Hey ho, so I love traveling and am lucky enough to do it a few times a year. I am pretty strict when it comes to taking my own food and I will no longer just accept airline food and eat it – I would rather fast. So here is a breakdown of my recent travels and how I stayed in ketosis most of the time. My posts are from different locations and kind of review my trip and the holiday but also focus on the food aspect and what to expect when there. I sway in and out of being strict keto. All in all, I eat low carb, healthy fat but I may call this LCHF or keto but it’s much of a muchness, so don’t get confused by the terminology…
KETO TRAVELS PART 1 – THE FLIGHT
*Written in the airport… one flight during dinner hour, the other overnight (post dinner and then breakfast)
Having been keto or LCHF for a few years now and traveling much more due to my new location, I’m starting to notice more about food on planes. These are the things I’ve noticed:
- How frequently people on planes are served food (a lot!).
- The absolutely terrible quality of the meals, no matter your choice (gluten free etc).
(It’s pretty crazy how much (crappy) food is served and consumed! In the past, for fomo (fear of missing out), I would accept the dish and see if there was anything edible…usually the most I could eat were a few veggies which I smothered in the unsalted butter (a crying shame – who serves unsalted butter?!) and possibly the meat if it wasn’t covered in sauce (a rarity). I have also tried ordering a gluten free meal but it’s just full of sugar and is high in carbs like rice. Eating that food, for me, makes me feel gross and I know this so I avoid it. No one needs to deal with bloating and flatulence on a plane, not fun!
So what’s a keto girl to do to ensure she feels good while flying, is still pumping out those ketones and is happy and full?? Prepare her own food of course!
So I have done just that. Basically what I have with me are leftovers and some of the last bits and pieces from my fridge (so they don’t go bad and so it’s easy prep really…pump your fist in the sky if you like easy!)
When flying, there are a few things to think about…so here are my things…
Step 1: Understand how long your flight/s is/are and if they fall during meal times.
Will you be able to get away with NOT eating on your journey? (I.e. can you intermittent fast?) Can you eat beforehand and take less food or will you need multiple meals?
Most flights, even a couple of hours long, will serve a meal or snack, regardless of whether or not you are hungry…I think they’re just trying to keep people occupied to be honest and it’s become flight “culture”…but this can be dangerous and tempting. Unless it’s water, I just say no to everything. I don’t need a silly temptation but more importantly, I don’t want to waste the food…if you can call it that.
So for one particular journey from Shanghai to Amsterdam, I had a flight during dinner, a transit and wait, and then an overnight flight. On any normal day, this would involve me eating dinner, sleeping and then breakfast…so I wanted to do the same and planned accordingly. Being bored on a plane is a common thing though so learning to listen to your body and answering the call of hunger when it’s real is important to tune into. And let’s be real here, being bored is a really common reason people eat, myself included, so we’ve gotta learn to tune into these sensations and change these habits…easier said than done and another blog post entirely but you have the time on a flight to listen to your hunger signals, so go ahead and try to…
That said, I never feel bad snacking on what I have as it’s all good food…but I do try to listen.
Step 2: Meal prep
Now you know how many meals to prepare, let’s get on it. You want a variety of food so you’re excited about what you find when you open up your little food bag. I always pack heaps and when I open my bag, I’ve often forgotten about something delicious and my mouth starts to water.
So what did I have with me for this flight?? Here is my list of prepared food:
- Bread: usually I make flaxseed bread but I had a leftover zucchini so I made a coconut and zucchini loaf (and it was soooo good…recipe to come). I have three slices of this.
- Butter: you’ve gotta have butter!! Everything tastes better with butter, especially my zucchini loaf!
- Frittata: I wanted to finish a bunch of stuff in my fridge and so planned accordingly. That included all my eggs, the cheese, the spinach and cabbage so I cooked a delicious frittata (recipe to come). I ate some for dinner, some for breakfast that morning and took two servings with me. It may have also had bacon in it too…
- Bacon: yes, I took additional bacon. I cooked it in the morning, let it cool and put it in a ziplock. Bacon is amazing hot or cold and my mouth is watering just thinking about it.
- Cheese: I had a small block, I put some in the frittata and the leftover I cut up and put in a ziplock. I love cheese even if I don’t eat much of it.
- Broccoli: I had a small head of broccoli. I cut it up raw and washed it, put it in two ziplocks. I like crunchy raw broccoli. It’s not everyone’s plant of choice but it works well raw and can be eaten with cream cheese or butter…I ate it with the cheese.
- Gelatin squares or “gummies”: I usually bring some sort of sweet food or “treat” and not only is gelatin good for you, these squares are delicious. I learnt about them via Sarah Wilson at IQS (remember that’s where I first started) and you can basically make any flavor you want. On the morning of my flight (I departed pm), I made espresso in my percolator and not wanting to waste the coffee, I decided that coffee flavored gummies would be perfect. In addition to this, I had coconut milk in the fridge that would have been moldy when I returned so I added that to the coffee, along with some homemade vanilla essence (recipe to come) and a tiny bit of stevia. I tasted the mix until it was perfect for me and added the gelatin to let it set. I cut them up into squares and into a ziplock. Now it’s not the most glamorous thing to eat as its jelly but they stay together so you can pick up each square and eat with your hands.
