Interview With Melissa Adamski Founder of Nutted Out Nutrition

Melissa Adamski, MND BSc APD, founder of Nutted Out Nutrition. A travel nutrition service where she consults frequent travelers on how to eat and stay healthy during business trips. We spoke to Melissa about airplane and lounge food, as well as how you can stay healthy when living in hotels.

Tell us about yourself, your job as a dietician and how that got you into travel?

I’ve been a dietician for over 10 years. I’ve predominantly worked in corporate nutrition advising businesses about all things food and health, as well as running my own practice seeing patients. What got me into travel was while working at one of my clinics in Melbourne, where I saw patients who were traveling for work regularly. It gave me a good insight in how travel affects our health goals as well as what we eat (our dietary patterns). 

On a personal level I also have a lot of first hand experience of this as I’ve been in roles where I’ve had to travel a lot, both domestically and overseas. On an even more personal level my partner has worked in the aviation industry for many years, and shortly after we first met he introduced me to the frequent flyer world.

As someone who’s spent a lot of time in lounges and onboard planes, there have been many times when I haven’t thought the food was particularly healthy and have complained to my husband about it to which he said ”why don’t you do something about it?”. It made me realize that the subject of travel nutrition hasn’t been talked about a lot, which was further demonstrated when talking to some clients who have previously received advice that wasn’t relatable as they hadn’t been immersed in the whole world of lounges and business class food. Being told to not eat the lounge food as a frequent traveler is a hard task to follow, and it’s not particularly useful advice. That’s where I enter the picture as someone with first hand experience.

As a Qantas Platinum member you’ve flown a fair bit on the world’s top airlines. Could you name an airline that does a good job with its onboard catering from a nutrition perspective, and an airline that doesn’t do so well?

I’ve been a Gold and Platinum member with Qantas for many years, and because of that I’ve primarily flown with Oneworld airlines, so there are probably many airlines who do a better job with their catering than the ones I’ve flown.

My favorite airline that I always go out of my way to fly is Finnair, mainly because of their food both onboard and in the lounges. The nordic influences in their catering aligns very well with the general health and dietary guidelines from around the world. You can usually eat quite well onboard without having to make any major efforts.

As far as airlines who don’t do as good of a job when it comes to nutrition, I can usually pick apart any airline and find aspects of their food that aren't very healthy (much to the annoyance of my travel companions). If I had to pick one, the one that would come to mind first would be British Airways. From the times I have flown with them, I hadn’t found the quality of their food either onboard or in the lounges to be particularly good, and I find it harder to make those healthy choices, especially when you’re traveling all the time. For instance the little bags of crackers they serve before the meal which are very refined carbohydrates or the bacon rolls/sandwiches. Overall I find their food to be heavy on refined carbohydrates and with not a lot of vegetables available easily.

Airlines are under strict budget constraints (more so than ever these days), is that something that has hindered them from providing more nutritious meal options onboard and in the lounges or is it also a matter of passenger preferences?

That’s a good question. Overall it boils down to a combination of both passenger preferences, the cost, but also what’s available from the caterers both on the airline’s home base and at the destinations abroad. Additionally we must also factor in how well foods fare on planes, both how well they reheat but also from sitting in a refrigerator for several hours prior to reheating. It’s hard to make the demand that you want a really fresh and nutritious salad or poached fish when in reality you need to factor in all of the above.

Food is of course a part of the experience and when you’re in a business or first class lounge you wouldn’t necessarily just want a garden salad or something healthy you regularly cook at home, especially if you don’t travel often. You would likely want something a bit more fancy and perhaps decadent, hence why airlines have to cater to a wide range of preferences. While there are people who do prefer to eat healthy, airlines have predominantly been catering towards the more decadent side, especially when you’re moving up the classes.

