Airline Food: What You Need to Know
It’s happened to the best of us: You’re sitting 35,000 feet in the air and hunger takes hold. Like, uncompromising, I-just-ran-from-a-jaguar-caliber hunger. And the temptation to eat anything that passes through your field of vision is severe. That diet? That commitment to cut back on additives and processed food? Out the window. But it’s important to remember as the food lands on your seat-back tray that all airplane food is not equal.
In the 2018-2019 Airline Food Study conducted by the Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center, Dr. Charles Platkin, the executive director and editor of DietDetective.com, undertook an exceptionally thorough investigation of 11 airlines’ food options, from snacks to meals, and provided the calorie count for each, as well as other bits of information, like the exercise equivalent for each calorie count, health ratings, prices, nutrition information, and even how transparent each airline is with nutrition information. He even includes which flights each option is available based on takeoff time and flight duration.
Numbers Don't Lie
Coming out on top is Alaska Airlines, with the study noting that “Alaska’s meals are now on the lighter, better, and healthier side, having gone from ‘Island hash’ and teriyaki chicken bowls, for example, to Fall Harvest Salad on coast-to-coast flights.” The airline, which helpfully lists nutrition information on its app, allows main cabin passengers to reserve food from 12 hours to two weeks prior to the flight.
There were plenty of other interesting finds across the study as well. For instance, generally speaking, calorie counts have decreased. The average number of calories per menu choice in 2016 was 392, in 2017 it was 405 calories, and this year it dipped down to 373. American and Hawaiian Airlines have improved their offerings the most since the last study. On another happy note, the study noted that American and Delta serve complimentary meals in economy class on domestic flights, the likes of which haven’t been seen in over a decade.
The Challenges of In-Flight Dining
There’s a reason you get ravenous on a flight, even if you ate before takeoff. And even if the food might not look quite as inviting as a meal at a five-star restaurant, you’re likely to scarf it down nonetheless. Thing is, your body and your senses react differently to air at high altitudes than they do on the ground. For one, your senses are dulled, which means your taste buds need food that’s high in salt and fat for your brain to register feeling satisfied. It’s largely why tomato juice is so popular with flyers.
Challenges abound when it comes to serving food a mile in the air. Top among them are the logistics of the cabin. The time and space constraints that flight attendants deal with, not to mention interruptions that turbulence or passenger issues could cause, make food prep and service far more challenging than they are in a kitchen on earth. Plus the trays and plates are small, and equipment isn’t exactly designed to the same standards as a restaurant.
“Meat can be served medium-rare on a plane in flight, but if there’s turbulence, the hostess can’t get up and take it out of the oven at the right time,” Daniel Dilworth, director of Culinary Development for Danny Meyer’s Union Square’s catering business, told The New York Times in 2016 when Delta teamed up with the high-profile restaurant group to serve fine-dining-caliber meals in its Delta One cabin. “So it’s probably best just not to try to serve meat done to medium-rare.”
Celebrity Chefs Pitch In
Delta wasn’t the first airline to recruit a celebrity chef to get a leg up in the increasingly competitive market for first-class passengers. Air France distinguished itself a few years ago by getting Alain Ducasse to endorse several food and wine pairings in its elite cabins, while United Airlines partnered with Charlie Trotter to develop menus and worked with alumni of his restaurant after he passed away in 2013.
These efforts to stand out are nothing new. Writing in The New York Times in 1973, longtime food journalist Raymond Sokolov notes that the competition—or “food wars,” as he calls it—began in 1962, when American collaborated with the famous New York restaurant 21 to develop first-class menus on cross-country flights: “Redchecked tablecloths, modeled after ‘21's’ napery, were used and the New York‐Los Angeles flight was dubbed Flight 21. Then TWA introduced its Royal Ambassador service. And then, in 1964, Eastern Airlines used famous Miami restaurants for its Captain's Table flights from New York to Miami. More recently, stewardesses have been set to tossing salads and carving steaks on carts. James Beard and Charles Chevillot have consulted with American (their casseroles were reportedly practical and delicious but not popular with steak‐loving passengers). And now United has hired Trader Vic.”
There are certainly more celebrity chefs now than ever before, so time will tell who gets recruited to design a gourmet mile-high menu next.
