Whether you happen to be taking off not long after lunchtime or you suddenly get a craving while walking through the terminal, it’s not uncommon to plan for a quick bite before boarding a flight. After all, it’s better than being forced to snack on whatever limited options there usually are onboard. But just because something makes a good meal on the ground doesn’t mean it won’t come back to haunt you once you’re at 35,000 feet. The next time you find yourself looking for something to eat before your flight takes off, there are a few foods you should try to avoid. Read on to see what not to eat before getting on a plane.
It can sometimes feel too tempting to pass up an indulgent meal before your board when you start passing by all those fast food stands in the terminal. But experts warn that salty foods and snacks can be unsettling to the digestive system—especially anything with high fat content, which digests more slowly while you’re sitting and can create heartburn. “Avoiding foods that naturally cause bloating through fluid retention, like high salt foods, can make you more comfortable as you sit through your flight,” registered dietitian Eling Tsai tells Best Life.
Besides that, avoiding salty foods on the ground is essential for another reason: staying properly hydrated. “Keep in mind that the pressurized air in airplanes is really low in humidity,” Tsai says. “While you’re likely not at risk of serious dehydration, it can still exacerbate feelings of exhaustion and fatigue, so sipping on water is a great call.”
It’s fairly common knowledge that beans and other legumes can commonly cause gas after any given meal. But because of the way pressurized cabins on airplanes work, the effects on your digestive system can be even worse once you actually take off.
“Gas in your body will also expand as you reach altitude,” Tsai tells Best Life. “If there are foods that you know make you feel naturally bloated, it’s best to avoid those until you’re on the ground!”
The idea of grabbing some greens before you jet off might seem like a way to stay healthy while traveling. But according to experts, this can actually be one of the only times where you might want to consider something else instead.
“A giant salad may seem like the best option in the airport, but raw vegetables—especially cruciferous vegetables like kale and broccoli—can cause more gas,” Erin Judge, a registered dietitian nutritionist, gut health expert, and founder of Gutivate, tells Best Life. “Since elevation already causes more gas production, raw vegetables are likely to leave you feeling bloated in the sky.”
Fortunately, there’s still a way you can get in some vegetables before you board. “If you are eating at a restaurant before boarding a flight, ask for asparagus or a side salad instead of broccoli,” nutritionist Heather Hanks recommends.
Anyone who normally loves to add a little kick to their food will rarely pass up an opportunity to douse their dishes with anything that can make it hotter. Unfortunately, this could be setting yourself up for some severe discomfort if you have a plane journey ahead of you.
“Spicy foods can irritate the stomach more and cause excess gas and bloating,” Paula Doebrich, MPH, a registered dietitian nutritionist, tells Best Life. “They could increase the chance of extreme stomach discomfort in-flight. It is best to skip the hot sauce just before flying.”
It’s not at all uncommon to bring along a few sticks of your favorite gum to help your ears adjust to changes in cabin pressure as you’re flying. But according to experts, chewing gum while flying also causes you to swallow air, which can lead to feeling bloated in your seat. This is especially true of any products made with synthetic sugars that can be hard for the body to digest—and may even have a laxative effect. If you’re looking to keep your breath fresh for the sake of your seatmates, consider picking up a pack of mints instead before boarding.