I’ll never forget the 12 hours I spent on a plane with stomach spasms that made the worst period seem like minor man flu. I fluctuated between cringing in a ball to sprinting to the nearest bathroom. It was the worst food poisoning of my life and I’ve never eaten one bite of plane food since – not even on 12+ hour flights.
Giving up plane food was the single greatest decision I took that improved my in-flight comfort. Do you know why? Because I learned that stomach discomfort while traveling is not a necessary evil. When you get rid of plane food, you get also rid of energy drops, bathroom issues and bloating.
I’m going to share an alternative eating approach that doesn't involve plane food. It will improve the way you feel during flight and after. This approach is based on my personal experience and knowledge as a personal trainer and certified nutrition specialist. Trust that you will feel a big difference.
Before I ditched plane food, I knew it wasn’t the healthiest but I used to think that it was just meat that was at issue and so I’d opt for the vegetarian or vegan plane dishes, which would help a little bit, but I’d still feel that big-tummy-gassy feeling. (Let me tell you it is not due to a weak stomach because I’ve been to India and back without experiencing the famous Delhi belly!)
The reality is that plane food is the opposite of fresh; it’s highly processed. You’re not only taking in an excessive amount of sodium, causing bloating and water retention, but you’re also eating food that is nutrient-poor and stripped of fiber, so you will feel less energized and often experience indigestion.
Plane food can also have an added risk of contamination due to improper storage, reheating and harmful bacteria from seat trays. It’s like eating from a dirty food truck or kebab shop but at least with those choices the food tastes good and you’re not imprisoned in a seat, 30,000+ miles above land, with hundreds of people, suffering from your risky decision.
Don't worry! You don't need to go hungry for hours. There are some simple actions you can take that together form a mini meal strategy that works no matter where you are in the world or where you're going!
This is the number one thing that you can do. I'll often go to the airport an hour earlier than I need to just to make sure I can sit down, make a healthy choice and eat mindfully. A small amount of fiber combined with a healthy fat or protein like a serving of veggies with eggs or quinoa with chopped nuts are great options. Even less healthier options will be better than plane food.
The dehydration associated with flying is enough to demand a higher water intake but water also has the added benefit of helping with digestion. You’ll feel better by continually drinking water before and during your travels. Yes, you’ll probably need the bathroom more but how much nicer is it to quickly squat and go vs. having that food baby stay onboard with you?
A good rule of thumb is to pack one healthy travel snack for every 2-3 hours you’ll be in flight. These can be small snacks like apples and mixed nuts or larger ones such as a portion of salad. Again, opt for foods that are unlikely to cause indigestion, bloating or belly inflammation.
Don’t have enough time to eat before your flight? Buy a mixed salad, quinoa pot, etc. Food that is generally healthy on land will be good to have in the air. Just avoid legumes and beans as those don’t always go down so well. Try to skip sandwiches too if bread tends to give you an unwanted energy dip.
Most importantly, make sure to bring food that will actually fill you up so that you don’t feel tempted to go for plane food; being angry is bad, being hangry on a plane is a disaster.
The way you feel after a flight is night and day when you don’t eat the pre-packaged, overly proceed food they serve you. Of course, elevation, recirculated air and the “indigestion” of others is going to have an impact on how you feel but you will be amazed at how much better you come away from your flight when you prioritize nutrients and gut health.
Bottom line? Say no to plane food and your trip will start off much better!
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