Up, Up and Away! Pack These Nutrition Tips Next Time You Fly
Whether you're traveling home for the holidays, getting away on vacation, or are a frequent flyer, air travel presents a common challenge to healthy eating. Understanding the unique needs of your body in flight, along with a little bit of planning, can go a long way in getting you to your destination energized, not exhausted.
Start your trip on the right foot by eating a nutritious meal before you head out to the airport. Even if you're a last-minute packer, you can whip up something quick, and by eating a satisfying meal before leaving home, you can minimize the number of eating decisions you need to make while traveling.
Most people eat every three to five hours, so if you're flying during the day, odds are you're flying during a meal time. If you can find a nutritious option at the airport to bring on your flight, such as a salad, great. But many times you're dealing with limited options – most of which are not that healthy – so packing a mini-meal or snack can be a great backup.
When crafting a suitable snack, consider eating foods rich in antioxidants, which may help you avoid getting sick (remember the recycled air and the sneezing person behind you). Additionally, if you're trying to get some shut-eye, certain options may be more effective in promoting a relaxed state – foods with complex carbs, calcium, vitamin B6, tryptophan and more.
• Trail mix including almonds, walnuts or pistachios, like this Goji Berry Trail Mix
The stress of flying makes staying hydrated equally important – and many people are boarding the plane already dehydrated. Consider your average trip to the airport: After you leave the house, when is the next time you have a drink? To ensure that you fly, and land, well hydrated:
• Bring an empty water bottle through airport security.
• Drink a full bottle of water (16 to 20 fluid ounces) before getting on board.
• Drink one bottle of water at least every two to three hours while flying (and not sleeping).
If you're on a red-eye and trying to get some sleep, chamomile and passion fruit teas may be helpful in calming you. Bring the tea bag from home and ask for hot water while flying. While tart cherry juice would be another great option – as it has been shown to be beneficial with melatonin production and antioxidants – it may be difficult to get while traveling.
Two drink ingredients to watch out for: alcohol and caffeine. Any amount of alcohol is dehydrating and increases stress on your body, so avoid it if you can. Caffeine intake should be minimized if you’re trying to sleep, and excessive amounts may stress the body as well.
Two other ways you can help your body deal with the stresses of flying involve exercise and sleep:
• While consistent physical activity generally keeps your immune system strong, you may not want to perform exhaustive exercise (think high-intensity intervals, half Ironmans, etc.) within 12 hours before flying, as your immune system may be compromised following an intensely stressful bout of activity.
• Get a good night's sleep before a morning flight, and try to take at least one power nap (30 to 45 minutes) during a red-eye if you can't get comfortable for a longer rest.