Business travelers are often at the mercy of airport fast food chains, snagging a quick bite before boarding. But before you binge, read our list. AVE asked three registered dietitians to identify the common causes of jet bloat and other up-in-the-air aggravators.
1. Ice on the Plane- The ice on an airplane gets handled and transported several times, which may result in higher bacteria counts. “Pass on the ice and stick with canned or bottled waters,” says Gina Keatley, award-winning dietitian and founder of Keatley Medical Nutrition Therapy.
2. Carbonated Drinks- When you drink carbonated beverages, you are consuming gas, which can lead to flatulence. The gassiness of the beverage is due to the carbon dioxide in the liquid, which creates the fizz. It can also be due to non-nutritive sweeteners, which are indigestible by the colon. “Whenever you choose a carbonated beverage that has zero calories, it can be a double whammy on your colon,” says Marissa Beck, director of wellness at Next Jump Inc. “It’s best to stick with water to avoid unsuspecting side effects.”
3. Fast Food Fare- These high fat meals are difficult for our bodies to digest and they sit longer in the stomach, causing discomfort, possible cramping and gas. “Most fast food meals such as burgers, fries and burritos are severely high in sodium and can cause fluid retention in the ankles and feet,” explains Megan Ware, owner of Nutrition Awareness.
4. Caffeine- Airlines keep planes on the dry side to reduce mildew and smells. The downside is it can cause dehydration. “In large quantities, caffeine is antidiuretic. It leeches water from your body and makes you urinate more,” Keatley says.
5. Alcohol- The primary side effect of alcohol consumption is dehydration and electrolyte depletion, and it gets worse when not concurrently rehydrating. Nausea and headaches are other possible side effects. “Alcohol consumption is a problem when flying because high altitudes can already cause dehydration, headaches and nausea, so the point is to increase fluid intake at high altitudes, not deplete fluids further with alcohol,” Beck says.
6. Spicy Foods- Spicy foods encourage the product of stomach acids and lying down provides an easier path from stomach to esophagus. “Skip snacking on chips and salsa if you plan on napping while you travel to avoid gastrointestinal issues or acid reflux,” Keatley says.
7. High-Fiber Foods- Avoid high-fiber foods like apples, berries, beans and vegetables because they result in increased gas, which can leave you feeling bloated. Although all fibrous foods do cause gas, the effects vary per individual and per food item. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower tend to cause more gas than other vegetables. “Gas is a problem when flying because it is not only physically uncomfortable, but it can also affect others in your vicinity,” Beck says. “Bloating, another side effect, is highly uncomfortable when sitting in a compact space.”
8. Ice Cream and Milkshakes- Along with being high in fat, ice cream and milkshakes contain lactose. “This sugar, which is found in milk, is hard for a lot of people to digest in large amounts and is known to cause bloating, cramping and flatulence,” says Ware.
What can you eat? We asked our experts to identify their go-to foods before boarding:
Gina Keatley- High-quality trail mix. It’s easy and packed with protein, fiber and healthy fats.
Megan Ware- Foods with high water content such as leafy greens, grapefruit, melon and tomatoes.
Marissa Beck- Roasted mixed nuts. They stay fresh, fit easily into any bag and curb hunger quickly.