Choose food wisely before you board to ensure a comfortable flight

EXPERT • March 2016

What to eat, and avoid, when flying

Want to step off your next flight feeling fresh and ready to face the day? What you eat before, during and after your flight could make the difference. The Club asked three experts to share their thoughts on eating while flying 

THE DIETICIAN: Jennifer Low is a consultant registered dietician and a spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association

What should we eat at the airport?
If you have an early flight, avoid croissants and sandwiches, they sit heavily on your stomach and won’t make you feel great later on. Porridge, fruit and yogurt provide lots of fibre, which stops you getting blocked up. If you can’t give up your morning coffee, add milk to give yourself some protein too. For an overnight flight, don’t overeat, but make sure you’re satiated – it’s harder to sleep when you’re hungry.

What should we eat on board?
Sitting still for long periods of time plays havoc with our digestion, making us feel sluggish. High-fibre, low-sugar foods keep everything moving. Snack on fruits, vegetables and unsalted nuts, rather than sweets and chocolate.

What about alcohol?
Having one drink won’t make a massive difference, as long as you then rehydrate with water. Buy a bottle at the airport and remind yourself to keep sipping it throughout your journey.

How much should we eat?
It’s easy to overeat on a plane, because we do it out of boredom. But remember: if you’re on a plane for 10 hours, you don’t need as much fuel as you would on a normal working day. Listen to your body and ask, ‘Am I actually hungry?’.

What about when we land?
Start eating again when you feel hungry. Hunger pains might actually be a sign that you’re thirsty, so stay hydrated. Try to have something high in fibre, and walk around a bit to kick-start your digestion. And don’t hit the booze immediately – make sure you’re properly hydrated first.

THE BRITISH AIRWAYS’ EXPERT: Sinead Ferguson is the airline’s Menu Design Manager

How much do you consider nutrition when planning a menu?
A lot. Customers today are so much more aware of what they’re eating and how they’re eating, so we want to ensure our menus are completely balanced.

What healthy options are there on board?
We always offer a wellbeing option, which is naturally lower in salt and fat, and you can pre-order low-fat and low-calorie meals in advance on We’ve developed clever ways to enhance the flavour of our dishes without adding lots of salt: instead using umami-rich ingredients such as Worcester sauce, Parmesan cheese, tomatoes, spices and herbs.

What other options are there? Can we choose our meals?
Premium customers, including those in World Traveller Plus, can pre-order their main meal to guarantee their choice. Customers in World Traveller are now able to select a paid-for option from a selection of enhanced meals on long-haul and mid-haul flights outbound from Heathrow. The Healthy Choice option includes Thai-style rice rolls, poached cod cooked en papillote with steamed vegetables, and a Greek yoghurt and honey mousse bar with a grapefruit carpaccio. It’s all healthy, but looks and tastes really indulgent. 

What other dishes can we look forward to?
I’m proud of the Vegetarian Kitchen option in World Traveller. The main course is polenta crespelle (a type of thin Italian pancake), filled with mascarpone-wilted spinach, wild mushroom and truffle cream sauce. Even meat eaters have been raving about it. You can also pre-order Taste of Britain, the Great British Breakfast and Gourmet Dining – currently our most popular meal.


The vegetarian option that tempts even meat eaters

THE FOOD SCIENTIST: Hanna Lundholm is a nutritionist at Leatherhead Food Research, which conducts food-tasting studies on behalf of BA

What should we eat if we want to sleep?
High GI carbohydrates have been shown to increase sleepiness when consumed in the afternoon. These are things like rice, mashed potatoes and chips, as well as cherries, grapes, dates and raisins.

For a better sleep, eat nuts and seeds, and reduce the amount of chocolate you eat on board. Any more than one portion of milk chocolate and you will have consumed enough caffeine to block the action of adenosine (a sleep promoter). Nuts and seeds, which are high in tryptophan, can also improve sleep quality.

If you want to sleep more deeply, a high-protein diet will help. Think of a plate: over half should be protein, while the other 40 per cent should be split between carbs and fat. Chicken, fish, legumes and eggs are all better than red meat, which can have an adverse effect on sleep.

What if we want to feel revived after a long-haul flight?
Our research shows that low-fat, high-carbohydrate meals result in a more positive mood state. It’s best to consume a combination of simple carbs (to provide a rapid energy boost), and slow carbohydrates (for sustained energy). Porridge topped with fruit, honey or sugar will provide a quick energy boost and increase your serotonin (happy hormone) levels. I’d also suggest a cup of tea or coffee with breakfast – they really will wake you up.

This article has been tagged Food + Drink, Travel Tips