paleo tips and tricks: airplane food

As long as I can remember, I’ve been kind of obsessed with traveling in general – but what got me really in the mode for vacation was getting up in the middle of the night to get to the airport.

It was also the plane food that got me almost mesmerized, I loved everything about it: tiny cutlery, cool foily packaging and miniature cans of whatever you wanted – Sprite, Coke, Fanta – basically ANYTHING in the eyes of a kid.

Today I am not specifically excited about inflight meals anymore, but I started to pay extra attention to it again when going paleo and grain free this year, as well – choices at a 10k altitude might be limited at one point.

And following my favorite motto “eat paleo. and travel often”, I am not up for starvation or unhealthy comprises – that’s why preparation is key, AGAIN.

Come check out my tips for air plane traveling to keep it clean – because the last think you and I want it to get super hungry whilst traveling and (worst-case) grab a Big Mac as soon as possible after landing.

domestic/ short haul flights (< 3hours)

if you are lucky enough to have a domestic flight carried by a premium airline or a holiday charter (e.g. Air Berlin, Condor, Copa) chances are you will get served a snack and a drink for free – unfortunately these almost never cater any special dietary requirements and I feel that even you average vegetarian will struggle to have a bite. In most cases these meals consist of a beverage of your choice and a starchy snack (potatoe chips, musli bar, sandwich).

I recommend staying strong and even if you don’t suffer from an intolerance, just forget the ever present student mentality (“free food is good food”) and endure 2 hours without a munch or just bring your own.

I feel I am super safe and 100% clean with bringing (unsalted/ unsweetened) nuts like almonds or cashews on planes – they are available at most airports as well, if you fear to bring snacks from home getting lost in the security check.

Packaged fruit or bananas are now available at every Starbucks or McDonald’s counter – just stock up there and you are good to go.

international/ long haul flights ( > 3hours)

if going on a flight where proper catering is offered, preparation is also the key word – but it doesn’t require you to get cooking youself: simply pre-order your inflight meals to either you preference or dietary requirements.

all airlines I’ve flown since being paleo (Lufthansa, Emirates, Iberia, China Eastern Airlines, British Airways) offer special meals to be indicated when either purchasing the ticket, but also up to 24 hours before take-off.

choices rank from the obvious vegetarian/ vegan options to low-sodium, kosher, halal and low-calorie to gluten-free and dairy-free.

To travel paleo I can safely recommend going gluten-free, nobody will ask you for a “proof of intolerance” and the main meals I encountered mainly consisted of grilled chicken breast with vegetables, a side salad and fruit as dessert.

in fact, one of my favorite airlines (and former employer) – Lufthansa – gives a great overview on what speciality meal contains which type of ingredients and can help you make your pick. 

my tip: just skip the gluten-free bread they provide, just stick to the main to be completely grain-free.

benefits: you’ll never feel bloated and uncomfortable, won’t experience stomach pain and puffiness after the flight. plus you’ll get your food always first.

disadvantage: the envious stares for your seat neighbors. just today on the way home from Panama, when the guy in seat J had to eat gooey lasagna whereas I had a small steak – I felt the look.


you might have guessed it: water, water, water.

stay away from the sugary juices and soft drinks – don’t even touch the liquor and if you need something stronger than Evian to calm your nerves than opt for a glass of white wine — even when you are on business class, I said ONE.

not only will your skin and head thank me, but being hydrated on the plane is the healthiest choice ever and makes all the difference. 

resume of my current route to Munich:

pre-ordering pays of – I flew from Panama (PTY) to Madrid (MAD)

  • drinks: 5 cups of still water (should’ve had 8-9)
  • dinner: side salad w/ oil & vinegar, beef steak with steamed veggies, fresh fruit
  • snack: cashews I bought at PTY
  • breakfast: fresh fruit and a black coffee

now I’m in Madrid – positive to find a salad for lunch, avoiding fast food and bocadillos the paleo-way.  

At MAD I just discovered the following snack options to bring on the plane:


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Worst case scenario:

what if you are at a super small, kind of abandoned looking airport without proper catering – e.g. the Jose Marti Airport in Havana/ Cuba?

Well, it’s not the airports fault – their food options are basically sweets and paninis – I even went through the duty free confectionary section and unfortunately had to opt for (supposedly) gluten free chips – honestly not a good choice and I should’ve opted for the plain dark chocolate bar they had.

sometimes life is not designed to dedicate it 100% to a style of nutrition, now I feel I should’ve just stayed strong but that’s what I love a about trying an 80/20 approach as life just happens – but as long as you can, keep it clean.


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