Airline Food Is Bad in More Ways Than One
Posted on 05/25/2017
That airplane food in front of you on that comically small seat-back table not only tastes the opposite of good, it’s more than likely bad for you.
The Telegraph directs our stomachs to Charles Spence’s book “Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating.”
Spence is a professor of experimental psychology at the University of Oxford and has in his latest work discovered the reasons in-flight meals may be absolutely lousy with calories.
As Spence explained, airlines have always dealt with extreme dining circumstances: “The lower cabin air pressure, dry cabin air and the loud engine noise all contribute to our inability to taste and smell food and drink. [Therefore] the food we consume needs 20-30 percent more sugar and salt to make it taste like it would on the ground.”
Cornell University discovered similar findings back in 2015. At the time, Robin Dando, assistant professor of food science, explained: “Our study confirmed that in an environment of loud noise, our sense of taste is compromised. Interestingly, this was specific to sweet and umami tastes, with sweet taste inhibited and umami taste significantly enhanced. The multisensory properties of the environment where we consume our food can alter our perception of the foods we eat.”
In-flight meals are particularly devastating to the waistline because there is nothing else to do.
As anyone who has binged watched Netflix near a bowl of chips can attest, idle hands lead to rotund tummies.
Spence explains to The Telegraph: “Next, there is the boredom. With nothing else to do, food becomes an appealing distraction. And when it is being offered for free it will be even harder to resist. Another really big problem is the movie or television you watch. It is not uncommon to find people eating as much a third more food with the TV on.”
While airplane food continues to get a bad rap for its dull taste, research suggests it still packs a wallop of calories and, despite your best wishes, you are going to toss it down your gaping maw as you watch the latest Marvel movie for the second time on that eight-hour flight.
Now grab an extra cocktail and handful of peanuts because the bad news is about to spiral further.
Spence explains that British travelers ingest about twice the daily allotment of calories from the time they get to the airport to when they land at their destination, which amounts to an estimated 3,400 calories. (Cinnabon-loving, in-flight beer drinking Americans likely don't fare any better, right?)
As noted, airlines have attempted to turn a corner and fill meals with more delicious ingredients.
“More often than not, though, the airlines have opted to load the food they serve with even more sugar and salt, to enhance the flavor," said Spence. "No surprise, therefore, that the food served these days isn’t the healthiest.”
Chef Gordon Ramsey and other celebrity chefs’ work with airlines is referenced in the report. It’s not like assists from well-regarded culinary giants have helped, however.
Earlier this year, Ramsey said about airplane food: “There’s no [expletive] way I eat on planes. I worked for airlines for 10 years, so I know where this food’s been and where it goes, and how long it took before it got on board.”
Thankfully, you don’t have to completely guess at how horrible that snack box or dinner meal might be. NYC Food Policy Center at Hunter College’s Dr. Charles Platkin released his annual findings of the caloric value of various airline meals as well as his health ratings of in-flight fare this past December.
Virgin America wins the day with a health rating of 4.25 stars while Frontier posts an abysmal one star. According to that study, Dr. Platkin discovered Virgin America garnered an average 337 calories across its meals. Delta Air Lines, however, boasted the most calories on average, 527.
None of this should shock any of you seasoned travelers. A simple bite of airplane food is a revelation, but not the good kind you get at a famed restaurant.
With every bite, you realize an extra few steps on the Stairmaster are in your future.
PHOTO: A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips when it comes to airline food. (photo via Flickr/Pat Guiney)