Discovering airline diabetic meal

Airline diabetic meal

Airline diabetic meal

Airline food is hardly great, and it’s hardly healthy. How about the special “diabetic meal”, would that be an improvement?

A reader decided to try it out:

Dear Andreas,

I recently flew to Frankfurt from Canada and I ordered the diabetic meal. I have been doing LCHF for over a year and have lost 30 pounds (14 kg) and my blood sugar is much better. I found that airplane meals are so high-carb that they make me ill, so I pack cheese, sausage, nuts and veggies for flights now.

I decided to order the diabetic meal just to see what it would be and hoped it might be LCHF or at least low-carb. It was worse than I ever expected. It was low fat, high carb. It was supposed to be some sort of chicken with coconut sauce. There was barely any sauce (I expect because they were trying to keep the meal low-fat). Most of the meal was some sort of grain – that my seat mates and I never identified. There were just a few pieces of chicken and some veggies, no sauce.

There was a bun that came with margarine! My neighbour with the regular meal got butter. So, for some reason, Air Canada thinks margarine is healthier for diabetics, or Air Canada hates diabetics, I can’t decide. There was a sugar free cookie, too. Also, a broccoli and red pepper salad that was frozen solid, so I couldn’t eat it, but I suspect it was low-fat.

I couldn’t eat most of the meal – just the chicken and veggies. I had forgotten my snacks at home, but luckily, a flight attendant got me a cup full of nuts because the meal was inedible and would have made me sick. It would have pushed up my blood sugar and it would have been difficult to lower it again, as I was stuck sitting on a plane for hours. Imagine if I had been a type-2 diabetic trying to control my diabetes through LCHF?

The “diabetic” breakfast was a processed fruit cup, a muffin and a V8. I ate nothing.


No sugar added

High-carb low-fat food for diabetics? That’s insane. But it could have been worse, they could have added a bottle of fruit juice.


LCHF for Beginners

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How to Normalize Your Blood Sugar


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Top comments

  1. 7rym
    Maybe you forgot to read the fine print following this menu?

    It seems like you ordered the meal -for- diabetes, not -against- diabetes :-)

    Both meals are branded "diabetic meal" probably ;-)

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  2. murray
    "Right, just done 100km of hill repeats on the bike - off to make a carbo-loaded smoothie (ice, 2 x banana, 1 x Pear, 1 x Orange, 10 x Grapes, spoon of Molases, spoon of Flax Seeds), followed by a whole Melon - yum!"

    Yes, I give my son smoothies with banana, wild blueberries, strawberries, egg yolk, coconut and nuts. (Our Vitamix makes it silky smooth.) Can't recommend the grapes and sugar.

    I used to do a lot more cycling than now (I now generally road bike a couple of 44 km rides per week in the highlands--plenty of large hills--and some mountain biking in the woods). Not the season up here, though. It was minus 16C Thursday with fierce wind. The reason I cut down prolonged high-intensity cardio was the science I have seen on endurance athletes and arterial damage and heart arrhythmia. Such intense, prolonged exercise apparently causes plenty of sheer stress damage on arteries. This is exacerbated by glycation from elevated blood sugar (from eating lots of carbs) and from insufficient rest between exercise sessions. I am in a project now with a researcher into heart arrhythmia. Interestingly, almost all of their test subjects are endurance athletes. I have two colleagues and three clients who were hardcore cyclists, all of whom developed serious heart arrhythmia before 60, all of whom "carb loaded." I asked the researcher what drives the condition. The answer: mitochondria. And what damages mitochondria: free radical damage from burning glucose. Heart muscles function much better burning ketones and fatty acids. But if blood sugar is elevated and insulin has been released, like all cells, they interpret insulin to mean "toxic glucose levels in the blood, so take in sugar." So the heart burns sugar and mitochondria are weakened. I caution that cyanide from flax likely aggravates the problem. So the heart compensates by making more heart muscle cells, to restore strength. Ironically, it was explained to me, the low resting heart rate of endurance athletes aggravates the condition, since the heart muscles have to work harder at the slower rate. This results in the left ventricle wall getting thicker, which interferes with electrical pulse propagation through the heart and results in arrhythmia. The problem is becoming wider spread and, for example, Italian football (soccer) leagues now have mandatory testing for arrhythmia, due to embarrassing incidents for the sport where peak-conditioned athletes in their 20s keeled over dead on the field from heart arrhythmia.

