Living in Brighton I pretty much walk everywhere and play football ball at least once a week. Whilst I'm by no means a fitness fanatic, this routine just about keeps me in shape. In the recent summer months as we've hit peak stag do and holiday season, I've been doing a bit of travelling and slipped into some terrible eating habits. The bad habits start in the rush to get to the airport and develop with the necessity to grab something on the go, and the temptation to enjoy a cold beer or two before and during the flight.
Keen to nip this in the bud, I caught up with nutritionist Sarah West and have adopted her top tips for staying on track and eating healthily whilst flying overseas.
• Airplanes are renowned for spreading germs due to the confined space, so give your immune system a boost before you fly with plenty of colourful, antioxidant-rich fresh fruit. Berries have a high water content so are an ideal choice as they're also very hydrating.
• Drink plenty of clear fluids, such as herbal teas and water, to help avoid dehydration when in the air. Try to stay away from caffeine-heavy drinks or alcohol, as these will only dehydrate you further. Too much salt can also have a negative effect on hydration levels, so avoid crisps, pretzels or salted nuts before you fly.
• Digestion is harder for your body at 35,000 feet, so don't be tempted by a three course dinner; keep it light and relatively low in fat to help avoid discomfort later in the day. Choose chicken or fish items that can be grilled or steamed and add a side of vegetables or salad.
• Wholegrain sandwiches packed with lean protein like ham, fish or chicken will help you stay fuller for longer, helping to stop any mid-flight snack attacks.
• Add a source of protein, such as natural yoghurt or whole nuts, to each meal or snack. This will help balance sugar levels and keep you feeling alert and energised throughout the journey. Natural yogurt can also help to ease any digestive discomfort.
For a handy guide to put in your back pocket with the best food and drink options to choose when flying, download this Healthy Guide to Airport Food and follow the tips for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. It makes life easy with top recommendations for snacks and meals available at main airport restaurant chains.
At the airport
• Avoid the fast food joints, such as a KFC, McDonalds or Burger King, whilst these do serve a few healthier options, it can be difficult to make positive choices when faced with such a wide array of calorific foods. Head for Pret a Manger or EAT café where you can usually pick out a healthy option.
• From the 'pub' style restaurants choose a healthier dish like a salad or soup.
• Heathrow and Gatwick have seafood bars offering light options such as oysters and prawns which make a a delicious, healthy pre-flight meal, although these spots can prove fairly pricey.
• Better still, pack a tub of healthy snacks before you leave home. A tub of fruit, nuts or a home-made sandwich or wrap can be tucked into your hand luggage and will save you relying on the restaurants and cafes at your terminal.
• If you're likely to be eating on board you can research the menus of your specific airline. If you're with a carrier that provides complimentary food, call ahead of time to discuss the likely options. By giving a minimum of 48 hours' notice you can often pick a meal that suits your specific needs, such as vegetarian, gluten-free, low calorie or low sodium.
• Even budget airlines should provide a selection of healthy snack and meal items, although these will vary depending on which carrier you're with and will often need to be purchased onboard. For example, EasyJet currently stocks a healthy 'Couscous and Lentil Wholesome Pot', with no added salt or sugar, as well as nuts and seeds for snacking.
You can find out more about nutritionist Sarah West at Sarah West Nutrition.