Airport Layovers: Best Food & Fun While You Wait for Your Next Flight
Show of hands: How many of you actually enjoy spending time at the airport? We didn't think so. But that may changing. While airport "entertainment" once consisted of only bars and chain restaurants, today many airports offer a number of fun ways to chill while you’re waiting to fly out. Here’s how to get the most out of a layover the next time you fly from one of the five busiest U.S. airports. 1. Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport With more than 100 million passengers visiting it in 2017, Atlanta’s international airport is the busiest airport in the world, according to Airports Council International. Flying with Fido? Check out the 1,000-square foot fenced-in dog park, which is part of the ground transportation center in Domestic Terminal South. It features flowers, grass, rocks, and benches—and has biodegradable waste bags for easy pet cleanup. History buffs should check out "A Walk Through Atlanta History." Located in the Transportation Mall between Concourses B and C, the multimedia installation uses video, audio, murals, and photographs to take you through key periods in Atlanta’s development. Have time to enjoy a fine dining meal? Hit up One Flew South in Concourse E. This critically acclaimed restaurant specializes in cuisine inspired by world travels, and it has a cocktail list that pays tribute to the flying boats (‘Floatplanes’) that carried wealthy passengers from Miami to Nassau and Havana so they could drink legally during the Prohibition era. Art lovers will enjoy the airport’s permanent exhibit, “Zimbabwe Sculpture: a Tradition in Stone,” which features 20 stone sculptures from the South African country. Find it in the transportation mall between concourses A and T. 2. Los Angeles International Airport Over 84 million people visited LAX in 2017. The second largest airport in the U.S., Los Angeles's main airport has an array of food and entertainment options for travelers. The size of three football fields, the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) serves as the "Rodeo Drive" of LAX. It boasts tons of shops, including Fred Segal, which sells trendy clothing, accessories, and grooming products, and Sunset Strip's famous bookstore Book Soup. The caveat: it's not connected to any other terminal, so to visit from another terminal you'll have to go through security again. Wine aficionados will enjoy Vino Volo, a wine bar that offers vintages from around the world and a food menu of locally sourced cheeses, smoked salmon rolls, and other light bites. Find it in the TBIT. Need to pick up a snack for your flight? Los Angeles’ Original Farmers Market has a store in Terminal 5 where you can choose from a broad selection of meals, snacks, wine, and coffee from local vendors. 3. Chicago O'Hare International Airport This is a major connecting airport for destinations in the Midwest. It’s also not a bad airport to be stuck in. Parents traveling with children should take them to the Kids on the Fly interactive play area, which features child-sized model airplanes and a control tower. Find it in Terminal 2. Enjoy the stunning display of 466 squiggly neon tubes above a moving walkway in "The Sky's the Limit,” a mile-long neon light sculpture that connects concourses B and C in Terminal 1. Don’t depart without stopping by one of the airport’s Garrett Popcorn shops, located in Terminals 2 and 3. Go for the Chicago staple’s Garrett Mix, a combination of handcrafted cheddar and caramel popcorn. 4. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport Spanning more than 17,000 acres, the busiest airport in Texas is also the fourth most-visited airport in the country. In fact, because of its size, it has its own postal code. Find your happy place before you board a plane for a long trip by doing some pre-flight stretches in the free 24-hour yoga studio, tucked between Terminals B and D. View works from more than 30 local, national and international artists in the International Terminal D. Also, check out the sculpture garden just outside the Terminal D parking garage on the arrivals level. Let your kids burn off energy in Terminal B’s Junior Flyer Club, a 685 square-foot aviation themed play area. 5. Denver International Airport A hub for Frontier Airlines and United, this Colorado airport handled more than 61 million passengers in 2017. Eat like a local at the popular Colorado burger chain Smashburger in Concourse C, Elway’s steakhouse Concourse B, or Root Down, a veggie-centric restaurant in Concourse C that serves up tasty dishes like thai carrot curry and roasted beets with seed pesto and basil vinaigrette. Take in a gorgeous view of the Rocky Mountains at the west end of Terminal C. While you’re there, grab some reading material for your flight at Denver’s famous Tattered Cover Book Store outpost. Sip a glass of wine Lounge 5280 in Concourse B. Rated one of the best airport bars in the U.S., the establishment offers hand-picked wine selections from around the world and a beer list highlighting Colorado's craft brewers.
