There are some flight tips that pretty much everyone who has been on a plane has heard: Stay hydrated. Take a walk around the aisle every now and then. Chew gum to relive ear pressure. But, there are some more specific pieces of advice that might do you some good on your next trip. When it comes what to eat before a flight to help stay relaxed and comfortable, there are a few tips that might steer you in the right direction, at least according to the three nutritionists and dietitians below who shared their ideal pre-flight meals with Bustle.
There were some common themes in their responses. You might be sick of hearing to stay hydrated, but all three responses mention drinking water, because it's that important. There were also suggestions of getting hydration from other sources, such as fruits that contain a lot of water. They also all suggest being sure to eat protein, which keeps you feeling full for longer. And while most flights offer snacks, the nutritionists and dietitians suggest bringing your own (or at least buying them in the airport pre-boarding) for a variety of reasons.
The specific meals that were suggested vary, so read on to see if any of them speak to you, and for more pre-flight and mid-flight food tips.
Suggestion #1 — Shauna McQueen, MS RD (Registered Dietitian and Holistic Chef)
One of the best things to do before (and during) flying is to be sure you're hydrated — air tends to be very dry when you fly which means dehydration can happen faster. Opt for fruits and veggies with high water content like cucumbers, grapefruit, or watermelon. Adding some healthy fat — that you get from nuts or avocados — and protein (whether it's plant or animal-based) can also help to be sure that you're satiated and won't be as beholden to in-flight snacks that may not align with your typical diet.
My personal favorite before-flight meal is a grapefruit with pecans, coconut flakes, and cinnamon — it's filling and hydrating without being heavy.
Once you arrive at your destination, know that your circadian rhythm may need some time to adjust. As you get used to a new schedule, you may notice that you are craving carb-based foods more than usual as your body tries to compensate for any lost sleep.
Suggestion #2 — Joyce Faraj, PhD, RDN, CDN
I would recommend eating something light, but with enough carbs and protein to make your blood sugars remain stable throughout the flight. A quinoa salad with chicken, or a bowl (not necessarily a salad, but a protein and vegetables with perhaps a grain) would be ideal. The complex carbs would prevent blood sugar from crashing, and the protein would hopefully keep you feeling full longer.
I would avoid anything greasy, fried, or full of sauce, as it can feel heavy. I would also recommend some snacks for the plane, in case they don’t offer any, and bring your own water, which you can usually purchase before boarding (or fill your own bottle from a water fountain before boarding).
For snacks, trail mix or protein bars tend to be easy to carry on a plane. Fruit may get squished, and peanuts may be problematic, if there’s someone with severe peanut allergies on board, and anything with dairy needs refrigeration so that would be a food safety hazard.
Suggestion #3 — Elizabeth Shaw, Registered Dietitian and Certified Personal Trainer
First things first, regardless of the meal time I like to focus on hitting the big three at my main meals: protein, carbs, and fat! However, since I know protein and fat will help tie me over little longer, I like to make sure these categories are filled with nutrient dense choices. (The suggestions below would be long flights, obviously.)
Taking off first thing in the a.m. will likely mean you are HUNGRY (especially if you have an early wake up time and have to commute a ways to the airport!) Whether you prepare this at home or grab it in the airport, my go to is a two egg omelet with veggies, 1/4 avocado, and a slice of whole grain toast with nut butter. I do pair this with a coffee too (come on, early flight!), but also follow it with lots of water. Coffee naturally dehydrates you as does flying so ensuring you are adequately hydrated is very important.
Since this will depend on where you are coming from (this could be more challenging if you are catching a flight home from vacation or straight out of work), I will just give you a few pretty standard options you can find in most airports.
Option one: grab a to-go salad (hopefully with some protein), a string cheese, a hummus and pretzel container, and a LARGE water. This will be a great way to get enough protein in to help carry you over until you land while also providing you a little bit of crunchy satisfaction from the pretzel/hummus portion controlled container. (Biggest mistake I have made is trying to save money and buying the large pretzel container only to eat it all in one flight! Hello sodium overload!)
Option two: Grilled chicken sandwich with avocado and sliced fruit. Yes, order this (or a lean beef burger if you prefer) and your tummy will thank you! Packed with protein, healthy fats from the avocado, and hopefully a whole wheat bun, this will satiate you without making you feel stuffed.
When it comes down to it, if you're someone who drinks a glass of wine and nervously eats chips to combat your fear of flying, then doing that might be what is best for you. But if you want to try shaking off that groggy, jetlagged post-flight feeling, then testing out the above tips just might help.