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Nutrition

Here Are the Foods to Avoid Eating Before Flying

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Save spicy food for earlier in your trip.

silhouette of woman at airport

While air travel always has potential to be stressful, it’s especially so when it comes to your digestive system. That’s because flying becomes a free-for-all: a delay on the tarmac could lead to a granola bar being all you have to sustain you for five hours, or you may find yourself choosing between going hungry or spending $20 on a sad little wrap mid-flight. While the best course of action is to eat before you board and pack plane snacks, you want to make sure you’re not packing or buying the wrong thing; with limited, cramped bathrooms, you’re going to want to do whatever you can to avoid gastrointestinal distress so that you can arrive at your destination healthy and stress-free. Reference this list of foods to avoid when plotting out your pre-plane meals: 

Beans and Legumes

A burrito may be super filling before a snack-free flight, but keep in mind that beans are notorious for producing gas within the body. “Be kind to your stomach by ditching the beans,” says Nealy Fischer, a wellness expert, cookbook author, and yoga teacher who splits her time between Hong Kong, Montana, and Israel. Fischer says the gas produced during the breakdown of these high-fiber foods can expand in your body while you’re in-flight, leading to abdominal pain. Fill up on protein instead: try an omelet with tomatoes and avocado, or grilled chicken with rice. 

Cruciferous Vegetables 

Save the kale salad for after you land. “While broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, and cabbage are all healthy foods that you should add to your regular diet, you may want to avoid them before a big flight,” Fischer says. Cruciferous vegetables such as these have been linked to bloating and gas—even a business-class ride won’t feel comfortable. 

Alcohol 

If you love a terminal that has a wine bar, you may want to rethink that. “For many people, downing a cocktail is part of their pre-flight ritual as a way to help calm the nerves,” Fischer explains. “But alcohol causes dehydration, which is already a concern thanks to the very dry airplane air.” If flying makes you nervous, consider trying meditation, which research suggests can help with anxiety, or speaking with a therapist about other techniques to help. 

Coffee 

Caffeine is a diuretic, and the last thing you need in the dry air of a plane is to get dehydrated (or constantly have to go to the bathroom from a window seat). It can also amp up anxiety—not ideal if you’re a nervous flier. Try herbal teas instead, such as chamomile and mint, which are typically decaffeinated. Fischer is a fan of packing ginger tea bags in your purse or carry-on and asking for hot water. “Sipping on some ginger tea is a great way to help settle your stomach mid-flight,” she explains.  

Spicy Dishes 

It’s your last meal of vacation, so you decide to go all-out with the hot sauce at the noodle place everyone’s raved about. Unfortunately, this may not be the best idea. “You should think twice before turning up the heat if you have a flight to catch,” Fischer says. Spicy foods are a common heartburn trigger. 

Flavored Seltzer 

While seltzer can help settle an upset stomach, on the other hand, as you can (literally) see, carbonated beverages are chock full of gas. Stick with water, which will help you stay hydrated without those pesky gas bubbles. If you need a little flavor, pack some lemon or lime wedges, which you can squeeze into any water bottle past security. (This is also where packing those tea bags comes in handy!)