Teenagers can be notoriously tough to please, but we believe we've cracked the code. From cute accoutrements to bigger-ticket investment pieces, we've got the gear that'll earn that nod of approval—no sweat necessary. 1. Warm Up (Courtesy Rumpl) Airlines' standards for a clean and germ-free environment may not be mile-high (...sorry), but you can avoid those grimy, barely-bigger-than-a-towel fleece throws by packing something with panache. We love the puffy down blanket from Rumpl for its shimmery shades, cushy feel, and compact, lightweight footprint. They can stuff it in the sack that’s included and clip it to their carry-on to save room in their bag, toss it in the back seat to stay warm on a road trip, and bring it on overnight hikes or camping trips for an extra dose of coziness around the fire. Thanks to ripstop nylon encasing 600-fill goose down, it’ll keep you toasty, and it’s machine washable and dryer friendly, so they'll have no problem rinsing away those plane pathogens once they're back on solid ground.Puffy Down Blanket in Fractal, $199; rumpl.com. 2. Travel Light (Courtesy Patagonia) We’re big fans of a hands-free bag, both for travel and for the everyday, so we were psyched to discover this tough little ripstop number from Patagonia. At just seven inches long by five inches high, it’s already impressively tiny, but it also folds away into its own case, which makes it a great choice for an already overcrowded suitcase. Even better, the case itself turns into an internal, zippered pocket when the pack's being used, so your valuables will stay protected when you're on the go. Add to that its vibrant blue hue, and you've got a real crowd-pleaser on your hands. Lightweight Travel Mini Hip Pack in Balkan Blue, $29; patagonia.com. 3. Guard The Digits (Courtesy cable-bite.com) In the grand scheme of things, a frayed cord may not seem like much more than a petty irritant, but exposed wires on phone chargers can be a dangerous proposition, causing minor shocks and even, in the extremely rare case, death by electrocution. These fun iPhone cable bites will protect your screen junkie and provide some cuteness at the same time, and they're just a few bucks a pop. Choose their favorite animal (we’re partial to the penguins ourselves), or grab a set and let them change things up as the mood strikes.Dreams Cable Bites, from $3; amazon.com. 4. Keep It Moving (Courtesy Jabra) For that traveler who’s looking to shut out the noise of the world, give them the gift of solitude—and good sound. Jabra’s wireless on-ear headphones have a slimmer profile than bulkier over-ear alternatives; they’re adjustable, but they best fit those with smaller heads (we found they don’t pinch at all, even when wearing earrings). They’ll keep the music going for eight hours at a trot, and they come with a cord so you can plug in and keep listening even if your playlist lasts longer than the charge. The Bluetooth pairs quickly and easily, the microphone works well for taking calls, and though they’re not technically noise-cancelling, the headphones do block out quite a lot of commotion. Most important? They produce remarkably robust, well-rounded tones—especially considering the affordable price point. Jabra Move Wireless Headphones, $50 (discounted through 1/5/19; regularly $100); amazon.com. 5. Protect Those Peepers (Courtesy Sunski) What’s a selfie without a set of shades? This pair from Sunski has frosted, translucent frames and polarized, mirrored lenses for a standout look, and they're feather-light and comfortable to boot. Like the rest of the brand’s offerings, they come with a lifetime warranty—a strong selling point if you’re shopping for someone who isn’t particularly precious about their eyewear—and the company donates one percent of its sales to environmental nonprofits, so it’s a win-win for anyone with a green streak.Dipsea polarized sunglasses in frosted sky, $58; sunski.com. 6. Provide Instant Gratification (Courtesy FUJIFILM INSTAX®) In these digital times, there's little more appealing than the tactile pleasure of a physical photo, and when you factor in the immediacy of an instant print, you can't go wrong. Even the most jaded teen will get a kick out of Fujifilm’s latest Instax model, a chunky camera that produces square images ready-made for Instagram—once they're scanned in, of course. They can mess around in double-exposure mode, experiment with macro and landscape settings, adjust the light levels, and play with color via the filters that pop onto the flash and add a tint to the scene. But our favorite feature is the selfie mirror, right next to the lens. All they have to do is make sure they're in the frame, click away, and the camera handles the rest. (PS: It's really popular at parties too.)Instax Square SQ6, $130; fujifilm.com. 7. Teach Them About Beauty Sleep (Courtesy Oliver Bonas) It’s a lesson best