- Dark choc: I went with 99% but I do often eat 85% and up. I always check for the ingredients though. No soy lechithin or emulsifiers etc. Just cacao butter and powder and sugar (yep, it contains sugar but it’s minimal). Lindt 85/90/99% are great options and I think it tastes really nice – the darker, the better. There are only one or two 85% options that I have found without additional fillers, soy etc (we have different choices in Shanghai), and so these brands I had never heard of until coming here. Usually they are all sustainably sourced etc too (although I don’t think Lindt is). I guess if they’re ethical about their sourcing of cacao, they will try to make the best quality they can…but I digress…
So that’s it! I ate what I needed and had plenty of leftovers which I ate when I arrived. Sure, they weren’t super fresh anymore but I don’t mind. I cooked all of these on the morning of my flight, however there are always things you can prepare the night before such as putting everything into zip-locks or even cooking and refrigerating, just plan to have the time free (i.e. don’t be trying to pack last minute AND cook!).
Step 3: On the plane
Say no to the meal offered and tell the flight attendant that you have prepared your own food. They are totally ok with it as plenty more people are doing this today. If you feel awkward doing this in front of others, tell them as you are boarding the plane. They will be more than understanding.
Ask for what you need. This mainly includes cutlery, a napkin, butter and water – lots of it (or you may want another drink but double check the sugar content – often on Asian flights, the coffee is already mixed with milk and sugar). The rest you should have with you and not need.
Sometimes you will plan to eat when the others eat but often I’m not hungry when everyone else is eating, so I just bypass the meal. Taking this combination of flights, I ate dinner, then boarded again at 10pm for my overnight flight. Everyone was served “supper” and I was not even close to being hungry. I said no to the meal and just watched a movie and then went to sleep. The next meal was breakfast and that was when I next ate; as planned and needed.
One more question to answer…
Is there ever anything worth eating on the plane?
In my personal opinion, no, not really. I believe that if you fly business or a top quality airline, you may get better meals but having flown economy only but with quite a few different airlines, I can’t say I’ve been impressed. The only meal that I would consider eating is breakfast as there is usually always an omelette option. You can melt some butter on the omelette and you are good to go. The sausages they serve are highly processed but if you had to choose a meal ever, breakfast would be the most acceptable.
A side note:
As far as the packing goes, you’ll notice I used zip-locks for everything. These are easy because they squish up a little better rather than a rigid container that takes up more space. That said, having a container for the butter would have been nice but whatevs, I don’t mind. I will say though, make sure that you have a good quality zip-lock. Mine were pretty thin and after the overnight trip, some of them tore apart.
Also, keep the cutlery from the trip. It’s usually pretty solid because most airlines only do plastic cutlery. You can put it in your little refrigerated bag, wash it when you arrive at your accommodation and reuse later.
And that’s it!
But of course remember there are always other options, plenty in fact. Let’s get another list on shall we:
- Other veggies – any that you like (raw or cooked) such as carrots and celery, zucchini, cauliflower.
- Fruit – a tub of blueberries or raspberries, a kiwi chopped up.
- Avocado – although another fruit it can be taken as guacamole (although messy in a ziplock) or as a whole fruit or chopped up.
- Raw nuts and seeds – go for the high fat options like macadamia, cashew, walnuts, brasil, sunflower, pepitas.
- Other meat options. I cook bacon almost always and take it. I figure it’s the safest option given that it’s preserved in salt. I wouldn’t recommend cooking other meat and taking it but you could take dried meat like biltong or jerky or pre-packaged prosciutto is also a favourite of mine (if choosing prosciutto go for ONLY one of two varieties – San Daniele or Parma as they contain pork and salt and that’s it!)
- Nut butter of preference (recipe to come).
- Seeded crackers.
- Other types of bread, muffin etc that you love to bake that you know is LCHF.
- Eggs: Egg muffins are another great option. I have taken boiled eggs before but they are smelly. If you don’t care, a great option.
In addition to this, definitely take butter. I only very recently noticed (as mentioned above) that airplanes serve unsalted and it’s horrendous tasting or whipped or sometimes contains veggie oils – more of a margarine option. In addition, take salt and pepper if you fancy it. Some airlines no longer serve salt and pepper either and I didn’t realise this, so take your own. You could also pack some olive oil in a little bottle if your heart desired. Fat is necessary so pack some with you whatever your preference.
- Be aware of how many meals you need to cover and plan and prepare accordingly.
- Pack a variety of foods so you have options. Pack extra, it’s better to have more than less.
- Make sure you’ve got plenty of healthy fats to satisfy you.
- Eat only when hungry, drink plenty of water.
- Advise the staff onboard that you have your own food and say no to the crappy meals (because you can’t wait to eat your own!)
Hope this has helped you to understand how easy it can be to go low carb high fat while travelling. Sure it takes more thought and work but it’s more than possible. You don’t have to cook food like I have, you can get away with whole foods, packed snacks etc.
If you travel LCHF/keto already or for the first time and have any tips or suggestions, please leave your comments below.
Love (and healthy fats) Bianca x