Six ways your airline food choices can make or break your journey

By John Walton, July 11 2012
Six ways your airline food choices can make or break your journey

There's a lot of advice out there on what to eat when you fly. Business travellers tend to have a better time of it, with business class meals well past the "plastic airline food" category into "usually edible and sometimes enjoyable".

Singapore Airlines is the latest to suggest some tips -- from its International Culinary Panel dripping with Michelin stars -- for eating in flight. SQ reckons its suggestions will help you feel more comfortable on the plane, be more productive in flight or on arrival, and to avoid some of the unpleasant side-effects of hurtling through the sky in a metal tube.

We've added our own suggestions to SQ's set of six... feel free to share your own tips with other business travellers in a comment at the bottom of the article!

1. Beat jetlag

Singapore Airlines says: Research has shown that eating the right kinds of food can leave people up to 16 times less likely to suffer from jet lag. Meals act as ‘time cues’ for your body so adjusting the amount and type of food you eat can make a big difference. When flying, opt for a light meal that is relatively easy to digest as it is best to arrive feeling slightly hungry. Eating a high protein meal once you land means you will be able to keep as active as possible in a bid to switch to the new time zone.

We reckon: There's still no cure for jetlag, but you can make it less of a pain. Our editor David Flynn is a fan of melatonin, a dietary supplement. Journo John Walton prefers diphenhydramine, which is an antihistamine that makes you drowsy, and is often found in those "PM" medications. Take it separately if all you need to do is sleep.

2. Avoid travel sickness

Singapore Airlines says: For customers that suffer from travel sickness, ginger is well known to help quell its effects, so consider opting for a ginger-based drink such as ginger ale when ordering from the drinks service. In addition, ginger is a popular ingredient used in many Oriental dishes.

We reckon: A motion-sick colleague swears by peppermint tea. (He also washes down a motion sickness tablet with it, which we reckon helps more.)

3. Deflate indigestion

Singapore Airlines says: Air travel can bring about a sluggish effect on digestion and absorption of nutrients. Potatoes contain a compound called alkaloids that are thought to have an antacid effect. Similarly turmeric is known to be a potent digestive aid. Pineapple is also a digestive aid which contains an enzyme called bromelain that helps break down food in the stomach. Plenty of vegetables and whole grains promote digestion and the protein structure of fish makes it easier to digest than meat.

We reckon: Stick a little packet of Alka-Seltzer or something similar in your luggage. Don't have any with you? Virgin Atlantic's London Clubhouse mixologist Warren Lee has a great tip: throw half a teaspoon of salt into a glass of sparkling water and drink it down quickly. You might need to burp, but it works.

We enjoyed the "protein structure" of these British Airways scallops in Club World. Top tip: consider a second starter instead of a main course for a lighter and faster dinner.
We enjoyed the "protein structure" of these British Airways scallops in Club World. Top tip: consider a second starter instead of a main course for a lighter and faster dinner.

4. Defeat anxiety

Singapore Airlines says: Vitamin B, found in whole grains, fruit and vegetables has a profound effect on the nervous system, helping to reduce stress. Celery has long been prescribed by naturopaths for anxiety as it has a tranquilising effect on the central nervous system so this is a good option to choose prior to boarding, to help quell any pre-flight nerves. Dehydration can also cause stress, headaches and irritability so drinking plenty of fluids whilst in the air is important.

We reckon: Skip the celery. If anxiety is a problem for you, turn to medicine and ask your doctor for something to take the edge off. (Make sure that you know your destination country's laws if you're carrying prescription drugs overseas, and bring a copy of the script.) Alternatively, turn to the old folk remedies of a cup of hot chocolate or a nice cup of tea.

A nice relaxing glass of port is another good way to reduce anxiety, we find...
A nice relaxing glass of port is another good way to reduce anxiety, we find...

5. Reduce fatigue

Singapore Airlines says: Choose foods that will boost brain power rather than sap it if you want to work inflight or you are going to a meeting straight from the plane. Zinc, which is found in protein-rich foods, has been linked to better intellectual performance in clinical tests. Also, eating protein with vegetables or fruit provides the brain with the vitamins necessary for mental stimulation.

We reckon: Pop a Berocca and you're golden. The zinc and B/C vitamins in it are good for brain power and for feeling less like you've been travelling forever. (They also boost the immune system -- useful when you're on the road.) Keep a wary eye on the caffeine, especially if you're changing timezones, and even more so if you're on a red-eye overnight flight. You'll know your personal "no caffeine after" time, but add a couple of hours to it when travelling to reduce the chances of a wide-awake night at your destination.

6. Avoid bloating

Singapore Airlines says: Bread, broccoli, beans and peaches can produce intestinal gases by expanding in the stomach causing bloating, so avoid them before your flight. Also limit your intake of fatty foods, which slow down digestion, salty snacks that encourage water retention and fizzy drinks that contain carbon dioxide if you tend to suffer with inflight bloating. Green tea is good for stimulating digestive enzymes and has all-round detoxifying properties which help to alleviate trapped wind, a common inflight problem.

We reckon: As a general rule, we try to avoid stodge when travelling and on arrival, especially white carbs -- they tend to contribute to the mid-morning and mid-afternoon attack of the snoozes.

Hungry for more on inflight food? Check out some of this year's Australian Business Traveller Food Week: 

For more news, reviews and the very latest info for business travellers, follow us on Twitter: we're @AusBT.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

12 Jul 2012

Total posts 1


When Singapore Airlines gave those advice, we  wonder if they ever considered the poor souls who travel in their Economy Class section?

We flew on Singapore Airlines from London to Singapore and back and found the meals to have gone downhill compared to a few years ago. We had the beef brochette and it was so tough and chewy we had to leave it. Then there was their "signature dessert" ice-cream . It was so frozen that it felt hard and icy, not soft and creamy.

These days, you seem to have to ask the cabin crew several times for wine or alcoholic drinks before they bring any. If you are flying economy on SIA, take note to see whether our observation was right, that they now placed their wines and alcohol in such a way passengers may not see it and ask for them. 

Are all these part of the airline's measures in cutting costs?

Oh, on their overnight long haul flights, they were supposed to have their self-service snacks. But soon after they placed them, they are gone. So if you feel peckish later in the flight, there was not much but leftovers!

Perhaps the airline's "boasting" of their expertise in airline food is aimed at the business class and first class passengers. But those of us in "cattle class", we can't see the point in taking their advice - all  we want is a decent meal and a good glass of wine. Oh, hopefully, we would have  ice cream that does not so frozen hard that it  would take a chisel to chip !

10 Apr 2012

Total posts 59

I think they forgot the Economy Passengers.I flew them last year Adelaide-Singapore-London and ordered Non Lactose Meals all sectors never a problem and was decent.Not exactly sure what was on the tray though.I took advantage of their water and juice runs through the cabin often and stuck to Diet Coke or Tomato Juice.

What I did at 3pm that day of Arrival in the UK was to have a late lunch at Subway at what would have been 11:30am Adelaide Time or 10pm Singapore time.

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