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Airplane Meals: The Hidden Dangers

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Airline food can be a nutritious hole David De Lossy/Photodisc/Thinkstock

Airlines are cutting back on the amount of beverages and meals they are serving their customers. Flying domestically, you are lucky if a single beverage is served.

But even international travelers might not be very fortunate in the meal department.

Foreign objects are frequently found in airplane dishes. The most recent, a highly publicized case involving Delta Airlines, was one in which six needles were found in sandwiches served aboard flights departing from Amsterdam to various destinations across the United States.

After I made these discoveries, I went on vacation to Amsterdam myself.

With the recent needle case fresh in my mind, I was a bit nervous about eating the TV dinner-style dish placed in front of me by a smiling flight attendant.

That worry was replaced rather quickly when I started thinking about the nutritional content of this meal.

I'm not a fan of microwave dinners inside or outside the airplane. I observed the warmish pasta noodles on the little tray, which also featured a dry tasteless brownie and bread roll with a side of margarine.

According to an a CNN Travel article, “A recent survey conducted on a U.S. carrier showed that an airline meal provides 950 calories -- to put this in context, this is almost half the average female adult's intake. Also looking at the fat content, it was nearly 50 grams, of which half was saturated fat, so there is certainly room for improvement there.”

Consider the fact that on long flights, people tend to be seated the majority of the time and thus aren’t using much energy, or calories, and the high sodium content can have really bad consequences on passengers.

Deep vein thrombosis is a particular concern for travelers.

“Deep vein thrombosis is a serious condition because a blood clot that has formed in your vein can break loose, travel through your bloodstream and lodge in your lungs, blocking blood flow (pulmonary embolism),” according to the Mayo Clinic website.

The high sodium content of the meals served in-flight can increase the risk for this health issue because salt dehydrates the body further.

Salt is added to add flavor to the meals because “your ability to taste food and wine decreases thirty-percent at altitude,” said Talling-Smith, executive vice president, Americas for British Airways.

If the salt and calorie content of the food hasn’t deterred you from eating an airplane meal, consider this:

"If I pull out a tray at a random point and the food tastes right, then a few weeks later I pull out another tray and if it tastes the same, then I am happy," says Fritz Gross, director of culinary excellence at LSG Sky Chefs Asia Pacific in an article published by CNN.

So, next time you fly, preparing meals at home and bringing healthy snacks on your flight are alternative ways to ensure the food you are consuming is nutritious.


Ahlers, Mike M. "Dutch, U.S. Authorities Investigating Needles in Airline Sandwiches." CNN. Cable News Network, 17 July 2012. Web. 30 July 2012.

Ferretti, Elena. "Why Does Airline Food Taste Bad?" Fox News. FOX News Network, 18 June 2012. Web. 30 July 2012.

Li, Zoe. "Skip the Pasta! And Other Unsavory Truths about Airplane Food - CNN.com." CNN. Cable News Network, 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 30 July 2012.

"The Lowdown on In-flight Meals." CNN. Cable News Network, 09 June 2005. Web. 30 July 2012.

Staff, Mayo Clinic. "Definition." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 05 Aug. 2011. Web. 30 July 2012.

Reviewed July 30, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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