learned at a young age: If you have trouble getting a good night’s sleep on the road, an eye mask is your best friend. This one is super-fun, a playful wink to emoji culture wrapped in a fuzzy faux-fur hug. Lined with cool satin and finished with a ruched band to keep it in place without pulling hair, it’ll help them get through that first red-eye like a champ.Faux Fur Eyes eye mask, $19; oliverbonas.com. 8. Grow Their Library (Courtesy Amazon) Bountiful reading material in one slender device: What’s not to love? Amazon’s new Kindle Paperwhite offers 8 GB of storage (double the memory of previous versions), a 300-ppi glare-resistant screen, and WiFi connectivity to download on the go—great for folks who get itchy when they don’t have a book on hand. This version is Bluetooth-enabled, so they can sync to an Audible account and listen instead, and it’s waterproof in six-plus feet of water for up to an hour, so they won’t have to stress over the odd poolside splash. Naturally, it comes with access to a huge collection of titles, including magazines, comics, and newspapers, but they can also borrow Kindle-compatible e-books from the library for even more budget-friendly reads.Kindle Paperwhite, $130; amazon.com. 9. Pack in Style (Courtesy ban.do) Form over function? Not so fast. Yes, this coated-canvas toiletries bag from ban.do is adorably logoed, but it also has plenty of pockets—inside, a clear PVC zippered pouch and two mesh pockets; outside, one big pocket on the back—so everything they pack will have its place, even when they’re stuck in coach. All set on the toiletries front? The youthful brand carries an array of similarly smart travel gear, from planners to passport covers to luggage tags to eye masks, so you’re bound to find something for them here.First Class Getaway Toiletries Bag, $15; bando.com.
Thanks to constant innovation and development, the tech world moves fast, but we've captured the goods that'll make your gadget-loving day, from fun and frivolous to strictly business—all for the cost of two Benjamins or less. 1. Add to Your Camera Collection (Courtesy GoPro) Ringing in right under our $200 cap, the entry-level Hero7 White is a great way to dip a toe in the GoPro waters with minimal investment. This tough little camera is waterproof to 33 feet, and it shoots steady, non-jittery video in full HD (1080 pixels at 60 frames per second, albeit with a minor fish-eye effect), thanks to a stabilization feature that eliminates the shakes, even during the bumpiest activities. Outdoor enthusiasts will want to attach it to a helmet and activate the voice controls for hands-free photography and videography, or use it with a tripod or selfie stick for an everyday point of view. For optimal social-media sharing, we like to use the time-lapse or slow-mo options in 30-second bursts, then add music, effects, and more via the connected app.GoPro Hero7 White, $199; gopro.com. 2. Make It Pop (Courtesy Popsockets.com) Who says tech accessories have to be straitlaced? Show some personality with a PopSocket, a sticker-backed button that attaches to a phone case and expands or collapses as needed. It serves as both a handle and a stand, so you can pop it out and prop up your phone to watch videos, or use it to ease that death grip while texting, emailing, or scrolling the timelines. And with plenty of opportunities for personalization and customization, not to mention hundreds of designs, from sports-team logos to cartoon characters to holiday themes to planetary patterns (we particularly love the mini breakfast set seen above), you're bound to find one that suits.PopSockets, from $10; popsockets.com. 3. Keep Tabs on Your Bags (Courtesy Away) Hate letting your checked bags out of your sight? This mashup, courtesy of the chic luggage line Away and the Bluetooth tracking gurus at Tile, will soothe your separation anxiety. The sleek black leather tag conceals a 2.4-millimeter-thick device that, when paired with the Tile app, can locate your belongings within a hundred-foot range. And if your suitcase has wandered further afield, you can tap into the Tile's user network to crowd-source its last-known location. Yes, the odds of losing luggage are getting slimmer every day, but this is an excellent way to cover your bases, just in case.Away x Tile luggage tag, $30; awaytravel.com. 4. Increase Your Security Detail (Courtesy BASU.COM) For that fearless traveler who boldly ventures through dark alleys and dodgy neighborhoods—or bear-infested woods—in search of the next adventure, stay safe with an itty-bitty personal alarm. Barely three inches long and under an ounce, Basu’s battery-operated eAlarm+ comes with a carabiner and clips to a daypack or keychain so you'll always have it close at hand. It’s easy to use too: Pulling out the black pin at the end unleashes a 130-decibel siren that will sound for half an hour, or