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BA’s move to scrap inflight meals may be a health blessing, claims Cheapflights

Top 5 BYO bites for sky-high dining

Andrew Shelton, Managing Director of Cheapflights, comments: “Whilst we can understand consumer frustration as BA joins no frills carriers such as Ryanair and easyJet in charging for inflight meals on its short-haul routes, in reality the move could be a blessing in disguise for passengers.  Our recommendation has always been to ‘buy before you fly’ due to the high salt and sugar used to flavour inflight food.

Health-conscious holidaymakers could use the news as a further incentive to keep up their good eating habits mid-air as well as on the ground. We’ve worked with a nutritionist to analyse the food offerings available at the top airport outlets, including M&S, Café Nero, Eat, LEON and Pret and provide our top recommendations for BYO in-flight dining”.

Research commissioned by global flight search and travel deals website,, highlights an alarming lack of knowledge among British fliers about the food they consume when airborne, indicating that nearly 50% are oblivious to the nutritional content of what they eat and less than a fifth seek an alternative.   

Cheapflights conducted research among ten of the UK’s biggest airlines, working with independent nutritionist, Karen Alexander of Nutritious Roots posing as a customer seeking information about the nutritional content of inflight food. All ten airlines declined to respond to the request. Further enquiries to the third party suppliers those airlines use for the provision of their inflight food and beverage offerings met with a similar response.  

Commenting, Alexander said: “It’s common knowledge that to compensate for the fact that food tastes blander at 35,000 feet, airlines add more flavouring, such as sugar, to enhance the taste for their passengers. However, their refusal to share what those quantities are should be a cause of concern. It’s also worrying to see that passengers themselves happily accept being kept in the dark – when demanding nutritional information on our foodstuffs in other areas of our life, such as the goods we buy at the supermarket, is now commonplace.”  

“The main message from this research is be informed and if in doubt, buy before you fly. Picking up pre-packed food in the terminal before boarding at least ensures you can self-regulate your intake of some of the riskier ingredients.”  

To address the hidden health costs of mile-high meals, Cheapflights has created a guide to healthier travelling that includes a top ten guide to optimum in-flight eating, plus an alimentary analysis identifying the top five healthier choices available at UK airports – and those to avoid².  

The Cheapflights research and guidelines come in advance of new EU legislation that requires airlines to display nutritional data on pre-packed food on all flights departing from the UK. Whilst airline caterers have traditionally adapted recipes to counteract the impact of how food tastes at altitude. The new regulations are expected to influence the meal choices served in-flight, and it could be that airlines such as British Airways moving to reduce in-flight catering could be on the back of these regulations (the carrier recently confirmed that it will no longer offer two meals on flights under eight and a half hours).  

There are plenty of reasons why travellers should want to be better informed, says Alexander: “Aside from the longer term health issues associated with elevated sugar or salt consumption, sugary snacks cause a rise and sudden fall in blood sugar, making you feel even more depleted by the time you disembark.  

Speaking of the confusion created by a lack of labeling, Alexander explained:  “Whilst the diabetic or gluten-free option may seem the healthiest choice offered by airlines, planning ahead and taking your own healthy snacks on board - and opting for foods with higher protein to keep blood sugar levels balanced - is the best way to ensure you arrive with energy levels intact.  

“Easyjet now has some better menu options, such as The Food Doctor Couscous and Lentil Wholesome Hotpot. But if you’re flying with Ryanair you should definitely eat before you board or take your own food as their offering is extremely unhealthy.”  

For those unable to source their own food before boarding, the Cheapflights guide advises passengers to seek out menu options that are as unprocessed as possible. In particular, travellers are advised to choose fruit over crisps, opt for whole cuts of meat rather than sausages and to avoid sauces, which can contain higher amounts of salt and sugar to boost the flavour.

Shelton said: “When it comes to drinks, travellers should ideally completely avoid sugary or zero calorie fizzy drinks, which can also lead to bloating.  With caffeine and alcohol contributing to dehydration, drinking water throughout the flight and choosing foods with a high water content - such as cucumber or organic fruit – can really help to maintain skin moisture levels. The bottom line is: the sugar high created by inflight food just isn’t worth the potential health crash that follows.”

Nutritionist, Sonia Pombo representing Consensus Action on Salt & Health (CASH) and Action on Sugar says: “We are all eating too much salt and sugar and it’s a scandal that airlines are still serving unhealthy food – with limited nutritional information being made available. Whilst we welcome the forthcoming EU legislation, airlines need to show their commitment to the health of their passengers now and take responsibility. Our advice is to plan in advance and bring your own food for the journey to avoid the salty and sugary ‘health traps’ which are most likely loaded with calories and cost a small fortune."  

Shelton concluded: “By highlighting the healthier alternatives to in-flight food available from five popular airport food outlets, identifying the nutritional offenders and providing easy to follow guidelines, we better equip passengers to choose foods that get their holiday off to the best possible start.”

Cheapflights here suggests how travellers can eat well in-flight by pre-preparing simple dishes such as salads and ramen, simply asking cabin crew for hot water:

HEALTHIEST OPTION Goats Cheese & Grilled Red Pepper Panini Hot Smoked Salmon and Potato Original Superfood Salad Beetroot, Goats Cheese and Lentil Salad Roast Salmon & Avocado Superbowl
LEAST HEALTHY Brie and Bacon Panini Thai Rare Beef Noodle Chicken Burger Chicken, Honey & Mustard Pasta Salad Teriyaki Salmon Sushi Salad

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