Saturday, February 28, 2015

UNITED AIRLINES Vegetarian and Vegan In-Flight Meal Review

Summer 2014 San Francisco to London

Here we are again on our semi-annual journey abroad and once again, we booked with United Airlines. As always, we asked for special in-flight meals. My kids ordered the vegetarian special meals this year and I tried to order a vegan meal again but they did not have that on offer. So instead, I chose something called a Vegetarian Asian Meal, hoping it might be as close to vegan as I could get.  I couldn’t think of much dairy used in Asian meals so I thought it was a safe choice. As I have mentioned before, my kids and I always have a big, full meal at the airport before we board our long haul flight (see separate posts on our fav healthy veg-friendly restaurant choices in airports) so we not terribly hungry during the flight and tempted by the in-flight meal. But the journey is quite long, 11 hours in the air if we leave on time, and an hour or two on both ends, so many times we get hungry. We do try to bring a lot of snacks with us but often one of my sons and I will try some of the in-flgiht meal. I limit myself to the items that are wrapped in their original packaging, often bread buns, buttery spreads, jams, etc and I like to try to taste a bit of the entree to review it here, if it doesn't look too frightening. One of my sons often eats a lot of his meal, and my other son refuses to eat any of it at all and just sticks to the snacks we bring.

Since we left in the evening, we were served dinner right away and had the breakfast service hours later before landing. The Vegetarian Special Meal and the Vegetarian Asian Meal (vegan) were exactly the same, except the Vegetarian Meal had a container of plain yogurt on the tray and the Vegetarian Asian Meal replaced the yogurt with a whole grain bread bun wrapped in plastic.  

The vegetarian meal included a tub of plain yogurt

The entree was an Indian dish, with a small helping of Saag Paneer on one side (spinach and cheese--so much for no dairy on the Asian Vegetarian meal!), some Aloo Matar on the other side (potatoes and peas, often with curry sauce), and some Basmati Rice in the center. It was quite tasty, although I decided not to eat more than a bite of my entree.  One of my sons ate most of his entree and found it fine.  He even ate some salad and thought it was fairly fresh. I did eat the whole grain roll because it was protected in a plastic packaging and I had some plant-based butter spread on my tray too, which I spread on my bread and that was good for me! For dessert we were given a packaged “sugar-free” lemon cookie, which my sons both ate and I took a bite of,  but it had quite a bit of an aftertaste from the artificial sweeteners used, so I did not finish mine. 

The Asian Vegetarian meal did not include any yogurt but
instead had a packaged whole grain bun.

For breakfast the Vegetarians had a VERY light meal. We were given a container of Mott’s Apple Sauce, a whole grain roll, and some Smart Balance spread, which is vegan. Nice! All three were factory wrapped, which made me happy! I just could have used a lot more of it! Two rolls perhaps? With some jam as well? In any case, we ate our morning snacks and it was really just perfect.

Breakfast before landing was perfect.
If the plane is delayed at all, I believe it is always best to skip the in-flight meals, since the food often has already been delivered to the aircraft and is sitting in racks on the plane at less than optimal temperatures to keep it fresh for long.

Our luggage and meals being delivered to our plane before take-off.
Our plane was on-time on the way to London but delayed 4 hours
on the tarmac on the way back. We finally got off the plane and had
to spend another night in London.

My perfect airline snack! Some roasted almonds and water.

TO EAT OR NOT TO EAT (the in-flight meal...)
Some claim they died from eating an in-flight meal

Some blame the bacteria lingering all around us on a flight. There was a recent study done blaming the bacteria on the tray table and arm rests (among other places) for making passengers sick: 

"The Tray Table
A study from 2007 found methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), an antibiotic-resistant bacteria, on three out of three planes tested for the "super bug." Specifically, it was found in highest concentrations on the flip-down tray table in front of each seat, with a whopping 60 percent of tray tables testing positive.
“The tray table according to our study had the highest prevalence of MRSA,” said Jonathan Sexton, research specialist at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona, and lead author on the study, in an interview with Healthline. “The tray tables are not commonly cleaned and get used heavily. Travelers eat and sleep on them, which allows for bacteria and viruses to transfer to the table and get passed along to the next traveler in that seat. MRSA can be isolated from many different environments so it was not surprising to find it on the plane. This is a much higher rate of MRSA than in most public areas (save for hospitals). “Other studies that I have conducted found that 3 percent of personal vehicles, 3 percent of work offices, 37 percent of home offices, and 6 percent of public restrooms had MRSA,” said Sexton."

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