Wave goodbye to that bloated and sluggish feeling
By Naomi Mead
Off on your long-awaited and well-earned summer holidays, but dreading the flight, and how it makes you feel? Do long-haul flights leave you bloated and sluggish? These top tips on how to eat healthily at the airport and the best foods to eat during a flight, meaning you can arrive at your destination feeling healthy and energised.
Before you leave the house
A little planning can go a long way when it comes to eating healthily while travelling…
Prepare snacks that you can take on the plane, such as chopped up vegetables, which will otherwise go off in the fridge whilst you’re away. Chop up some red peppers, carrots, cucumber and sugar snap peas (or whatever you have), and put into a ziplock bag. Fresh and dried fruit are great to, but avoid sticky fruit such as oranges and mango, which can get messy on a plane! Crackers, energy bars, unsalted nuts, and filled wraps are all easily-transportable and healthy options.
Take an empty water bottle. You can fill this up at the water fountain as soon as you’re through security, and then drink up and hydrate before you fly, and during your journey. Once on the plane, the flight attendants will be happy to fill your bottle for you. Even if they’re not coming through the plane frequently with the drinks cart, don’t be afraid to ask, as there’s always water in the back.
Put some herbal tea bags into your hand luggage. Fennel and peppermint are good for digestion; ginger can ease nausea and motion sickness; and chamomile will help you rest and relax. You can ask the flight attendant for a cup of hot water on board the plane. Just be aware that some countries (e.g. Australia) have strict import regulations, so you may not be able to bring unused tea bags through airport customs.
At the airport
Depending on the timing of your flight, you may choose to have a pre-flight meal at the airport. If you’re at one of the larger airports, you will be faced with an array of choices. Opt for somewhere where you can have a light meal consisting of plenty of vegetables and or salad, and some lean protein. Pret a Manger, Leon and Itsu all provide great options, but if choice is limited, even the fast-food chains are now starting to provide healthier options. Avoid deep-fried and fatty foods which are heavy on the digestive system, and can cause heartburn and indigestion, resulting in a very uncomfortable flight.
Steer clear of “gassy” foods such as baked beans, chickpeas, broccoli, cabbage, lentils and onions before you board. In the air, as cabin pressure drops, any gas in your intestines expands, and this can make you feel very bloated. Think of how a water bottle expands in the plane, and explodes a little when you open it mid-flight – the same thing is happening in your gut! Carbonated drinks and chewing gum can have a similar effect, so give these a miss too.
Get to the airport with plenty of time so that you can eat in a relaxed environment. Rushing and inhaling even the most nutritious meal is likely to make you feel uncomfortable and bloated. If you are running late and dashing through departures, buy a wrap or a salad to eat leisurely on the plane.
You might want to calm your pre-flight nerves by heading straight for the airport bar, but alcohol is extremely dehydrating. Drinking prior to a flight, combined with the low cabin humidity, lowers your resistance to cold and flu germs, making you more susceptible to getting ill. Stick to just one alcoholic drink, if possible, and then glug down plenty of water to ensure you are well hydrated before you get on the plane.
Just before you board, don’t forget to fill up your water bottle. If you’ve forgotten to bring one, buy a bottle of mineral water before you get on the plane. It can sometimes be up to an hour before you’re offered a drink on board.
On the flight
Avoid alcohol and caffeine to avoid becoming dehydrated, and keep fluid intake up. For every hour you are flying, drink at least 250ml of water. Cabin pressure and dry, recirculated air can zap moisture from your skin, but drinking plenty of water can help to keep your skin naturally hydrated. Don’t worry about having to get up to go to the toilet – it’s actually important on a long-haul flight to move regularly to help avoid the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
If you have brought your own food onto the plane, or have eaten a meal before boarding, you may decide you don’t need the plane meal. Try not to eat through boredom, as overeating is likely to cause digestive discomfort. It may be that you only eat certain elements of the meal, such as the fruit salad. Fruits with a high water content such as melons, strawberries and grapes can help to keep you well hydrated.
If you do decide to opt for the plane food, choose the vegetarian meal option (you will normally need to order this in advance), as this is often lighter and more nutritious then the regular plane food. Avoid snacking on sugary foods as these will wreak havoc with your blood sugar levels, leaving you feeling tired, agitated and hungry.