Nutrition hacks for flying in economy, business and first class

Oct 17, 2019

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Generally, there are two different types of travellers — those who travel for leisure and those who travel for business.

And if you’re a frequent flyer who regularly has to travel long-haul a few times a month, it’s more likely that you’ll be concerned about the nutritional value of an airline’s offering and make healthier choices.

If you’re flying for a holiday though, it’s often a different story. For most, the fun begins at the airport and the diet and healthy eating goes out of the window — especially if travelling in a premium cabin. However, there are some simple nutrition tips you can implement whatever the reason for travel, so even if you are travelling for leisure and in business or first, you can arrive at your destination with more energy, feeling less sluggish and ready for anything.

Travelling in a premium cabin can be healthier for you, as you have more choice on the menu and the snack choices are more varied. That said, however, there is a chance you can over-eat in premium cabins as there is a lot more food available.

Below we show you how to nutritionally hack your cabin’s food offering, whether you’re sitting in economy, business or first.

Photo by JanJBrand / Getty Images
(Photo by JanJBrand/Getty Images)


Skip the juice: It’s usually an airline’s go-to economy offering when giving out welcome refreshments. The problem with choosing juice is that it has almost zero nutritional value and just a hit of sugar. Compared to eating the fruit, a glass of juice has no fibre, so it causes spikes in blood sugar resulting in energy dips. If you need something to taste then opt for 50/50 juice and water but ideally go for water because hydrating is something that should never be overlooked in the sky.

Buy water or fill your water container before flying: Whilst drinking water is generally free with long-haul, full-service airlines, if you have to keep asking cabin crew for it, it gets tedious. So in order to hit your three litre target for the flight, grab a bottle and fill it up after security to have on hand.

Skip the bread: There isn’t an airline that offers economy passengers a bread roll that would pass nutrition standards. Not only is it a load of extra carbohydrates you don’t need, the inflight bread offering is also full of preservatives. Ditch the bread and bring your own wholemeal seeded crackers if you need something else after your meal.

Read more: Is it really safe to drink airplane coffee? 

Pre-order: Most airlines give you the chance to order a meal in advance of your trip. British Airways in fact offers several premium options for the economy diner. There is even a “healthy option”. If you don’t want to pay extra for a premium meal, you can also choose a gluten-free meal if you request it online before. This can sometimes be a bit of a gamble, but most of the time it comes with a reasonable salad and a fruit platter. For the best meal options when economy dining, take a look here.

Stop eating when the lights go out: Less is more when it comes to eating when travelling. Your body isn’t moving much so doesn’t need to be fuelled throughout your whole flight. As a rule of thumb, stop eating when the lights go out and try to resist the inflight Magnum ice-cream or Nutrigrain bar offered before bed.

Skip breakfast: Most airlines offer a breakfast or snack option before preparing to land. It can either be a budget Full English or a yoghurt and croissant. Try to skip breakfast on the plane if you are arriving early and get something a lot healthier when you land at your destination.

Photo by hanibaram / Getty Images
(Photo by hanibaram/Getty Images)


Choose your alcohol wisely: Whilst you should limit the amount of alcohol you consume on a flight, it’s better to go for champagne or clear spirits when given the option. They tend to be lower in calories and carbs than beer and wine. And you’re also less likely to get a hangover from these options.

Salad starter: You will be given a few options to start with, and it’s a good idea to choose the option that comes with a salad. We don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables when travelling, so it’s a chance to pack some nutrition in. The starter is usually the course that is the healthiest in travel.

Read more: How to stick to your diet if you’re a frequent flyer 

Choose your bread: The bread selection is usually good in business class. If you have the option, then choose a rye-style bread. Darker bread has more complex carbohydrates, meaning the energy will be released slowly and not spike your blood sugar too much.

Keep the protein high: Try to make sure your main course is a fish fillet or steak over pasta or risotto-based dishes. Opting for this can make you feel fuller for longer and stop you raiding the tuck shop a few hours after your meal.

Take the cheese plate for dessert: Whilst it makes sense not to have dessert, choosing the cheese platter over the sugary options is actually better for your health. Ask for some fruit to go with it and limit the amount of crackers you consume.

Snacking: Try to avoid the tuck shop options in business class, as there aren’t many choices that are good for you. Ask the staff for some of the welcome nuts as these tend to be quite healthy (unless coated in sugar). Pair with an apple or other piece of fruit for the perfect snack in between meals.

(Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)


First is a whole different category all together. If you are flying first, then enjoy it. But if you want to still manage your nutrition, then you can take the business tips and perhaps consider the following:

Dining on demand: Most first-class products allow you to choose when you eat. This is great as you can perfectly time your meals for when you are actually hungry. You can also pick and choose from the menu items to piece together a healthier meal.

Order more vegetables: Ask for more vegetables or extra salad with your main meal for that little extra nutrition.

Customise breakfast: If you need breakfast, then piece this together again and try to skip the sugary smoothie and pastries. Your best option is an omelette and some fruit with a black coffee.

Featured image by Caiaimage/Rafal Rodzoch/Getty Images 

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