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What flight attendants rely on when they need healthy food on the road


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When it comes to eating while flying, it often feels like the only options are to either starve or settle for whatever sauce-drenched monstrosity comes off of the flight attendant’s cart. While airports around the world are waking up to the wellness revolution, things up in the air haven’t fully caught up. (Doesn’t it feel like airlines have been serving the exact same chicken-and-mashed-potatoes and tortellini-with-red-sauce options for the last two decades?)

On-the-go celebs are constantly sharing their healthy travel hacks. (Karlie Kloss’ pre-flight breakfast for the win!) But considering they’re often blessed with private planes or a first-class ticket, their advice doesn’t usually extend to situations in which they’re faced with eating actual airplane food.

To find out how to eat well at 30,000 feet, read on to see how three flight attendants eat on the job.

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Yes, they eat airplane food

“Mostly, the crew eats the food available in the flight,” says one of the flight attendants behind World of Crew. In fairness, though, the in-flight food they’re snacking on is usually different than the tin-foil meals they’re serving up in coach. “In most flights, there is a separate crew food cart which has proper meals with fruits and so on,” says the tipster. “Sometimes you can also eat food served in economy or business, if available.” If you’re concerned about finding a healthy option in the air, order a vegan or vegetarian meal, which usually guarantees at least some vegetables on your plate.

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They plan ahead (when they can)

“People should always bring healthy food—airplane food is loaded with sodium,” says Cathy Thompson, who’s been a serving the skies since the golden age of flying. (She started out as a Pan-Am attendant!) Some across-the-board cabin-crew favorites include fresh fruit, smoothies, instant oatmeal, popcorn, avocados, nuts, tuna, and protein bars.

Nguvu Tsare, a seven-year airline veteran and new vegetarian, is a die-hard meal-prepper. “Not only is it healthier than eating at the airport, it also saves me a lot of money,” he explains. His meals range from veggie pasta to beans and rice, with a number of healthy snacks—like a container full of fresh fruits and vegetables—to hold him over.

When it comes to planning ahead, the destination is often a more important factor than the journey. “For example, a lot of crew who are vegetarians will probably take their own food for a layover in China,” says the World of Crew insider. This is the most foolproof way to ensure you aren’t stuck ferociously Googling “Are McDonald’s fries vegan?” during your pit stop. (FYI, they are not.)

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Flight attendants' favorite healthy snacks
Photo: Unsplash/Monstruo Estudio

They load up on veggies

When meal prep isn’t an option (considering the crazy hours and time-zone changes that come along with being a flight attendant), Tsare tends to stick to the same healthy go-to airport orders. In Detroit, he likes the Caesar salad from Max & Erma’s or veggie fried rice from P.F. Chang’s. In Atlanta, side dishes from Paschal’s fit the bill. With concourses becoming healthier overall, finding something plant-based in most airports shouldn’t be too difficult. As far as shoving your bags into that overhead bin, though? Good luck with that.

For snacking ideas, you’ll want all the same stuff you would grab on a road trip, but in 3-ounces-or-less packaging. And if you need more space in your suitcase? Try these minimalist packing hacks so you can fit enough almonds to last your entire vacation. 

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