Say the words “airplane food” and you’ll likely hear a chorus of groans, with most people agreeing that it’s best to stay away from that particular in-flight offering. Of course, there are plenty of other choices besides those questionable compartmentalized trays — the airport offers a ton of grab-and-go meals and snacks that you can bring on board with you. Unfortunately, a lot of those are options you really shouldn’t eat on a plane, both for your health and for the sake of not thoroughly annoying your fellow passengers.
Here’s what you should avoid until after your flight.
If a flight attendant says not to drink the water on a plane, there’s probably a good reason, and that’s exactly what one 20-year veteran of the skies told Time. Turns out the holding tanks for water can be a breeding ground for bacteria and are typically not cleaned more than once a year. Even after making the cleaning and testing requirements more rigorous, 12 percent of commercial airplanes still tested positive for coliform (a bacteria often found in feces).
Next time the beverage cart goes rolling by, grab the bottled water instead.
In keeping with the bacteria-ridden beverage theme, hot drinks are also a no-go. Because the water used to make coffee and tea is coming from that same rarely cleaned water tank, you might be sipping on coliform-laden Earl grey. Good thing there are 25 Starbucks at every airport, right?
Take it from me — do not eat those foil-topped yogurts on a plane. The plastic containers blow up like balloons once you’re in the air, and I promise you they will explode when you open them.
If you must have your creamy snack, be very careful when peeling back the foil (go slow!), and please point away from your neighbors. A yogurt eruption is a surefire way to make enemies on a long flight.
Gum might seem like the best choice for a plane: You’re not stinking up the cabin, and you’re not eating heavy, indigestible foods. While this might be true, chewing too much gum can actually wreak havoc on your system, causing bloating, gas, and diarrhea — three things you most definitely do not want to contend with while flying.
According to Dr. Robynne Chutkan, a gastroenterologist who spoke to Buzzfeed, “[Gum] causes bloating from the artificial sweeteners — they’re not absorbed in the small intestines, so they get fermented in the colon. And when you chew gum you swallow a lot of air, which causes gas and bloating.” Not to mention that those artificial sweeteners can also cause diarrhea.
Seems like a good time to employ the old “everything in moderation” rule…
It’s no secret that alcohol has a dehydrating effect on the body, but partaking in those tiny bottles of booze while flying could make things doubly bad. Because of the low humidity in the aircraft’s cabin, we already tend to feel a bit dried out on a plane, so when you add a few Bloody Marys into the mix your hydration level takes another nose dive. Just make sure you’re hitting the (bottled!) water hard if you have a cocktail or two.
When Anthony Bourdain was asked by Bon Appétit if he eats plane food, he responded: “Never. No one has ever felt better after eating plane food…” And that about sums up how most people feel. But why is it so bad?
One reason is that our taste buds are affected while in the air — we can’t taste salty and sweet flavors as we normally would, so everything tastes bland. Another culprit: Meals might be reheated, cooled, and reheated a few times over, leading to dried out protein and less-than-ideal texture (mushy pasta, anyone?).
No matter how you feel about Bourdain, he might be right about this one…
If you suffer from swollen feet while flying, a diet high in sodium could be partially to blame. Because salt can cause the body to retain fluid, it’s best to avoid salty foods the day before and the day of travel. Sorry, but that means grabbing a hash brown and Egg McMuffin to eat on the plane is out.
Chips seem fairly innocuous, right? Wrong. When the person next to you is already on your nerves for hogging the armrest, the last thing you want to do is listen to them loudly crunching on chips. And for some reason, that crunch just seems 100 times amplified at 30,000 feet. Time for the noise-cancelling headphones.
As tempting as that ginormous airport burrito might be, you’re better off waiting until after your flight. Burritos make bad plane food for a few reasons: Spicy foods can upset your stomach, meat can be hard to digest, and ingredients like beans and onions can cause gas. Doesn’t sound worth it now, does it?
Aside from the dirty water that’s used to make airplane coffee, even your coveted $5 latte might not be the best idea for the plane. Like alcohol, coffee also has a dehydrating effect on the body, and it can also irritate the bladder. Nobody wants an irritated bladder when flying.
Trail mix is a perfectly fine snack, but that bag you bring on the plane could cause you some unfortunate intestinal issues (and the people around you won’t be too pleased, either). Since both nuts and dried fruit can cause gas, you run into a problem at high altitude in a pressurized cabin because that gas in your intestines expands even more. Maybe just pick the chocolate chips out?
More bad news for healthy snacks: Apples and oranges might not be the best plane food either. The fiber in apples can make you gassy, while the acidity in oranges (and orange juice) can give you heartburn.
This one should go without saying: When it comes to tuna sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, and extra garlicky foods, just don’t. The entire cabin does not want to smell your meal, the end.
You might assume that when a flight attendant says not to eat on a plane, it’s their nice way of telling you to skip the unappealing airline food. But it’s not just the airline food, it’s ANY food. Apparently this secret is how cabin crews avoid jet lag. The claim is that your digestive system shuts down at high altitude, and if you eat anything in air, your body has that much more work to do upon landing when your system “restarts.”
In response to this advice, nutritionists chimed in saying that fasting could actually have the opposite effect on your body, causing your blood sugar to drop and making jet lag even worse.
Let’s be serious — nobody wants to be hangry on a plane, even if it does mean no jet lag.
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