Wednesday, October 14, 2009

6 Tips for Healthier Mid-Air Meals

How to just say no to fattening airline food. Once that airplane cabin door closes, you're trapped in more ways than one. "People get into food situations where they think, 'Woe is me, guess I have to eat whatever they give me,'" says Hope Warshaw, a Washington, D.C.-area RD and author of What to Eat When You're Eating Out (American Diabetes Association, 2006). "But 99 percent of the time, you have options. If you plan ahead just a little bit, you will never have to break your program." Planning ahead, however, is harder as security concerns have put tighter restrictions on what travelers can bring with them. The Transport Security Administration (TSA) only allows liquids, and semi-solid food substances (such as pudding, Jell-O, peanut butter and so on) in containers less than 3 ounces in size. And as the bins full of water bottles before the security check-ins attest, anyone bringing extra water to guzzle is going to have to ditch it and buy more on the other side. As for what kind of food options you can expect when you’re on board, it’s a crap shoot. Airline cutbacks largely mean no more free meals — which, for most people trying to eat healthily, is frankly a blessing. More insidious, though, is what many of the free meals have been replaced with: Many airlines now offer boxes full of pre-packaged goodies, and most charge for it. While there often a few healthier options up for grabs, it can be tempting to eat everything else in the box too. Save your money and your waistline. The folks who publish the Shape Up America! newsletter analyzed one major airline's box and found it contained more than 1,000 calories with minimal nutritional value. Also increasingly available are appealing mini-meals, often high in fat and sodium but dressed up as innocent-sounding sandwiches, for sale for a few bucks. Some of the packaging contains nutritional information, but even if not, you can be pretty sure that a focaccia sandwich is going to pack quite a punch, fat-wise. Order ahead Though rarer these days, if you do find yourself on a meal-service flight, most airlines offer alternative menus such as low cholesterol, vegetarian, etc. that are yours for the eating if you order ahead. Most airlines' Web sites will tell you whether they're serving free meals, and define exactly what they regard "low-calorie" and so on to be. Even the airlines that sell meals will have these alternatives, it's always worth checking. Pack protein and nuts Warshaw recently flew to Barcelona with her family and packed whole-wheat turkey wraps for the trip. Bottom line: If you pack your own food, "you have total control over what you eat," she says. Stick with high-protein, high-fiber choices that help make you feel fuller, longer. Almonds, string cheese and apples all travel well in carry-ons, and are permissible at the security line. Pester the flight attendants For water, that is. (You already know to avoid regular sodas and high-calorie fruit juices, right?) A steady supply of water will prevent altitude dehydration and keep you walking up and down the aisle to the bathroom — something you should do on long flights anyway. Take a movie over dinner Most plane passengers aren't really hungry. "Eating is just something to do," says Warshaw. If you have nothing better to do, you'll eat whatever is put in front of you, even if it's not free. Beat the urge by doing what one frequent business flyer we know does: As soon as the food service cart appears, he opens his laptop and works or watches a movie until everyone's scraps are taken away. There's never any room on his tray table, so he never eats the food. Develop an attitude If you work hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle and/or lose weight, this discipline and motivation should not change when you reach the airport, says Warshaw. Airline travel is such a controlled march these days — check in here, take your shoes off there, sit upright immediately — that it's easy to get lulled into a passive state. And that, says Warshaw, is what leads people into accepting what's offered to them, like the cold bagel with the full-fat cream cheese. Remind yourself that what you eat and drink is totally your call. Article Source

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