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I’ve long wondered what flight attendants eat while flying. As a passenger, it’s rare to see a flight attendant eating. But if you peek behind the curtain into the kitchen galley after your own meal service, you might spot some snacking. But what are they grazing on? Perhaps leftover first-class cabin meals? Supplies from home? Airport pizza? I reached out to six flight attendants — from both international and domestic carriers — to find out how they refuel, and to uncover their best practices for in-flight dining.

Suzanne Strong, Air Canada, Toronto (YYZ)

A Typical Meal: I am pretty consistent when it comes to bringing my lunch. Although we do serve a variety of great food onboard (especially on our international flights), I try to always bring my own. I like to ensure that I am going to have something healthy, and something that I like. I also know where all the decent grocery stores are in my layover city. I make it my first stop, so that I can pick up some fresh foods for my way back home.

Best Travel Tip: Eat smaller, lighter meals more frequently. Fruits and veggies are a great snack with hummus or yogurt. Canned tuna is definitely a flight attendant staple! And don’t eat foods with strong odors as they tend to carry with you in flight.

Rie Omori, All Nippon Airways, Tokyo (TYO)

A Typical Meal: A few things that you will always find in my carry-on are a bottle of water and two bottles of green tea. Sometimes, I will take some snacks like bread, cookies, rice crackers or chocolate with me as well. Especially on international flights, we need to be very careful about following the country’s rules as each country has different restrictions about food. As far as meals, we never grab food at the airport because we each have a special ANA crew meal waiting for us on the plane.

Best Travel Tip: Depending on the country, I don’t take ice in my drinks, or eat raw meat, fish or shellfish.

Tamzan Miller, Delta, Minneapolis (MSP)

A Typical Meal: On international flights, I eat my crew meal (which is the same as a Delta One meal) and enjoy the food at the destination. On domestic trips, I like to bring food. Some flight attendant staples are: potatoes or sweet potatoes wrapped in foil to cook on the airplane, canned fish (tuna, salmon, sardines), apples, oranges, almond butter, hard-boiled eggs, packaged salads, cereal, oatmeal and hot sauce.

Best Travel Tip: Eat less than you think you need to and you’ll feel better. Drink a lot of water, and enjoy all the local food when you arrive! Also, it’s a scientific fact that Pringles taste better at 35,000 feet than on the ground.

Thomas Hafner, Norwegian, New York City (JFK)

A Typical Meal: I’ll usually bring a salad from home or a container with some chicken, rice and a steamed vegetable — or just snack on fruit from the food provided by catering.

Best Travel Tip: Avoid salt, carbonation and coffee! They all cause excess bloating and can make you very uncomfortable. If I can’t name the ingredients by just looking at the food, I don’t eat it!

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Emily McKie, Qantas, Sydney (SYD)

A Typical Meal: I always bring something of my own in terms of on-the-go snacks: nuts, homemade protein balls or dried fruit. Depending on when my flight is departing, I’ll sometimes grab a quick bite at the airport — something like a lunchtime sushi roll, or a rice-paper roll that isn’t too heavy. We’re provided with a selection of crew meals, and it’s great to know that when it’s time to have a break and a meal, there will be something available for us — generally a large salad with a protein option. Or, a heated meal of protein with some vegetables, with some cheese and biscuits and dessert on the side, if you’re feeling naughty.

Best Travel Trip: Eat small snacks regularly between bigger meals and have lots of water to keep yourself hydrated. Sometimes, your body will tell you you’re hungry when actually you may just be dehydrated.

Corey Pettit, Southwest, Dallas (DAL)

A Typical Meal: For domestic flights, I usually pack a few protein-based snack items (such as fresh veggies, peanut butter, hard-boiled eggs, guacamole cups, hummus or lunch meat). For those trips when I’m flying a lot of legs in a day and won’t really have time to get a real meal in, I’ll pack my food bag with food I’ve made at home, which can vary from leftovers to something as simple as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a bagged salad kit.

International flights complicate things a bit: Veggies, fruits and fresh meats tend to be the items that are prohibited. Typically, I find myself packing peanut butter, which can easily be eaten with onboard pretzels for a quick pick-me-up, and a box of soup to avoid any sort of fine from customs and immigration.

Best Travel Tip: If you have a specific dietary need, don’t be afraid to bring your favorite snack along. Oh, and make sure you have lots of napkins if your food is messy — airplanes are unforgiving environments at times for trying to eat neatly!

Featured illustration by Getty Images

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