News flash: your healthy diet doesn’t have to hit the road just because you’re about to. Airports are a land of opportunity, especially when it comes to food. Between the fast food options and snack bars, it can be tricky to make healthy food choices while you’re waiting in the wings. Whether you’re looking for a quick fix before you board the plane or a few snacks to make your trek a little more enjoyable, it’s important to make sure you’re fueling your body with the right nutrients before you depart.
Certain foods, believe it or not, can make for an unpleasant flight. And nobody got time for that. We caught up with health and travel professionals to break down the do’s and don’ts of airport food and drinks.
Drink it up
We all know the struggle of trying to drink enough H20 throughout the day, but this is especially important before you’re about to go in the air. Planes are notoriously dry. The humidity levels on an airplane are significantly lower than what we’re used to on an average day, causing travelers to feel dry and dehydrated. The best way to combat this? “Make sure to drink water on and off your flight,” says Marty Davey, MS, RD. “It takes a few hours to rehydrate, so a cup of water on a plane isn’t going to do.” If you’re going to splurge on one item at the airport, it should be a big ol’ bottle of water. Your body will thank you.
Forgo the fried stuff
Fried food and airplanes are a dangerous combo. While the smell of french fries may entice you, try your best to steer clear of all fatty, salty foods before you hop on a plane. Salt and oil found in most fatty foods can cause heartburn, digestion issues and fluid retention. According to Davey, these types of artery clogging foods can exacerbate your circulation problems while on a long flight. Let’s be real: Your body is already struggling to maintain normal blood circulation level on the plane so why make it more difficult? Avoid anything slathered in oil and salt and instead try to find foods with color. Fruits and veggies are the best option (obviously), but nutrition bars and unsalted nuts are safe foods for air travel.
Be ahead of the game
When you arrive at an airport, what you’re going to munch on is likely the least of your worries. Traveling is straight-up stressful, no matter how much of a seasoned vet you are. The stress of delayed flights and security checks may cause you to be careless with your food choices. Prevent the urge to give in to questionable foods by planning it out ahead of time.
“Instead of caving into these cravings, know in the back of your mind that while traveling you may be more tempted by these carbohydrate heavy, high-fat foods, and come up with a healthier alternative,” says Megan Faletra, MS, MPH, RDN. “The abundance of candy, fried fast food and baked goods available at the airport feeds right into the cravings associated with exhaustion and lack of sleep, two things that are pretty common among busy travelers.” If you’re craving something sweet, go for a Greek yogurt or a fresh fruit cup. If you can’t stop thinking about the french fry smell wafting through the terminal, scout out some hummus or chopped veggies. While it may seem impossible to find healthy options in the sea of fast food chains, keep your eyes peeled for the refrigerated section at airport food kiosks—that’s where the good stuff is.
Bubbly is not your bestie (sorry)
Funny enough, ginger ale is the drink of choice onboard an aircraft. While the reasoning is still in question, it is safe to say that many travelers reach for a carbonated beverage at some point during the flight. Carolyn Paddock, travel insider and founder of Life in Flight, recommends that you steer clear of these bubbly delights. Even though flight attendants offer a smorgasbord of bubbly beverages, these drinks can cause bloating and indigestion. Paddock claims that people in the airplane biz say that the swelling and discomfort caused by these sugary sweet drinks are a result of “jet belly.” If you want to be on the safe (and smart) side, stick to water the next time you’re up in the air.