Holiday hacks: Best foods to eat on a plane

Start your holiday off in the right way with a healthy balanced meal whilst on the plane, not only will it nourish your body but it’ll make you feel happy too.

We all know that plane food doesn’t taste the best, cabin pressure makes the air really dry, so there are fewer molecules to transfer smell, and as we know, smell is the main component of taste.

Also, research by Lufthansa and the Fraunhofer Institute found that in the air, our perception of salt is reduced by up to 30% and our perception of sugar falls by up to 20%.

Professor Barry Smith, co-director of the Centre for the Study of Senses at the University of London, explained to Women’s Health UK:

“White noise diminishes our ability to discriminate basic tastes such as sweet and sour, but it doesn’t seem to affect umami – the savoury taste of foods such as strong cheese, shellfish, tomatoes and soy.

“Droning sounds (like the hum of a Boeing engine) accentuate bitterness, so things taste more bitter in the air.”

The fact that foods can directly affect our mood also plays a huge part.

The best foods to eat on a plane

Don’t let dull plane food but you in a bad mood at the start of your holiday

Nutritionist Jo Travers explains:

“Happiness is a complex thing, but there are certain foods you can eat that will help the ‘happy’ chemicals in your brain to keep flowing. Two key players are the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, along with amino acids tryptophan and theanine which can contribute to the creation of serotonin which is known to most as “happy hormones”. Low levels of these chemicals can cause fatigue in addition to lowering existing levels of serotonin. Similarly, a deficiency of Omega 3, can lead to fatigue and mood swings.

“Carbohydrates can also play an important role in our moods as the insulin released after the ingestion of carbs can trigger our muscles to uptake amino acids that would normally use the same absorption pathways. This leaves those pathways clear for tryptophan to enter the brain – something that can affect how much serotonin is released in our bodies.”

Gatwick has been working with Travers to become the first airport in the world to introduce a happiness guide on restaurant menus. Restaurants in the airport will highlight the most mood-boosting meals in July and August 2015, to help passengers arrive at their destination full of holiday spirit.

Eight of the airport’s most popular eateries – including Frankie & Benny’s, Giraffe, and Yo! Sushi – will feature yellow happy face emoji icons beside dishes selected by nutritionist Jo Travers, containing ingredients widely recognised as natural serotonin boosters.

Nutritionist Jo added:

“People often don’t realise how much of an impact what they eat can have on their mood – which can be particularly important if you’re about to take a long flight.”

The best foods to eat on a plane

The foods you eat directly affect your mood

Top 10 ingredients that can make you happy:

1. Salmon
2. Tuna
3. Bananas
4. Oats
5. Citrus fruit
6. Spinach & Kale
7. Sesame seeds
8. Green tea
9. Chickpeas
10. Soy and soy products like miso

Four foods to avoid on the plane, according to Women’s Health


It’s too bland to taste of anything at altitude and it also loses its ‘bite’ so it ends up like mushy stodge.

Ice in your drinks

“Coldness numbs flavour and enhances bitterness,” says Professor Smith.


The compounds in red wine that make it feel dry are accentuated, so a red Bordeaux that tastes rich and earthy on the ground with taste bitter as hell in the air.

Airline coffee as is, or builder’s tea

“Coffee is bitter and as we know, bitterness is enhanced at altitude. Airlines often try to counter this by using fewer grounds, so the coffee tastes watery and bitter, rather than just bitter.”

The solution? A few grains of salt in your coffee. It’ll bring out the coffee’s flavour without being overpowering.

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