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All comments

  1. Granny Mumantoog
    Wow, I wanted to write a quick comment and had to wade through dozens of replies as part of an ongoing argument with a wannabe vegetarian! OY! As a recovered vegetarian myself I could get in on it but I have a feeling that there's a vegan troll involved so it's pointless to try and point out science and reason to a zealot.

    What I wanted to say was that as sad as the airline food may be I was appalled recently to discover what passes for healthy food for a diabetic in hospitals. I saw it first hand when I visited my BFF as she was dying 6 months ago. The hospital dieticians were clueless about the results of actual scientific studies and blindly followed the very wrong USDA guidelines.

  2. Maxine
    Yes, hospital food is pathetic. I was admitted because of a severe migraine and put on the neurology floor. For breakfast, I was served an egg white omelet that looked and felt like a sponge, a muffin, and fruit juice. The other meals were mostly carbs as well. I had to throw a fit to get a reasonable portion of protein.
  3. Donna
    My sister ordered a diabetic meal at the hospital. She had gone in because of high blood sugar. They brought her breads, potatoes, margarine, applesauce & milk. The gave her more insulin. For breakfast it was oatmeal (no sugars), dry toast and tea or coffee .... I think the doctors know if they cure the diabetes... they won't have jobs.... So sad!!!
  4. Murray
    I'm not sure what a high carb high fat diet would be. Anything less than 60% fat is not really high fat. Anything over 20% protein I would say is high protein. Anything over 40% carbs would be high carb. Given that protein should be at least 15%, there is really no room to be both high fat and high carb.

    With insulin, the poison is in the dose. Modest insulin responses are necessary, but when insulin is being relied on continually to reduce toxic levels of blood sugar it is bad news.

    As I mentioned on another thread, there is a qualitative difference between a 70-20-10 fat-protein-carb and a 20-15-65 diet in terms of insulin. Both carbs and protein stimulate insulin, so on low fat some 80% of calories are triggering insulin versus just 30% on high fat. Francois has provided links to Dr. Fung's site who shows how insulin spikes are not necessarily bad in terms of storing fat, provided there is plenty of time between to switch to fat burning and why he has had good clinical success with morning fasting.

    But there are many other reason to reduce insulin, that Paul lacks the patience to repeat yet again. Dr. Cynthia Kenyon's work on insulin and longevity alone is enough to convince me. In a nutshell, insulin triggers age degeneration and ketones reparation.

  5. Murray
    This is an interesting interview with a leading biochemist (head at Cornell Weill institute) who describes the special role of increased amounts of insulin in growth of cancer, and the biochemical pathways showing how fructose is metabolized by the liver directly into fat.

  6. Marijke
    I once ordered a lactose free mail in a flight. It tasted awful while the meal the other passengers had at least smelled good. It turned out to be not only lactose free, but also salt free and vegan/vegetarian. This way the airline could serve three different groups with the same meal, which is of course cheaper. I never did that again.
  7. Bluemoon73
    Jonny, for the average NON-diabetic person, perhaps your fruit and veg-based diet may be healthy. But it would be disastrous for a diabetic. Fruits and starchy vegetables are nothing but extra sugar in our system, and it is toxic to us.

    As for airline food.. *cringe* I haven't flown long distances for over a decade. Probably will bring along nuts and meat jerkies and pick from the regular food offerings.

    My biggest fear is getting hospitalized and not being able to prevent doctors from pumping me full of glucose. :(

  8. abdssamad
    Good article and tips thank you for sharing

  9. Emory
    I order low sodium which usually gets a salad, a piece of hardtack and a piece of rubber(chicken?). I eat the piece of rubber...not the salad since I don't know who made it and where their hands have been.
    I always take a bag of cashews with me on a flight. They're filling and I can afford the carbs on a two hour flight. Either that, or I eat prior to the flight.
  10. Brenda
    When it comes to food, its never 'free'. If a cookie says sugar free, there is some type of sweetner or subsitue. So in my eyes, its not sugar free. Same thing can be said for fats, if it says fat free.........same thing, you wonder what they are subsituting it with.
  11. Candy
    I read a comment on (on a thread about long flights) that the person had the best success getting something close to low-carb by ordering Kosher. Confounding!
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