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Why Does Airplane Food Taste Bad? Science Has the Answer

Gone are the days when airplane travel was distinguished and seen as an event.  The food was amazing and the experience was second to none, but nowadays airplane travel has become just another way to travel.  Chefs used to fly on airplanes preparing 3-4 course meals and now you are lucky to get peanuts and a soda.  So why does the food on an airplane taste so bad?

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Gone are the days when airplane travel was distinguished and seen as an event.  The food was amazing and the experience was second to none, but nowadays airplane travel has become just another way to travel.  Chefs used to fly on airplanes preparing 3-4 course meals and now you are lucky to get peanuts and a soda.  So why does the food on an airplane taste so bad?
 
How come all the food on an airplane tastes horrible and why am I still eating it? If you’ve ever asked yourself that question and you have never found an answer, well don’t fret, there is research!  A new study from Cornell University has come up with an answer, and guess what? It ain’t bad cookin’.  

Science always finds the way and if you look hard enough, you are going to find an answer to any question.

Turns out, the noisy environment inside a claustrophobic airplane cabin may actually change the way food tastes.

In the study, 48 people were handed a variety of solutions that were spiked with the five basic tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami (basically, a Japanese word for the savory flavor found in foods like bacon, tomatoes, cheese, and soy sauce). First, the testers sipped in silence, then again, while wearing headsets that played about 85 decibels of noise, designed to mimic the hum of jet engines onboard a plane.

What the researchers found: While there wasn’t that much of a change in how the salty, sour, and bitter stuff tasted, the noisy surroundings dulled the sweet taste, while intensifying the savory one—which might explain why a meal eaten on a plane will usually seem a little, well, off.

“Our study confirmed that in an environment of loud noise, our sense of taste is compromised. Interestingly, this was specific to sweet and umami tastes, with sweet taste inhibited and umami taste significantly enhanced,” said Robin Dando, assistant professor of food science. “The multisensory properties of the environment where we consume our food can alter our perception of the foods we eat.”

This isn’t the first time airlines have tried to figure out the reason behind funky in-flight food. The Fraunhofer Institute, a research institute based in Germany, did a study on why a dish that would taste just fine on the ground would taste, “so dull in the air,” as Grant Mickles, the executive chef for culinary development of Lufthansa’s LSG Sky Chefs, put it to Conde Naste Traveler

German researchers tried taste tests at both sea level and in a pressurized condition. The tests revealed that the cabin atmosphere—pressurized at 8,000 feet—combined with cool, dry cabin air numbed the taste buds (kind of like when you’ve got a bad cold). In fact, the perception of saltiness and sweetness dropped by around 30% at high altitude. Multiplying the misery: The stagnant cabin dries out the mucus membranes in the nose, thus dulling the olfactory sensors that affect taste. All of which adds up to a less-than-fine dining experience.

The good news: This research may help airlines find a way to make in-the-air meals more palatable. (That is, for flights and airlines that still offer any food at all!)

The key, according to Mickles, may be using ingredients or foods that contain a lot of umami to enhance the other flavors. He may be on to something: The folks at the Lufthansa have found that passengers guzzle as much tomato juice as beer (to the tune of about 425,000 gallons a year). Turns out, cabin pressure brings out the savory taste of the red stuff.

Good to know. Now pass the earplugs—and bring on the Bloody Marys.

 

 

Check out the full article over at Health.com

Photos Courtesy of InfinateLegroom, Thrillist

 

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The World’s Most Unique Dining Experiences

Sure, you can get a great meal anywhere. But how many times have you had a meal that sticks with you for the rest of your life? If your answer is “not enough,” then you need to check out one of these amazing global dining destinations. Food aside, the atmosphere and experience will stick with […]

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Food

Healthy Travel Snacks

Theres no reason to go hungry or wreck your diet when you’re traveling or stuck in a hotel room without room service. Take along these healthy snacks suggested by Charles Stuart Platkin, nutrition and public-health advocate, and author of The Diet Detectives Count Down.

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Healthy Travel Snacks

Just because you are traveling, doesn’t mean that you have to ruin your diet. There are many pitfalls that we as travelers fall into, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Late nights in hotels and constantly eating out can wreck any healthy diet, but if you play it smart, traveling and eating healthy can go hand in hand. A good snack should be somewhere close to 100-150 calories, anymore than that and you are creeping towards a whole meal’s worth of calories.

I think the key to eating healthy in general is proper planning and meal preparation; this is no different when traveling. If you meal prep for your weak at home then why not meal prep for your trip as well? We all know that eating late or eating on the go often requires eating fast food, unless you plan ahead. Fast food is the death to any healthy diet, so a simple key to remember is PLAN AHEAD.

Another aspect to healthy eating and travel involves self-control and portion control. When traveling its easy to act like what we eat doesn’t matter, since we are technically on vacation. This is a terrible routine to fall into, just because you are on a trip doesn’t mean your diet has to go on vacation as well.   Portion control is a great way to combat this problem. If you only eat a little bit, then it doesn’t matter technically what you eat.