until the pin goes back in. A reliable companion for late-night city strolls, you can also use it with cords to set a tripwire perimeter around a campsite, or string it up on a hotel-room door for extra protection against intruders.Basu eAlarm+, $19; basu.com. 5. Keep in Touch (Courtesy goTenna) When you're wandering off the grid but still want to keep in contact, hook yourself up with the tools you need to create your own signal. These handy goTenna Mesh devices pair with phones so you can communicate sans cell service or WiFi, relaying text messages and GPS locations through your own personal network. The nodes transmit on UHF frequencies within a four-mile radius in open areas and half a mile in dense ones, but they'll link up with fellow Mesh users as well, tapping into a worldwide peer-to-peer network to extend that reach even further. They're the perfect thing for crowded events, backcountry hiking, or overseas travel without the roaming charges.goTenna Mesh, $179; amazon.com. 6. Light Your Way (Courtesy Kikkerland Design) Bring a note of whimsy to your most mundane tasks with this fun little USB-powered lamp from Kikkerland Design. With a spaceman reminiscent of a classic LEGO astronaut and a flexible, nearly foot-long neck that lets you shine its 12 lumens in any direction you choose, you’ll be reaching new heights in no time. Simply plug it in and flip back the visor to shed some light on the situation.Kikkerland Design USB Light + Astronaut, $20; amazon.com. 7. Get Ready for Your Close-up (Courtesy SIRUI USA) For casual photographers looking to improve their Instagram feed and make those smartphone shots really pop, we highly recommend Sirui’s 60mm lens, a quality clip-on attachment that sharpens the details on close-up shots and portraits alike. Available on its own, it also comes as part of this travel-friendly set, along with an 18mm wide-angle—ideal for capturing those sweeping vistas—and a 170-degree fisheye lens, plus a clip and a hard-shell case that’ll keep it protected in their kit.3 Lens Mobile Phone Kit, $190; siruiusa.com. 8. Boom or Bust (Courtesy Polk Audio) A run or a bike ride through unfamiliar territory can be a good way to get the lay of the land, but exercising on the road can also be a nervy proposition, especially if you're relying on noise-canceling headphones to provide the soundtrack. A light, wearable alternative, Polk’s Boom Bit is a Bluetooth speaker that clips to your clothes, supplying tunes without sacrificing an awareness of your surroundings. For such a tiny device, the sound quality is remarkable, and it even has an integrated microphone for hands-free calling. With mid-range volume levels, it should get about three hours of battery life, but when they do need to recharge, the whole unit plugs directly into a USB port—no extra cables necessary. (Note, though, that the on/off function requires a bit of dexterity, so it might not be optimal for those with hand-mobility issues.)Polk Boom Bit, $20; amazon.com. 9. Tie Up Loose Ends (Courtesy Nomad Lane) With great gear comes a great amount of paraphernalia, and a professional-level organizer will help you get it all together. This well-constructed vegan-leather version from Nomad Lane has a place for pretty much everything: Small elastic loops for things like cords, cables, and earbuds, big elastic loops for larger items like power banks, a removable pouch for adapters and reading glasses, and slim plastic pockets for flash drives and the like, plus room for a tablet like an iPad Mini, a Galaxy Tab, or a Kindle to fit snugly inside. You'll never lose a charger to the depths of your bag again.Tech organization case, $88; nomadlane.com. 10. Give Yourself a Boost (Courtesy Anker) When you're traveling with multiple USB-powered devices, bringing a plug for each one is a waste of precious carry-on space. Anker's universally compatible wall chargers help multitask with speed and ease, thanks to an assortment of ports that’ll get those gadgets to full capacity in a hurry. At two inches square, the PowerPort II 2 is the most compact of the bunch, but with two ports boasting 24 watts, it packs a solid punch. Need more juice? The 43.5-watt PowerPort Speed 4 offers a petite but powerful footprint, with one port for Qualcomm QuickCharge-compatible devices and three with Anker’s proprietary fast-charging technology, all in a tidy package less than three inches square and an inch thick. And if you're looking to leave those bulky MacBook or Nintendo Switch adapters at home, the PowerPort II with Power Delivery is the best bet. With 30 watts of USB-C output, it’ll charge a MacBook in two-and-a-half hours, and it has a regular USB port as well. All three feature foldable plugs and surge protection, for peak portability and peace of mind.PowerPort II 2, $15; PowerPort Speed 4, $28; PowerPort II with Power Delivery, $30; anker.com.
