out, recycled cabin air and lurk on the many surfaces, and maybe a time change – it’s easy to see why travelling can take its toll on us – all at 35,000 ft!

So next time you fly, why not give your body a helping hand to ride out the conditions? As I am a frequent traveller I thought I’d share my healthy travel tips with you so that you start off your trip on top glowing form.


Firstly, hydrate. Starting your day on caffeine alone is the opposite of hydrating – try hot water with lemon and a couple of glasses of water to start off your day. I’ll always have a green juice or smoothie before I leave, to pack in the phytonutrients and antioxidants to support my immune system and give me energy. I’ll take a small, filled reusable BPA free water bottle with me for the journey to the airport and as soon as I’m through security, I’ll stock up on water for the flight and the remaining journey to my destination. If you want to glow on arrival then you must keep hydrated to combat the cabin’s drying air.

Make a plan

Next, plan your meals. Eat before you leave your house. Make it a substantial meal consisting of your protein of choice and lots of vegetables and a portion of fruit. Then make a meal to take on the plane – yes this is fine – it’s only liquids that they stop. I’ll go for something that isn’t too messy and won’t dribble or spill – a chickpea, chicken or salmon salad using different leaves, grated carrot, courgette noodles, cherry tomatoes, spring onion, red and yellow peppers, radish and a big wedge of lemon or lime. I’ll throw in leftovers in my fridge such as roasted sweet potato. I use throwaway cardboard containers so that I don’t have to lug Tupperware around with me and I take a miniature bottle of dressing and a mini container of pink salt (told you – OCD!).

And then, I’ll pack some snacks. Yes, this is the only time that I’ll break my rule and snack, if I need to - it really depends on the length of the flight. The ideal way to beat jet lag is to eat before you leave and then not again until you arrive – the fasting state is so much better than the stuffing state! But if it’s really long or with changes then snacks are a must. I never want to get stranded trying to manouevre my way through the gluten and sugar on offer in airports, and if I arrive super late and real food that is suitable for consumption cannot be found and only the mini bar in my room is on offer, then some good healthy snacks can get me though to the next day. So here are a bunch of snacks that you might find in my travel pack and that you might try to replace the standard travel options on offer:

Fresh berries


An apple

Bag of nuts and raw cacao nibs

Coconut chunks

Roasted Chickpeas

Love Raw snack bar

Herbal & green tea bags

I’ll also pack some Annee de Mamiel altitude oil, a natural hand sanitiser and natural hand wipes, Ren Omega 3 Optimum Skin Oil, a natural lip balm and a Tata Harper Hydrating Floral Essence to spritz over my face regularly. And always my natural, fluoride free toothpaste! I choose to not eat chemicals so slathering them on my body is also not an option.

Once there, getting access to organic, real food can still be a hurdle. Hotels take note - we don’t want croissants anymore! So I also pack a few healthy options to get me through the trip with my health intact. Sometimes protein is short at the breakfast buffet so I take mini tubes of Chia seeds (ChiaCo.com) as they can always be made into a quick “porridge” and mixed with fruit. I’ll also take herbal tea bags, flax crackers, a small tub of coconut butter (to spread) and my supplements – usually a probiotic, a multi vit, an omega oil and digestive enzymes. Ok and a bit of good quality dark chocolate will sneak in there too...

For those of you that just aren’t up to packing your food then here are your options:

Seafood bars are in pretty much every large airport – opt for caviar or smoked salmon with salad – skip the bread and the champagne.

Heathrow Terminal 5 has Gordon Ramsey’s Plane Food where you can order a packed lunch to take on board - most of the menu is gluten, dairy and sugar heavy but there are a few healthy salads on offer.

And lastly, on arrival at your destination do your research and find out where is good to eat, where offers organic and local produce. I use the app Yelp to do a search for organic coffee and gluten free places – not always of use but certainly in the States it’s a great resource.

And if you are a green juice junkie like me, you’ll want to find the real thing - not a heated, pesticide and sugar filled bogus version! Check out the brilliant pressed juice directory created by Max Goldberg of LivingMaxwell.com – it doesn’t yet cover every country but it’s growing. He only lists cold-pressed and organic juices so we can all have our juice and drink it.

Happy holidays!

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