Here are my favorite travel snacks that will help you avoid room service and keep you on your diet.

Nuts:

Nuts travel so well and are just a great, healthy snack. They also come in such a huge variety that they keep you from becoming bored. As we all know, when boredom creeps into your mind, you stray from your diet. I try to stick to unsalted and raw nuts, because they have the most nutritional value. Nuts are low in calories but high in protein, so they are the perfect tool to keep in your diet’s arsenal. An ounce portion usually rounds out to about 120-150 calories, so that’s a perfect snack.

 

Energy Bars:

Energy bars are generally a good meal substitute, but stay away from the ones that are filled with sugars and unnatural products. I recommend Cliff bars as they are made with natural sugars and don’t have too many preservatives. The best part of energy bars are their portability and how easily they can be packed for long periods of time. I tend to keep a couple bars in my suitcase at all times, because you really never know when hunger can strike.  

 

Fruit:

Fruit is readily available all over the world and travels so nicely. Fruit is natural so you don’t have to worry about preservatives and the portion control is built in. One apple or a bunch of grapes are usually around 100 calories, so they are the perfect travel snack.

 

Can of Tuna:

Cans of tuna are another perfect travel snack, they are made to be portable and don’t leak, so toss them in your overnight bag. I like mine with some crackers to make mini sandwiches out of and also keep my fingers from smelling like fish.

 

Cold Cut Sandwich:

The perfect travel meal, a classic sandwich is always portable and always a favorite. I can’t recommend a sandwich more; they can be made ahead of time and easily packed away for a few hours. I tend to make a sandwich when I fly since they are allowed through security and are cheap.

 

Remember fellow travelers; planning ahead and packing smart are key to eating healthy while traveling.

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Food

Don’t Get Food Poisoning While Traveling

The last thing you want to happen when you are traveling is to get extremely sick.  Many foreign restaurants don’t have the same food safety guidelines and the possibility of getting food poisoning is very high.  How do you know where to eat when you are traveling?  You are in a strange new city, the […]

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The last thing you want to happen when you are traveling is to get extremely sick.  Many foreign restaurants don’t have the same food safety guidelines and the possibility of getting food poisoning is very high.  How do you know where to eat when you are traveling?  You are in a strange new city, the sights and sounds are all over stimulating your brain and you have no clue where to eat. It can be quite daunting to be in an unfamiliar place already and then throw in the fact that there are bad restaurants everywhere, oh boy, what to do. First, don’t panic, everyone has to eat to survive so if you are in a place where other humans are living, then I think we can find you somewhere to dine.

Ask Concierge

First things first, ask the concierge at the hotel or resort you are staying. What’s a concierge you ask? The concierge is a hotel employee whose sole job is to assist the weary traveler by acting as a personal assistant. They can tell you where to eat, but be specific when you speak with them. Tell them your budget, preferences and any dietary restrictions you have. If your hotel doesn’t have a concierge, then the front desk staff should be able to help you out. I always pick the concierge’s brain the instant I get to the hotel; they are masters of their domain and know the city better than anyone.

The World Wide Web

Google it! Isn’t that what anyone says nowadays when they ask you a question. But seriously, get online and digitally ask around.  Check to see if there are any travel warnings to where you are going and if any otf those are food related.  Remember a few years ago when the bird flu broke out in asia or the mad cow disease?  These are perfect examples of how a little due diligence can do a lot of good.  I can’t be everywhere for you, so this you will have to do on your own. I prefer to hop online and go to TripAdvisor, they seem to always have good restaurant reviews and recommendations.  Yelp is now catching on in Europe so give that a try.  Most of the reviews are coming from fellow travelers so this may be a great resource. 

Research

This goes along with the World Wide Web because I’m sure this is where most of us will do the research. You could also get a travel guidebook like a Lonely Planet or Thomas Guides; they are great resources for your trip.

Pinterest is a great tool as well, many people have been where you are going and many have made Pinterest boards of their trips. It can’t hurt to do a little internet stalking on your travel destination.

Blogs, blogs and more blogs! People just like me are posting their stories and experiences all over the web, do some legwork and find out about where you are traveling. 

Locals

Who knows the town better than locals? If you want to find out the best restaurants a place has to offer, then get to communicating. Chat up some friendly locals and get the inside scoop. Use your judgment, because some people just don’t want to be bothered and it’s best to leave those locals alone.

When you are out exploring don’t be shy, talk to people and if you are pleasant and cordial, then they should help you out.

Smell it out

This one is easy folks, let your nose guide you to deliciousness. I let my nose lead the way often and its always taken good care of me. Believe me, if a restaurant smells good then the chances are the food it pretty good. Don’t be afraid to ask a local if you smell something divine. They usually will know what you are talking about and direct you in the right direction. I have very fond memories of walking down a street in Phuket, Thailand and the smells were so overpowering that my senses were overloaded. The street food was incredible there and I let my nose do the shopping.

I hope you find meals so amazing that the memories last a lifetime.

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