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7 Foods You Should Avoid Before Flying

Keep stomach issues at bay when you're in the air by avoiding these potentially troublesome foods.

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Eat for travel

When you have a long flight ahead, the last thing you want is your stomach to feel upset or uneasy. With the right diet choices, you can sidestep discomfort when you’re in the air. To stick with good-for-you foods that also make you feel good, skip this list of seven items, and stock up on a few others instead. Everyone should also know the 10 little etiquette rules for flying on an airplane.

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Skip: Broccoli, cauliflower, or Brussels sprouts

These cruciferous veggies definitely fit the bill in terms of health benefits—but they can also make you gassy, says Caroline Passerrello, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. A common cause of bloating in many people, these greens and whites pack lots of fiber and a type of sugar known to cause gas, called raffinose, according to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD). And that could make you an unpleasant seatmate once you’re in the air. Please also abide by these rules that flight attendants encourage.

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Skip: Alcohol

“Because of the change in altitude and breathing patterns, flying can cause dehydration,” says Passerrello. Alcohol will only add to that. Another problem: Consuming spiked beverages can also leave you exhausted post-flight. “Although alcohol may make you feel sleepy initially, alcoholic beverages could cause disturbed sleep, preventing you from feeling rested when you land,” adds Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You from Label to Table. Besides, over-imbibing is one of the 18 things you should never do on an airplane.

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Skip: Caffeine

Your best bet is to skip the coffee or caffeinated tea when in flight, as these can also dehydrate you. If you do have either, Passerrello suggests making sure you drink even more water to keep up your liquid levels. “Caffeine is also a stimulant and could keep you from catching up on important sleep time while in flight,” says Taub-Dix. What’s more: Because it’s a diuretic, caffeine can make you pee more, which can keep you up if you’re trying to sleep. (Or disturb others around you!) If you do have to go, you’ll want to know the right way to get out of your seat without disturbing your neighbor.

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Skip: Sugary foods

According to IFFGD, foods also high in certain carbohydrates (sugars specifically) can lead to gas. Lactose (in dairy products) can cause discomfort for some people, as can fructose (found in onions, artichokes, pears, and wheat) and sorbitol (found in fruits like apples, peaches, and prunes and sugar-free snacks). Frequent fliers will want to know the best time to use the bathroom on an airplane.

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Skip: Legumes

Filled with insoluble fiber, foods like beans, lentils, and chickpeas can cause bloating and gas in many people thanks to their digestive process, says the IFFGD. Find out the surprising foods you can—and can’t—bring on a plane.

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Skip: Heavy meals

You might feel like you want to fill up on a burger and fries or a plate of pasta before you get on a plane, but that’s probably not your best idea. A belly full of dense foods can potentially upset your stomach, says Taub-Dix. Find out the foods you can bring through security.

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Skip: Big portion sizes

You want to feel full but not completely stuffed, says Taub-Dix. Overeating can lead to an upset stomach and gas production—neither of which you want to experience on a packed plane. You also want to avoid taking off your shoes for this gross reason, according to flight attendants.

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Stash: Healthy pre-packed snacks

“There are a lot of portable snacks that can hold you over until you land and become even more important should you get delayed,” says Passerrello, who suggests foods like unsweetened dried fruit, unsalted nuts, tuna or chicken pouches, dried edamame, or dry cereal. We also love the Bare Natural Apple Chips, crunchy baked apples in a snack pack, or for a sweet treat, Skinnydipped Almonds, almonds that are lightly dipped in dark chocolate. “Personally, my go-to carry-on has a hard case for glasses and I re-purpose that space for keeping a small banana so it doesn’t get smashed,” she says. Here are some more weird travel accessories that are shockingly useful.

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Stash: Protein and carbs

“Pair whole grain carbs with protein and healthy fat to keep blood sugar levels stable and help you feel satisfied,” says Taub-Dix. Some solid options: almond butter on whole-grain crackers or trail mix made with unsalted nuts and dried fruit—both of which you can pack before you even get to the airport. Or try Rowdy Bar Prebiotic Protein Bars that are loaded with prebiotics to help your digestion or Simple Mills Almond Flour Peanut Butter Bars, which have 5 grams of protein in each bar. Find out the secrets that flight attendants won’t tell you.

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Stash: Water

“Try to drink a glass of water for every hour you are in the air,” suggests Passerrello. And Taub-Dix agrees. She suggests thinking of drinking water as you would washing your hands for a meal. “Do it before, during, and after,” she says. Drinking copious amounts of water is also one of the go-to strategies of flight attendants for staying healthy.

Mallory Creveling
Mallory Creveling, a New York City-based writer, has been covering health, fitness, and nutrition for more than a decade. In addition to Reader's Digest, her work has appeared in publications such as Health, Men's Journal, Self, Runner's World, and Shape, where she previously held a staff role. She also worked as an editor at Daily Burn and Family Circle magazine. Mallory, a certified personal trainer, also works with private fitness clients in Manhattan and at a strength studio in Brooklyn. Originally from Allentown, PA, she graduated from Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Follow her @MalCrev on Instagram and Twitter.