Most of us think of food in several dimensions – palate, appetite, and nutrition – but an often overlooked attribute is the considerable effect certain foods have on our moods. For example, Imagine a night crossing from Newark to Tel Aviv, total 5681 miles, traveling 450 kts, approximate travel time 12.5 hours. You need to serve a dinner meal, a late night snack for the flight crew, and breakfast for flight crew and passengers.
Since you are on a fabulous G5, and can fly 14 hours without stopping, you have on board a relief pilot. Should everyone eat the same? Should there be more than two selections? The meal planning for this flight needs to take into consideration numerous things. What is the mission? Will both crews go off duty into a rest period upon landing; are the passengers going to a meeting in the morning, or are they heading to a hotel to unwind from the trip before going to an afternoon meeting?
What if this flight was a day crossing and the passengers were going to work on the crossing. They would require high energy foods rather than calming foods. And the trend is more night crossings from the US because of the curfews and restrictions of airports outside of the United States. But what about meal service for a day trip from Moscow to London – a mere 1545 miles, approximately 3.5 hours. The same things need to be considered. What is the mission? What are the passengers doing prior to boarding, and after deplaning? What time zone will you be arriving in? Do they need to be prepared for meetings on arrival? Or for rest?
What if the flight is departing from Luton, London and going to Mumbai, India? 4483 miles, approximately 5.5 hour flight. What is the mission? What time is going to be when the flight lands?
This information vital because recent studies show there is a direct correlation between the foods consumed and the resulting mood and energy level experienced.
“Mood Foods”? Yes, it’s true. It is the consumption of specific foods to get a desired result in a person’s energy and emotional disposition. Mood food response is short term, lasting only two or three hours before the effects fade. If a longer energized mood is required, the crews need a light snack every few hours. As the crews rotate in and out of their duty station, the meals presented to them must reinforce their energy level and mood requirements. And most importantly, no two crew members should eat a meal with any common ingredients. This obviates the possibility of contaminated food affecting the entire crew . . . This policy should already be in place as part of your company’s Catering Safety Management System.
So, let’s think a little more about this flight to Tel Aviv. Your passengers are getting on board eating dinner and then going to bed. The PIC will be getting the first rotation for rest, followed by the co-pilot. The relief pilot will rest early in the flight and then take over during the last few hours. All the while, the flight attendant needs to be alert and ready for action throughout the entire flight. Before landing, everyone would like to have breakfast. So, how do you plan a meal that will positively affect all of the moods of each person with their different needs?
Below, I referenced a list from Dr. Jean Carper’s Food – Your Miracle Medicine. The suggestions for a desired mood are listed with the foods necessary to achieve each of the desired goals. I added some of my own menu suggestions so you can see all the possibilities. Once you realize what category the person fits into, it’s easy to create a menu that will help them enjoy the flight even more!
Alert and Energized
you need protein-rich foods: Low-fat seafood, turkey breast, nonfat milk, low-fat or nonfat yogurt, coffee; boron-containing foods such as fruits, nuts, legumes, broccoli, apples, pears, peaches, grapes. This meal is best served about four hours prior to bedtime and the snacks about one hour prior to bedtime
Protein breaks down into amino acids when you digest it. The amino acid tyrosine increases the production of neurotransmitters dopamine, nor epinephrine, and epinephrine, all of which increase energy and alertness.
There’s no official recommended intake for boron, a trace mineral, but its positive effects on brain function have been widely noted; there’s more activity in both brain hemispheres when adequate dietary boron is present.
