Navigating the Dreaded In-Flight Meal

Hello! Welcome to Beyond Soy!

It's the time of year to start thinking about summer vacations! One thing that often comes along with a summer vacation is a long-haul airline flight and the dreaded in-flight meal. Is it possible to eat an in-flight meal with a food allergy or intolerance? Absolutely! With a bit of planning, and by making smart choices, you can eat the provided airplane food safely.

 image via pixabay

image via pixabay

Before you fly: First, request a specific meal. So far, Ashley and I haven't found an airline that offers a specifically made soy-free meal (there is always hope for the future). But, airlines do offer other special meals if you request one at least a couple of days before your flight. By selecting a specific meal, you remove some of the uncertainty of what you will get. We always choose gluten-free meals on airplanes. Since gluten is often found with soy (think breads and even sauces), requesting a gluten-free meal will remove many of the food options that could contain soy. On our last flight, Ashley's gluten free meal came with chicken, rice, and vegetables. Two things to avoid: We don't recommend choosing an Asian-based meal because they likely contain soy, and we don't recommend requesting a vegetarian meal since most vegetarian meat replacements contain soy (tofu, for example).

Second, pack a lot of snacks! Plan for the worst by bringing some food to eat if your in-flight meal does contain soy. You may not be able to eat any of the in-flight food, so be sure to pack enough snacks to get you through until you get off the plane. When packing food, make sure they can both go through security before your flight and customs at the end of the flight. (i.e., don't bring fruit back into the US!)  If your in-flight meal is safe to eat, you don't want to throw away unused food because you can't take it through customs. Also, choose snacks that aren't too smelly and don't have a lot of trash. Be considerate of your other passengers! Finally, put your food in your carry-on! Don't make the mistake of putting your snacks in a checked bag where you can't access them. 

 image via pixabay

image via pixabay

During the flight: When you receive your in-flight meal (having selected a gluten-free meal ahead of time and packed plenty of snacks), evaluate it (and any in-flight snacks). The in-flight food may or may not have ingredient labels. If the ingredients are listed, read them! However, it may be hard to tell what part of the meal contains what ingredients (and/or the ingredient label could be in a different language), so also make educated guesses about if your meal contains soy.

Crackers usually contain soy, but we were pleasantly surprised on our last flight that the cheese and cracker snacks that were passed out were soy free! (Note that the croissants passed out for breakfast were not soy-free...) On that same flight, Ashley's gluten-free meal included a chicken breast. We weren't sure if there was any residual sauce or oil on it, so we tried to remove anything that was there by patting it with a napkin as a precaution. The napkin came up dry and Ashley ate her (delicious!) meal without worry.

Now that you've gotten through the long-haul flight it is time to eat while traveling! We are working on a post on how to safely enjoy local food while traveling--stop by later to see it!