3 Things Flight Attendants Say You Should Never Eat or Drink on a Plane

Gearing up for a flight? Here are the foods and beverages to avoid while in the air, according to flight attendants.

A digital illustration of an airplane food tray with a cup of coffee, passport and boarding passes

ElenaNayashkova/Getty Images; Coffee: mikroman6/Getty Images

Frequent travelers know flight attendants have a tough job. They're there to assist with every need, from serving drinks and meals to calming your nerves on a bumpy ride. They're even there to save your life in an emergency. In other words, they know a thing or two about what to do and what not to do on an airplane — and that includes what you should never, ever eat or drink while flying. Here are three things flight attendants say you should avoid on your next trip.

Tap Water (Including in Coffee and Tea)

“I never drank the tap water,” Sue Fogwell, who flew for 22 years, shared with Travel + Leisure. “Coffee and tea are made with tap water, which comes from the airplane's water tanks.” Instead, Fogwell suggested, “If you want coffee, buy it in the terminal, [and] if you need a caffeine boost, ask for a Coke or Pepsi.” 

Not drinking tap water on flights is a well-documented no-no. As T+L previously explained, the water tanks on planes are notoriously grimy. A 2004 EPA sample of 158 planes found that 13 percent contained coliform, and two had dangerous levels of E. coli. 

Fogwell added, don’t be fooled by a water pitcher either. “Sometimes, on flights, we would run out of bottled water,” she said. “If you see a pitcher of water on the beverage cart in economy class, skip it — it's from the water tank. Ask for a can of seltzer water.” 

Gas-inducing Foods

Air pressure changes as you fly — and that’s a good thing because it helps us breathe comfortably at 30,000 feet in the air. But it can also cause our bellies a little discomfort. That’s why Josephine Remo, a former crew member who flew for seven years, suggested avoiding any gas-inducing foods. 

“On a plane, [the change in] air pressure can mess with your stomach. This especially applies if you travel several times a week, where you can start to feel a big difference,” said Remo. “For this reason, I always avoid eating foods that make my stomach bloated and expand even more. These foods include onion, kale, beans, red meat, lentils, gluten, and broccoli.” Beyond foods, Remo added, it may be a good idea to steer clear of carbonated drinks that can also lead to an upset stomach in the air. 

Bloody Marys 

We know this one is a favorite and scientifically proven to taste better in the sky. But as Fogwell said, “Due to the very high sodium content, I always avoid drinking Mr. & Mrs. T/bloody mary mix and tomato juice.” 

Fogwell is indeed backed up by science. As Vital Record, Texas A&M’s health website, explained, ingesting too much salt can both cause bloating and further dehydration. “When too much sodium throws the body and the kidneys out of whack, the body becomes dehydrated. During this period, the body will pull water from your cells,” the website explained. Luckily, all you need to do is drink more water to combat this. “Drinking more water will help neutralize the sodium and rehydrate the cells throughout your body,” the website added. So, at the very least, make sure to be alternate between those delicious bloody marys and water. And maybe for the comfort of everyone on the flight, just avoid the beans this time.

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