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The Best And Worst Things To Eat On A Plane

Read this before taking your next flight.

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gif animation of people eating food on a plane
Marta Sevilla
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We love airplanes, but they wreak havoc on our bodies. Sure, we step onto them looking gorgeous and composed, but we leave feeling bloated, dehydrated and gassy. It’s not a great look to start a vacation, TBH.

Turns out, the food and drinks we consume right before and after we board the plane have a lot to do with our slow demise during the flight. What may work on stable ground may not fly in the air, so you’ll have to adjust your diet. Here’s what to eat and avoid in order to look and feel your best when you land.

Avoid: High-fiber foods such as beans, lentils, broccoli or whole grains.

Why: During air travel, limited movement and sitting position can slow digestion. When combined with a high-fiber meal, this can impede the digestive process, potentially leading to bloating, gas and discomfort, says Taylor Osbaldeston, a registered holistic nutritionist in Ontario.

Avoid: Greasy or fried food.

Why: “When you consume greasy or fried foods, the high-fat content can delay the emptying of the stomach and the release of digestive enzymes,” Osbaldeston says. “This delayed gastric emptying can lead to feelings of fullness, bloating and discomfort during the flight.” Also, the reduced humidity in the airplane cabin can contribute to dehydration. And when you consume greasy or fried foods, which often have low water content, it can further exacerbate the dehydration effect. Dehydration affects digestion by reducing the production of digestive juices and impairing the overall digestive process. So, while the airport McDonald’s may always look alluring, it’s best pass.

Avoid: Spicy foods.

Why: They can irritate the stomach lining and increase the risk of acid reflux or heartburn, Osbaldeston says. Spices like chili peppers and hot sauce contain compounds called capsaicinoids, which stimulate the release of stomach acid. When combined with a reclined seating position during your flight, the upward flow of stomach acid (acid reflux) is more likely to occur. Research has also shown that capsaicin, the primary active component in chili peppers, can lower the pressure of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES is a muscle at the junction of the esophagus and stomach that helps prevent stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus. When LES pressure decreases, it becomes easier for stomach acid to travel upward, leading to discomfort and a burning sensation in your chest, aka heartburn.

Avoid: Alcohol.

Why: While you may want to jumpstart your vacay with a cocktail or ease your nerves, it’s best to wait until you get off the plane. Alcohol can dehydrate you quickly during a flight, disrupt sleep patterns and cause headaches, says Brittany Ford, a registered holistic nutritionist.

Avoid: Caffeinated drinks.

Why: A moderate amount of caffeine is fine for most individuals, but it’s important to remember that caffeine is a diuretic, which can contribute to dehydration. If you choose to consume caffeinated beverages like coffee or tea, ensure you balance them with plenty of water to maintain hydration.

Choose: Lean protein such as grilled chicken or fish.

Why: Protein helps you feel full and provides essential amino acids for muscle repair, says Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert at Maple Holistics. These options are generally easier to digest compared with heavier meat choices. Snacking on unsalted nuts or seeds, such as almonds or pumpkin seeds, can also provide a healthy dose of fiber, protein and healthy fats, adds Ford.

Choose: Hydrating foods and drinks such as water, herbal tea, coconut water, cucumbers, watermelon, celery or oranges.

Why: These have a high water content, which can counteract the dehydrating effects of the cabin air, says nutritionist Mary Sabat. The more dehydrated you become, the greater the risk for nausea, headaches and even worse jetlag. The Aerospace Medical Association (AsMA) suggests drinking 8 ounces of water per hour in the air. This will also help combat bloat, fatigue and discomfort.

Do you typically take your own food on planes when you fly? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Health