Calorie Counting On Long Flights: 10 Tips You Need

calorie counting tips for long flights airplane

As you embark on a long flight, it’s essential to keep your nutrition in mind.

Traveling can disrupt our eating routines, and being confined to an airplane cabin makes it even more challenging to make healthy choices when calorie counting.

But fret not! I am going to help you out. I will share some effective calorie counting tips to help you maintain a balanced diet during those long flights.

Read on to take advantage of them for yourself.

Why Is Calorie Counting So Hard On Long Flights?

Calorie counting can be particularly challenging during long flights due to several factors.

First, the limited food options available on airplanes often lean towards high calorie, low nutrient dense choices.

It can be tempting to indulge in the convenience of pre packaged snacks or rich meals offered by the airline, making it harder to stick to a calorie conscious diet.

In addition, the lack of control over portion sizes makes it difficult to accurately track calorie intake.

Airplane meals are typically pre portioned, leaving little room for customization.

Also, the environment itself, with its cramped seating and limited mobility, can lead to boredom and mindless snacking.


Comfort eating during a long flight can sabotage even the most determined calorie counter.

And how could we forget about jet lag?

Jet lag and disrupted sleep patterns can throw off hunger cues, making it challenging to accurately gauge when and how much to eat, even after the flight is over.

These various factors combined can make calorie counting a daunting task while traveling in the air.

If you have a long flight planned and are nervous about your diet and calorie counting while on the plane, check out these helpful tips.

These are tips that I have personally used, and I swear by them.

Ultimate Calorie Counting Tips For Long Flights

Before takeoff, a little planning can go a long way in ensuring your in flight meals align with your calorie goals.

It’s important to do some pre flight calorie counting preparation.

1. Plan Your Meals And Snacks Ahead Of Time

Instead of relying solely on the airline’s meal service or buying high calorie snacks at the airport, pack your own nutritious options that you love.

Consider portion control and calorie content. Some excellent choices include:

  • Fresh fruits like apples, grapes, berries or sliced melons. Dried fruit is good too!
  • Raw veggies like carrot sticks, cucumber slices, or cherry tomatoes with dip.
  • Homemade trail mix with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.
  • Granola bars
  • Whole grain crackers or rice cakes.
  • Low fat yogurt or cottage cheese.

If you have a list of low calorie favorite snacks that you frequently eat at home, take them!

Want a homemade easy snack to take? Try This Low Calorie Recipe for Fudgy Hershey Brownies!

Stick some of your favorite snacks in your carry on bag so that you can enjoy them on the plane and know exactly how many calories you are eating.

2. Research Airline Meal Options

Most airlines provide menu information in advance, so take advantage of it.

Explore healthier options or even consider pre ordering special meals like vegetarian, low-calorie, or gluten free options.

These alternatives often offer more nutritious choices than the standard meal selections.

For example, United Airlines offers an online look at their menu.

You are able to see the snacks, drinks, and bistro on board.

This way, you will be prepared and can adequately allocate your calories throughout the entire day based on what you will be eating on the flight.

Once you’re on the plane, it’s time to make conscious decisions about what you eat and drink.

3. Read Nutrition Labels

If you are choosing to purchase snacks at the airport, take a moment to read the nutrition labels to make informed choices.

Look for options that are lower in calories, saturated fat, and added sugars.

If you can find a snack with a higher protein content, choose that one.


4. Be Mindful Of Portion Sizes

It’s easy to lose track of how much you consume while tuned into a movie or engrossed in conversation with your fellow passengers or family and friends.

Be aware of portion sizes and avoid mindless snacking. If given the choice, choose smaller servings when available.

Portion sizes can significantly impact our calorie intake and overall nutrition.

It’s so important to be aware of common portion sizes to maintain a balanced diet.

For example, a typical serving of meat or poultry is about 3 ounces, which is roughly the size of a deck of cards.

A single serving of cooked pasta or rice is typically around half a cup, or the size of a tennis ball.

A medium sized fruit, like an apple or orange, is considered one serving.

Understanding these general portion sizes can help you gauge your food intake and make informed decisions when planning meals and counting calories on a flight.

Remember, portion control always plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy diet and managing calorie consumption when calorie counting, so it is still important when on the plane too.

5. Choose Nutrient Dense Foods With Protein

Make every calorie count by prioritizing nutrient dense options.

Select fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean protein sources like grilled chicken or fish.

Protein is SO important. Why? Protein is going to help you feel full and keep you full.

Protein helps you stay full for longer periods by increasing satiety and reducing hunger cravings.

It has a higher thermic effect of food, requiring more energy for digestion and leading to a prolonged feeling of fullness.

Protein affects the release of appetite regulating hormones, such as ghrelin and PYY, decreasing hunger and promoting a sense of satisfaction.

Additionally, protein has a slower digestion rate, providing a steady release of amino acids and preventing blood sugar spikes.

