I am not for one second about to tell you how to get a better meal on a flight. For that you need to be ‘kinda big deal’ and sit in the front of the plane. But, I can offer a tip if you are travelling with children or you want to get your meal as early as possible without having to opt for a bland vegan or halaal meal.
If you book your flight through the airline’s website (should always do this whenever you can) you should have the option of selecting your seat, as well as selecting a special meal. One of the options for the special meal is usually ‘low calorie’.
On South African Airways, this is nearly always a roast beef fillet with roast vegetables and a side salad with some cheese & crackers for afters. You will receive your meal before anyone else, so you can kick back and relax longer after your meal.
If you are travelling with children — we find it difficult (esp when travelling alone with young kids) to eat a meal and assist them with theirs at the same time. Taking a special meal allows you to get your meal first – so if they are hungry, you have food at the earliest opportunity and also, as in my case, you are able to at least share some of the meal with the children until theirs arrives. When theirs does arrive, you will be done with yours and have more space to help them.