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How can I manage meals on an airplane if I have diabetes?

Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Always drink plenty of water before, during, and after a flight. You can check with the airlines to see what special meals they offer. They may have diabetic meals available. If not or if you are flying on an airline with no food service available, you need to plan ahead. Pack snacks that are diabetic friendly and avoid the processed white flour, white sugar ones often provided. Do not cast your fate to the wind and assume you will find healthy food when traveling. While options are improving, you do not want to be at the mercy of the airline. Always keep nuts, whole grain crackers, fresh fruit and even turkey jerky in your pack or bag. Pack a sandwich on whole grain bread or bring cut up veggies and low fat cheese in a small refrigerated pack.

Many flights no longer offer food service. Ask at the desk before you board the plane if there will be a meal or snack. You can purchase something at the airport to carry on the plane and eat around your usual mealtime or before you board.

If a meal will be served, you can order a special meal in advance. Most airlines have low-sugar, low-fat, low-salt, and low-cholesterol meals available on request. Most airlines require that you request special meals at least 24–48 hours in advance. However, many people prefer to get the regular meals and choose which food to eat.

Tips for Meals on Airlines

  • Mealtimes on the plane can be somewhat unpredictable. So don’t inject your premeal insulin until your meal has been served. Bad weather, a bumpy flight, or air traffic can delay service.
  • Take along extra snacks in case your meal is delayed, there is no meal service, or no time to buy food at the airport.
  • You may want to tell your flight attendant that you have diabetes, especially if you are traveling alone. That way, your airline crew will be prepared should any emergency arise. If there is a meal delay, he or she may be more willing to see that you get your meal as soon as possible.
  • If you order a diet soda from beverage service, ask for the can or watch the flight attendant pour your drink. This can prevent you from accidentally getting a regular soda that could raise your blood glucose too high.
Also be aware that air travel can be dehydrating, so you’ll feel better at the end if you drink lots of fluids. Avoid alcohol because it can only add to dehydration.

 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.