This Is Why You Should Never, Ever Eat Food on Planes (Hint: It’s Not Because It Tastes Bad!)

We have yet another reason why you should avoid those tasteless, frozen meals.

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Want to know a little secret that flight attendants won’t tell you? They may spend a lot of time handing out microwaved meals to their passengers, but they won’t eat airplane food themselves.

It’s not what you think: They don’t avoid the cuisine just because of its terrible taste and texture. According to experts, not eating while you fly can actually help to reduce jet lag. (And that’s not the only thing your flight attendant won’t tell you.)

Turns out, traveling on a plane can do a lot of bad things to your body—including shutting your digestive system down once you reach a high altitude. After you get off the plane, though, it all restarts. No need to worry, right?

Wrong! Since you’ve been munching over the course of the hours-long flight, your system goes into overdrive in order to digest all of that fatty and salty food. As a result, you’ll feel more groggy and tired than usual; not unlike the lethargic feeling you have after a big Thanksgiving meal. Skipping the meal entirely, however, will make you more alert. (You should never do these things on an airplane, either.)

Understandably, this piece of advice might be easier said than done. “Most people overeat because it’s a diversion, or a way to pass the time,” Melissa Biggs Bradley, founder of luxury air travel firm Indagare, told Bloomberg, “but even the best plane food is over-salted and preserved so it can be microwaved.”

Thankfully, you can make your next flight way healthier with these simple tricks. Bradley’s solution: Eat something a couple of hours before getting on the plane, giving it time to digest before you board. Then, try to avoid all food but water until you touch down again. Once you reach your destination, you can reward yourself with a delicious meal—and not feel even slightly guilty about it.

Brooke Nelson
Brooke Nelson is a researcher at PBS FRONTLINE in Boston, Massachusetts, and writes regularly about travel, health, and culture news for Reader’s Digest. Previously she was a staff writer at Reader's Digest. Her articles have also appeared on MSN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance, among other sites. She earned a BA in international relations from Hendrix College. Follow her on Twitter @BrookeTNelson.