Cost is an important factor, more so than ever since covid. While I haven’t flown much since the pandemic aside from a few domestic trips on Qantas I have noticed a decline in the quality of the food both onboard and in the lounges. Going forward it will be interesting to see if Qantas and other airlines will choose to maintain the lower quality food as the customers get used to it or whether they will revert to their old catering with higher quality ingredients.

While on the subject of nutrition, what effect does alcohol have and are there any types of alcohol that are better than others from a nutrition perspective?

Technically no, we should all be limiting our alcohol intake, both from a general health perspective but also from a flying perspective. When looking purely from a calorie perspective we should limit our intake of beers, ciders, wine and Champagne, as well as mixed drinks and cocktails where the mixers have a high sugar content. Drinks that would be preferred if you’re aiming to limit your calorie intake would be vodka soda or any light spirits mixed with water or diet mixers.

From a gut perspective we should limit our intake of carbonated drinks on airplanes altogether as they are prone to cause bloating.If you’re suffering from IBS the carbonation in combination with the lower air pressure may contribute to more bloating.

Another point that I would like to add is that many people drink alcohol on planes to fall asleep, but the fact of the matter is that alcohol can affect the quality of our sleep and may actually cause sleep disturbances.

I personally have traveled quite a lot during the pandemic and spent over 200 nights in hotels. It’s easy to fall into bad eating habits when spending such a long time away from home. What are your best tips for eating and staying healthy on long business trips?

When you’re spending a lot of time in hotels, one piece of advice that I give to my clients is to stick with your home routines as much as possible. Many people stay at hotels with the mindset that you’re on a holiday so you can do what you like,  but when you’re spending many nights per year you should ask yourself what you would be  eating if you were at home. Would you be spending your Tuesday night at home with a bottle of wine, and ordering food from your local pub (or something equivalent to room service)? Just because you’re in a hotel you don’t have to be living the ”hotel life”, instead try to mimic your routines at home. While you won’t always have access to a kitchen to cook your own meals you can still try and choose meals that would be similar to those that you would cook at home.

Other advice that I give to my clients is that you don’t always have to order room service, and to always consider whether the foods on the menu actually fares well as room service. It’s easy to fall into the habit of ordering say the hamburger thinking that it would be really good, but once it arrives in the room the fries are all soggy, and the meat has gone cold. The next day you’d still be craving a nice hamburger because the one you had yesterday didn’t satisfy that craving. In the long run that may develop into a bad habit where you lose track of how many calories you’ve eaten.

Instead try to pick up something from the local supermarket, which once again ties into the idea of mimicking your routines at home. If you’ve had a big lunch with clients, go for a light salad for dinner, which many supermarkets now offer. Most hotels will happily provide you with a plate and cutlery if you do choose to buy food from the supermarket.

As tempting as it may be, the executive lounge is also something that I would advise you to avoid if you’re spending extended periods of time in hotels. It’s easy to eat on autopilot especially when food, drinks and snacks are so readily available as they are in the lounges. Practicing mindfulness is key and I always ask my clients to take a moment to reflect on whether they actually need to be visiting the lounge and eating extra calories or if they feel obliged to do so just because it’s free.

On the subject of travel. Could you name your top three hidden travel gems? It could be a restaurant, bar, café, hiking trail, hotel or the likes. Places that you feel are special and that are off the beaten track.

While most of my travels revolve around food, I wouldn’t actually say that the places I visit are off the beaten track but as far as destinations go Northern Finland is one of my favorite places to visit. Rovaniemi in particular, a place where I’ve been many times. I love the food, the winter activities and of course visiting Santa Claus Village.

Rovaniemi, Finland

Another destination that I really enjoy is the Scottish Highlands. A gorgeous little town called Dufftown where you can do whiskey tasting, and enjoy the beautiful atmosphere. The food is lovely as well though it’s mostly pub food so it isn’t perhaps the healthiest.

Lastly, I really enjoy visiting the small towns in the deep south in the United States. Again for the food which is mostly deep fried, but the quality of the food is really good which more than makes up for it. 

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