5 Affordable Items That'll Transform Your Social Media Presence
In a world awash with social-media travel influencers and megastars, it can be difficult for the aspiring writer/photographer to stand out from the crowd. From revamping your Instagram feed to enhancing your YouTube channel’s production values, here’s how to take your show on the road—and make your voice heard. 1. A Reliable Microphone Sure, smartphones come with pretty good built-in mics these days, but if you’re serious about upping your social-media game, improving the sound quality of your broadcasts is a simple way to take things up a notch. For phones with headphone jacks, Rode’s VideoMic Me is a solid, affordable option: It’s a directional microphone, so it does have to be pointed toward the sound it’s recording, but it comes with a furry puff called a windshield that cuts down on background noise, which is especially handy for outdoor shoots. For newer iPhones, Shure’s MV88 iOS hooks up via the Lightning connector, rotates to pick up sound from all directions, and comes with a molded carrying case to boot. (You'll need to make sure your phone is fully charged, though, since you won’t be able to plug in while the mic is attached.) Both models are compact, light (less than an ounce and a half each), and easy to use. Rode VideoMic Me directional microphone, $54; amazon.com. Shure MV88 iOS Digital Stereo Condenser Microphone, $129 (discounted through 12/31/18; regularly $149); amazon.com. 2. An External Light Source Some of the best things happen in dimly lit places, but that doesn’t mean you should keep your followers in the dark. For those cozy meals in candle-lit dining rooms, late nights in murky bars, or really, anytime natural light is in short supply, a little illumination goes a long way. Whether you’re snapping selfies or small plates, brighten things up with LuMee's combination LED light/battery charger, a small brick that comes in handy in more situations than you’d imagine. (Just watch out for the strobe function—you’ll want to save that one for the club.) As the kids say, pics or it didn’t happen. LuMee Power Light, $50; lumee.com. 3. A Flexible Tripod Anyone who’s attempted to take a few minutes of video with increasingly shaky hands can attest to the importance of a tripod. Fotopro's uFO2 has bendable legs that wrap around the nearest surface (a railing, a signpost, an arm rest) for stability, and a Bluetooth remote control for hitting that record button or capturing the perfect still shot. It includes a mount for a regular camera as well as adapters for phone and GoPro, and its legs are waterproof, so when you're conducting a rain-soaked interview or going whitewater rafting, you won’t have to worry about it failing. Not to mention that at twelve inches in length, it also works as a selfie stick—ideal for the solo traveler and aspiring Instagram star alike. Fotopro uFO2 tripod, $23; amazon.com. 4. An Emergency Power Boost Don’t get stuck in low-power mode in the middle of a key livestream or tweet storm. TravelCard's slim little charger will give you a quick 35 to 45 percent boost, and, at just under two ounces, it’s barely bigger than a credit card and will take up next to no room in your kit. Consider it an insurance policy, and keep one on hand at all times. TravelCard charger, $29; travelcardcharger.com. 5. Something to Stash It All In Once you’ve got the right equipment, you need to corral everything so it's easily accessible, and this pouch serves double duty, simultaneously organizing your gadgets and protecting them from the elements. Part of a collaboration between two Maine outfitters, New England stalwart L.L. Bean and Flowfold, a Portland-area brand that creates minimalist gear with high-performance fabrics, it’s made from a composite that’s tough, lightweight, and water-resistant, so it’ll keep your stuff safe and dry if unexpected weather conditions arise. And, with bright-orange loops on each end, it’ll never get lost in your bag. L.L.Bean x Flowfold Utility Organizer in olive, $50; llbean.com.