1. When flying an Asian airline, always order the Asian meal. Is it because they’re better at what they know? Or that rice is harder to get wrong than mashed potatoes and pasta? I’m not sure, but this rule has served me well for the past decade, even on airlines that don’t match Singapore and Cathay in quality.
2. Order a special meal. If you are looking for something more nutritionally balanced, contact your airline about their special meals. Cathay, for instance, has 19 different special meals, ranging from halal, kosher and Jain meals to ones created for those with lactose or wheat intolerance.
3. Buy food at the airport. Sandwiches and salads tend to be easier to transport, though Asian standards such as baozi also stand up to the journey. Many cafés now offer fresh fruit as healthy snacks, though be sure to eat these before you disembark, especially in countries with strict food importation laws like Australia and the U.S. (A Japanese fast-food joint in Narita sells edamame to go—perfect for midflight munchies.) One thing to be mindful of: while tastier, food bought in airport restaurants can be as calorific as in-flight meals. A chicken sandwich recently spotted in the Wolfgang Puck Express Café at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport contained a whopping 720 calories.
4. Pack your own. If you’re flying long-haul and you’re particular about food, this is the best option. Just avoid anything overly fragrant, lest you raise your neighbors’ ire. Some suggestions: A crusty baguette with a selection of charcuterie, including a hunk of a hardy cheese such as parmigiano reggiano; a pasta salad with semi-roasted tomatoes, olives and goat cheese; or cold sesame noodles with julienned cucumber.