If you have an option for some protein, take it!

Also, don’t forget to minimize your intake of high calorie, low nutrient foods such as sugary snacks and fried items.

These will NOT keep you feeling full during the flight.

6. Stay Hydrated

Drinking enough water is vital during a flight.

Not only does it help combat dehydration, but it can also help control hunger pangs.


Drink water regularly throughout the flight and limit your intake of sugary beverages and alcohol, which can contribute to additional calorie consumption.

While it’s important to enjoy your flight, here are some strategies to help you keep your calorie intake in check:

7. Control Your Indulgences

We all deserve a treat now and then, even at 30,000 feet!

Allow yourself the occasional snack or dessert, but practice moderation.

Instead of devouring a whole bag of cookies, savor a few.

Avoid mindless snacking out of boredom, and focus on enjoying the flavors of what you eat.

If you do want to enjoy some sweets such as cookies, choose the little pre portioned 100 calorie bags.

This way, you still satisfy your sweet tooth without tacking on 400-500 calories while doing so.

8. Practice Mindful Eating

Eat slowly and pay attention to each bite. Enjoy the textures and flavors of your meal.

By eating mindfully, you’ll be more in tune with your body’s hunger and fullness cues, helping prevent overeating.

Pay attention to the physical sensations while eating, such as feeling satisfied, a decrease in hunger, or a sense of contentment.

Eat slowly, allowing time for your brain to register these signals. And pay attention to these signals!

Pause periodically during meals to assess your level of fullness and stop eating when you feel comfortably satisfied, avoiding the tendency to overeat.

Developing this mindful eating practice can help you better recognize and honor your body’s natural fullness cues.

9. Substitute Healthier Alternatives

Make healthier swaps whenever possible.

Choose low calorie popcorn over greasy potato chips, or fresh fruit instead of calorie packed desserts.

Replace candy bars with a piece of dark chocolate or a handful of mixed nuts.

Swap soda or sugary drinks for infused water, diet soda, or unsweetened herbal tea.

Choose rice cakes or whole grain crackers with nut butter instead of sugary cookies or pastries.

These small changes can add up and make a significant difference in your overall calorie intake.

10. Managing Hunger Pangs Effectively

To prevent excessive hunger during the flight, have a balanced meal before you board.

Include a mix of protein, whole grains, and vegetables to keep you feeling satiated for longer.

Additionally, pack protein rich snacks like nuts, energy bars, or Greek yogurt to help curb hunger between meals.

Also, making sure to drink enough water will fill your stomach will volume, signaling to your brain that you are full.

11. Stay Active During Layovers

If you have a long layover, use the time to stretch your legs and get some physical activity.

Take a walk around the airport terminal or do some light exercises to burn extra calories and stay energized.

The airport is a great place to exercise if you have extra time. Think of all of that space to walk.

12. Cope with Jet Lag

Long flights often come with jet lag afterwards.

Jetlag can make it even harder for you to maintain calorie counting once your flight is over.

Here’s how you can manage jetlag effectively and get back on course:

Strategies To Combat Jet Lag

Jet lag can disrupt your sleep patterns and eating habits long after your flight is finally over.

This will make it even harder to get on track with counting calories once you reach your destination.

To minimize its effects, you can:

  • Adjust your sleep schedule before you go

Gradually shift your sleep schedule a few days before your trip to align with your destination’s time zone.

This can help your body adjust more smoothly to the new time zone.

  • Get out in the sunlight

Spend time outdoors in natural daylight upon arrival at your destination.

Natural light helps regulate your body’s internal clock and can help reset your circadian rhythm.

  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water

Drinking plenty of water will prevent you from feeling dehydrated.

If you are dehydrated, it will take much longer to recover.

  • Avoid excessive caffeine

Caffeine may sound like a great idea to keep you feeling pepped up and awake, but it actually can have the opposite effect.

Caffeine consumption that is excessive can leave you feeling worse and cause you to crash.

  • Avoid excessive alcohol

Excessive alcohol consumption can make you feel even more groggy then you already would when being jet lagged.

Alcohol can also make you dehydrated as well, so it may be smart to keep it to a minimum.

  • Adapt quickly

Once you reach your destination, try to adapt to the new time zone’s meal schedule as soon as possible.


Maintaining a balanced diet and calorie counting during long flights is undoubtedly challenging, but with a little preparation and mindful decision making, it’s entirely possible.

By planning your meals ahead of time, making smart choices during the flight, and managing jet lag and hunger pangs effectively, you can stay on track with your calorie counting goals, even at 35,000 feet.

So, the next time you find yourself soaring through the skies, remember that your health and well being shouldn’t take a backseat.

Take control of your nutrition, make conscious choices, and arrive at your destination feeling energized and ready for your adventures!

Bon voyage and happy calorie counting!