Vegans on a plane

Sorry about the title. I just figured that if a movie title like Snakes on a Plane can actually attract paying customers, maybe people would be drawn to this post by a title that says exactly what is in the tin.

Plus, vegans do generally feel about as wanted on a plane as a cargo of venomous snakes.

Fat anklesI landed in Sydney, Australia, about 9 hours ago now, and got to my family’s just a few hours ago. My ankles are still fat. Really fat.

Ok, not fat, despite my best attempts to eat my bodyweight in sugary snacks during 24 hours of seated inactivity, but swollen.

See how my ankles seem to be made of fluid-filled rubber tubing? They don’t normally look like that. I normally have ankle bones.

Anyway, that is fairly inevitable. I did try and manoeuvre around a bit, both in my seat and by standing up and walking around, and I also wore my compression tights, but there’s no escaping the fact that spending over 20 hours in a pressurised container going through about 10 hours’ worth of time zones is not something our body is easily going to cope with.

The two other big culprits for discomfort during long-haul flights are dehydration, and poor nutrition – whether it’s overeating, undereating, or just eating the wrong things.

I still haven’t found the solution to this, if I’m honest. I did a terrible job of eating healthily and controlling my portions – all I wanted to do was to snack constantly, never quite hungry but also never quite satisfied, and my stomach struggled to deal with anything that I put into it. So I’m not offering this as an example of what you should do – not at all – but maybe as a warning, and also maybe to highlight some good snacking options for anyone on the go. All of my snacks were healthy, I just ate too many of them when I was sitting still for too long!

Pear crispsJust after boarding, before taking off, I snacked on a packet of Perry Court Farm pear crisps.

SpacebarShortly after, maybe about an hour later, I felt like something more substantial, so I went for my Wheaty hemp Spacebar.

Not too long after that, I heard the telltale rattling of trays and trolleys, and I knew that the special meals get brought out first so I was quite looking forward to a hot meal by that time.

Last time I flew with Emirates I remember having good meals, so I was quite excited to see what I was given.

Quorn flight mealSo I was pretty disappointed to see Quorn as my main course. If people don’t yet understand why vegans hate Quorn, this is a perfect example. It’s so disappointing because the caterer clearly understood veganism as they replaced my butter with a dairy free spread, and the little pot of milk with a pot of soy milk, and had also made the effort of not just giving me a salad sandwich but cooking me a proper meal – but had not checked the label and realised that Quorn is not vegan! Obviously the first people to blame would be the caterers for not checking the labels, but a big part of me wants to just blame Quorn for existing.

Vegan flight menu I can only hope the pasta in the pasta salad was egg-free… Luckily thanks to my previous snacking, and the fact that I ate half of Ben’s fruit platter, the rest of that tray actually saw me through to the breakfast meal. Again, I was quite looking forward to the breakfast,  and got really excited when I was handed two packages of warm grilled sandwiches.

Grilled breakfast sandwichUnfortunately, although they looked great, they tasted of nothing – I’m not particularly picky with most food, and normally am quite happy with even just plain bread, but this was pretty much as close to spongy soggy cardboard as I think I have ever come to eating. I had quite cleverly saved my margarine spread from my previous meal, so I dismantled my sandwich and attempted to add some luxury to it, but even that couldn’t remedy it. Having said that, the peppers inside were grilled really nicely, and it’s quite a nice, light, simple meal to digest at the end of a flight. I think I got an orange juice with this.

Vegan flight meal 2We then had to change planes, and got fed lunch pretty soon after boarding.

This time the tray was much more exciting! Filled ravioli in a rich tomato sauce – I poked and prodded and dissected as I highly doubted it was vegan, but it also didn’t seem to be filled with cheese, and didn’t offer any indication as to what it might be. As my tray was clearly marked “Vegan”, I didn’ thave much choice but to take their word for it, despite the previous mishap. I also had a big dollop of hummus and a vine leaf (admittedly the worst vine leaf I have ever eaten, but it is plane food after all), another bread roll, and a dessert which I don’t quite know how to describe – it was like a speculoos cheesecake base with a crumble topping, sitting on top of some blue nondescript berry syrup (presumably blueberry). No idea what it was, but it was dense and sugary and totally unhealthy, and absolutely what I wanted to be eating.

That kept me out of trouble for a while, and I think I may have had a bit of a sleep then, although at some point during the night I cracked open a bag of Perry Court Farm tangy apple crisps. A little while later I actually got quite noticeably hungry, so I had a peanut butter crunch Clif bar – it’s been a long time since I had a Clif bar, but this totally hit the spot as it wasn’t as sweet as some of the other flavours.

Apple crisps Clif bar

At that point it was about 1 or 2am Sydney time, so I think I had another little doze knowing I had about 6 hours until our arrival. There was also a fair bit of wandering around and getting extra cups of water at this point. There may have been a serving of Green & Blacks 85% Dark Chocolate.

Our final meal came at about 5am Sydney time, and this time mine was most definitely vegan. Vegan breakfast flight meal

I had some strange sort of potato cake mound, which consisted of quite bland grated potato, but which was oddly satisfying (like I said, I’m not too picky and quite like bad food sometimes… so when I said those sandwiches were bad, yeah, they were pretty damn bad!). The mushrooms, tomato and spinach were all quite nicely cooked, the fruit was tasty and sweet, and I enjoyed my bread roll with margarine spread and jam.

Finishing apple crisps

After that I only had a couple of hours left and was starting to get vaguely bored and also perhaps slightly agitated about quarantine regulations, so I polished off another bag of apple crisps.

A little later, I had a Pecan Pie Nakd bar… just because.

Later again, I had another Nakd bar – Cashew Cookie this time, one of my favourite flavours.

So yes, definitely a lot of room for improvement. I had plenty of healthy things on hand, I just didn’t need to eat them all! However, I feel I managed my hydration levels really well, having an electrolyte tablet in my water towards the end of the first leg of 7 hours, then regularly getting up to get water in the second leg. The only point at which I felt really dehydrated and struggled a bit was at the beginning of the second leg – we hadn’t been able to get water during the changeover, and then our takeoff got delayed by 30mins, and the crew didn’t come around with water until our meals, during which time we were requested to remain in our seats, so I got a bit grumpy then. Although I would have loved a tea or coffee, I held off because I didn’t want to screw with my hydration levels or my sleep patters.

Next time, knowing that I get monstrous snack attacks, I will pack fewer high-carb high-glycemic index snacks I think. I will also hopefully make more of a point of getting up and walking around more often and more deliberately – but it’s hard to stick to this when a) you’re feeling lazy and you’ve just gotten settled into a comfortable position, and b) the person next to you in the aisle seat has finally drifted off to sleep!

Anyway, like I said, this isn’t intended as any sort of example. Just maybe some new snack ideas whether you are travelling or not, and a stark reminder to me that I need to not eat so much when I am sitting down for 24 hours!

Now that I am here, I am on a mission to try out all sorts of great vegan-friendly local snacks, so I will try to keep you all posted – if you have any recommendations please do let me know!