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Traveling opens doors to the world's finest cuisine, no doubt, but taking long flights, being stuck in airports, and not having constant access to fresh produce and healthy snacks as you bounce around hotels throws your diet out of whack—like jet lag for your intestines. Helpful hacks include packing healthy eats and researching menus beforehand to ensure you can order a balanced meal, but even when you're trying to play by the rule book, some sneaky foods can wreak havoc on your body and your complexion, especially when eaten in-flight. (Plane food is even more of a plague than we thought.) So to ensure we remain comfortable and well-nourished after we've set our out-of-office reply, we spoke with registered dietitian Brooke Alpert for the foods and drinks we should avoid.
Packages of dried fruit like banana chips and apple slices sound healthy in theory, but take a closer look at the nutrition facts on the back. Says Alpert, "Not only are they often loaded with sugar, making them sweeter than a candy bar, but they can also cause some belly discomfort because of all the fiber."
Coffee is practically a travel requirement, but its dehydrating capabilities earn it a hard pass from Alpert. "A cup of coffee sounds great while traveling, but with all that caffeine, not only will you have the jitters while confined to a tiny seat, but it can also act like a diuretic and lead to dehydration or electrolyte imbalance." Loss of water from both the low cabin air pressure and the introduction of coffee could lead to breakouts, too.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you might want to pass on that glass of champagne the next time you board a flight. "I know I sound like no fun, but flying already is dehydrating, and then if you add booze to it, you’re even more likely to get dehydrated," Alpert says. "Headaches and muscle aches can all occur from dehydration, but also, the risk of blood clots increases with a cocktail on a flight."
This one's a bit self-explanatory. "You may want to stay healthy and/or opt for a high-protein vegetarian option, but being gassy on a plane is a recipe for disaster," says Alpert. "Other offenders include raw veggies or cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower."
Gum is a helpful fix when your ears begin to pop on board, but consider skipping it in the name of better digestive comfort, especially if it's the sugar-free variation. "A lot of the artificial sweeteners used in these gums and candies can cause stomachaches, bloating, or even worse, diarrhea," Alpert explains.
Bubbly beverages already cause bloating on land, so just imagine what they'll do in flight where the air pressure is much lower. "Soda is an obvious no-no because of its sugar and chemicals, but carbonated beverages, in general, can lead to distention and discomfort."