With the busiest long-distance travel period upon us, and my own upcoming 29 hour flight itinerary, I thought it would be an appropriate time of year to present my two favorite topics as one: travel foods!
Whether you are boarding an airplane or cramming into the car, providing the right fuel for your body can support an enjoyable travel experience and deliver you at your destination feeling energized and (physically) prepared for your visit.
Traveling by air
Nearly 90 million Americans already have digestive issues, so 35,000 feet up is not the time to exacerbate existing disorders or experiment to see if you can contribute to this statistic. Here are some general flight food tips to keep your tummy travelling well.
- Carbonated drinks. Stomach gases already expand by approximately 30% when you reach flying altitude, hence why downing bubbly beverages can make you feeling like Mr. Clause by the time you are deboarding.
- Alcohol and caffeine. Sure that Jack and Coke takes the edge off turbulence, but alcohol and caffeinated beverages contribute to dehydration. Besides irritated skin and eyes, this can also put you at greater risk for respiratory infections and DVT (deep vein thrombosis). After clearing security, fill or purchase a water bottle and bring onboard, sipping 8fl oz every hour onboard.
- Avoid fried, fatty foods before flight. These foods are already taxing on the GI system (fatty foods take longer to digest), but when traveling at even higher altitudes can cause exaggerated complaints of heartburn and acid reflux.
- Cruciferous vegetables. Wait, did the dietitian just say I don’t need to eat broccoli? These cruciferous vegetables (Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage) contain a complex sugar, raffinose, which results in excess gas production in the intestines. Pre-flight is the only time you’ll catch me advising you to stay away from these nutritional powerhouses, as the decrease in cabin pressure results in expansion of stomach gases and a not-so-comfortable traveler. They get the thumbs up the other 360 something other days of the year.
- Legumes. Skip the chili before you board. Beans have a high raffinose content, and are loaded with difficult to digest soluble fiber.
- Dairy. Milk and dairy contain lactose, and many of us have a threshold as to how much we can tolerate as we need an adequate amount of the enzyme lactase to breakdown lactose before running into trouble.
Suggestions for in-flight meals:
Skip the salty, fatty snacks and instead pack your own. Eat a light meal before boarding and eat small snacks every few hours onboard as needed. Avoid large meals while traveling. Check out these 15 in-flight meal suggestions.
Traveling by ground
Although you may have the option of stopping during your car trip, it may be smarter to pack your own foods to ensure your tummy remains a happy traveler. For the sake of your car-mates, I would advise avoiding most of the aforementioned flight foods above if you already struggle with these on the ground. I would also emphasize simple, ‘no-assembly required’ foods for car travel. You also have the option of packing a cooler to keep foods safe while en route.
Suggestions for car-trip snacks and meals:
- Bars (Larabars, Odwalla): Select a bar with at least 3g dietary fiber and 5g protein.
- Fresh fruit (wash before packing in the car): Avoid those with pits (cherries). Try single serve applesauce.
- Easy-to-eat veggies: Pre-washed cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, broccoli florets served alongside a thick (no-drip) dip.
- Yogurt and berry parfait: layer yogurt, fresh berries in traveling cup and seal with a lid).
- Simple sandwiches: toast bread before adding spread to avoid soggy sandwiches.
- Wraps: layer hummus, lettuce, veggies and seal in foil or saran wrap.
- Homemade trail mix: chex mix (or low sugar cereal), toasted nuts, air popped popcorn, dried fruit packed in ziplock.
- Instead of soda: Water, 100% vegetable or fruit juice (can be cut with seltzer water).
Whether traveling by air or ground, make sure you consider the foods pre-trip to ensure you are as comfortable as possible while traveling this season!