Dinner Menu Suggestion High Energy:
- Warm turkey breast with apple-pear-walnut compote, side of steamed broccoli, and coffee, baked cinnamon apple
- Grilled fish, mixed vegetables with a small portion of roasted red potatoes Broiled tofu with broccoli pesto over spaghetti squash
- Pork chop with chunky applesauce, garlic roasted green beans and quinoa confetti pilaf
- Moroccan Apricot Baked Chicken with almonds, raisins, prunes over whole grain couscous
- Beef filet with broccoli and cauliflower, and tomato-cucumber-artichoke salad
- Mixed grill lettuce wraps, crumbled blue cheese and shredded vegetables with a yogurt-blue-cheese dressing
- Any salad with 3-6oz meat/beans
- Focus on fruits for these desserts
Snack Meal Service High Energy:
- Mini finger sandwiches of tuna salad on whole grain
- Boiled eggs, deviled egg
- Toast spread with nut or seed butter
- Greek Yogurt
- Orange juice
- Petite grilled shrimp Kabobs
- Crisp sliced apples and warm mixed nuts
- Cheese tray and crackers
- Sliced meat tray with warm whole grain breads or crackers
- Mixed nuts and dried fruits, no granola
Breakfast Menu for High Energy:
- Passengers and Flight crew need food to make them alert and energized for the day:
- Cereal and Yogurt, fresh fruit cup
- Frittata and Yogurt parfait, coffee
- Smoked salmon
- Scrambled Eggs with Broccoli flowerets, grilled tomato, whole grain toast, Yerba mate
- Broiled Tofu with sour plum sauce, new potato hash, green tea
- Fruit bowl sprinkled with pistachios and Greek yogurt, two slices Kavli Crisp bread, skinny latte
- Canadian Bacon, poached egg, slice of cheese toast over a whole grain crumpet or English muffin
- Grilled Cheese, apple and bacon flatbread, black tea or coffee
- Ham and Cheese Omelet, Breakfast Potatoes, Turkey Apple Sausage
Relax and Rest
You need complex carbohydrates, especially potatoes, pasta, bread, beans, and cereals, onions; snacks: honey or sugar, low-fat, high carbohydrate foods such as air-popped popcorn, rice cakes, Cheerios, and other dry breakfast cereals. Avoid caffeine-containing beverages (coffee, black and green tea, colas, chocolate), especially if they are not part of your usual diet – sudden caffeine consumption can make you nervous and anxious and can last for up to six hours.
Carbohydrates trigger the release of insulin into the bloodstream, and insulin in turn clears all the amino acids from the blood – except for tryptophan. Without competition from other amino acids, the tryptophan floods the brain, where it’s converted into serotonin. The serotonin is a neurotransmitter that combats pain, decreases appetite, and produces calm or sleep.
Dinner Menu Suggestion for Low energy:
- Grilled Sea bass with tropical fruit salsa over wilted spinach with grilled asparagus, grilled peaches with honey yogurt
- Hearty Tuscan soup such as minestrone and ribollita (a variation on minestrone that includes bread and red onions), Veal Marsala over Fresh Linguini or Potatoes Anna, Fresh Bread Basket and Butter, decaf green tea
- EVOO Pasta Primavera with whole grain pasta, plenty of vegetables and a healthy dose of parmesan cheese, sliced fruit, sweetened ricotta pudding and decaf chamomile tea
- Sesame Chicken or Tofu stir-fried with Asian Greens, garlic and ginger over brown rice, lemon balm decaf black tea
- Black bean soup with avocado slices, whole wheat quesadilla and meatless taco salad, flan and fresh strawberries, mint tea
- Sweet potato, Kale and mushroom Quinoa Pilaf, honey sweetened Greek yogurt and fresh figs, lemon balm or mint tea
- Grilled Chicken Salad with dressing, strawberry rhubarb compote with ice cream, chamomile tea
- Spinach Salad with Turkey Bacon, Eggs and Red Onion, Lasagna, Garlic Bread, decaf green tea
- Steak, Scalloped Potatoes, Herve Verde, Rolls and Butter
Snack Meal Service for Low Energy:
- Popcorn and M&M
- Apples and caramel rice cakes
- Apple pie a la mode
- Oatmeal cookies with milk or cocoa
- Trail mix of Granola, flaxseed (or Chia seed) dried fruits, and cocoa nibs
- Hummus and whole grain pita with fresh garden vegetables to dip
We, as the food source providers (caterers, the schedulers, the flight attendants), have a responsibility to plan meals that will assist the flight crews to perform their jobs to the best of their ability with the most concentrated and focused energy. We need to accept the responsibility to see that the passengers arrive with the least amount of jetlag possible and with the ability to start their duties upon arrival with the same energy level as though they had maintained normal eating and sleeping patterns. It works!