7 Foods You Should Avoid Before Flying
Keep stomach issues at bay when you're in the air by avoiding these potentially troublesome foods.
Eat for travel
When you have a long flight ahead, the last thing you want is your stomach to feel upset or uneasy. With the right diet choices, you can sidestep discomfort when you’re in the air. To stick with good-for-you foods that also make you feel good, skip this list of seven items and stock up on a few others instead. Everyone should also know these little etiquette rules for flying on an airplane.
Skip: Broccoli, cauliflower or Brussels sprouts
These cruciferous veggies definitely fit the bill in terms of health benefits—but they can also make you gassy, says Caroline Passerrello, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. A common cause of bloating in many people, these greens and whites pack lots of fiber and a type of sugar known to cause gas, called raffinose, according to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD). And that could make you an unpleasant seatmate once you’re in the air. Avoid these other surprising foods that cause gas.
“Because of the change in altitude and breathing patterns, flying can cause dehydration,” says Passerrello. Alcohol will only add to that. Another problem: Consuming spiked beverages can also leave you exhausted post-flight. “Although alcohol may make you feel sleepy initially, alcoholic beverages could cause disturbed sleep, preventing you from feeling rested when you land,” adds Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You from Label to Table.
Your best bet is to skip the coffee or caffeinated tea when in flight, as these can also dehydrate you. If you do have either, Passerrello suggests making sure you drink even more water to keep up your liquid levels. “Caffeine is also a stimulant and could keep you from catching up on important sleep time while in flight,” says Taub-Dix. What’s more: Because it’s a diuretic, caffeine can make you pee more, which can keep you up if you’re trying to sleep. (Or disturb others around you!) This is why tomato juice tastes better on airplanes.
Skip: Sugary foods
According to IFFGD, foods also high in certain carbohydrates (sugars specifically) can lead to gas. Lactose (in dairy products) can cause discomfort for some people, as can fructose (found in onions, artichokes, pears and wheat) and sorbitol (found in fruits like apples, peaches and prunes and sugar-free snacks). These are the best travel snacks to bring on an airplane.
Filled with insoluble fiber, foods like beans, lentils and chickpeas can cause bloating and gas in many people thanks to their digestive process, says the IFFGD. Find out the surprising foods you can—and can’t—bring on a plane.
Skip: Heavy meals
You might feel like you want to fill up on a burger and fries or a plate of pasta before you get on a plane, but that’s probably not your best idea. A belly full of dense foods can potentially upset your stomach, says Taub-Dix. By the way, do you know what the dirtiest part of an airplane is?
Skip: Big portion sizes
You want to feel full but not completely stuffed, says Taub-Dix. Overeating can lead to an upset stomach and gas production—neither of which you want to experience on a packed plane. You also want to know the secrets to getting a better airline meal.
Stash: Healthy pre-packed snacks
“There are a lot of portable snacks that can hold you over until you land and become even more important should you get delayed,” says Passerrello, who suggests foods like unsweetened dried fruit, unsalted nuts, tuna or chicken pouches, dried edamame or dry cereal. “Personally, my go-to carry-on has a hard case for glasses and I re-purpose that space for keeping a small banana so it doesn’t get smashed,” she says. Here are some tips for bringing food through TSA.
Stash: Protein and carbs
“Pair whole grain carbs with protein and healthy fat to keep blood sugar levels stable and help you feel satisfied,” says Taub-Dix. Some solid options: almond butter on whole-grain crackers or trail mix made with unsalted nuts and dried fruit—both of which you can pack before you even get to the airport. Here’s why you shouldn’t order a coffee or tea on a plane.
“Try to drink a glass of water for every hour you are in the air,” suggests Passerrello. And Taub-Dix agrees. She suggests thinking of drinking water as you would washing your hands for a meal. “Do it before, during and after,” she says. These are the best airport restaurants across the US.