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Fast-food restaurants in airport lounges and departure areas are always milling with people – grabbing a bite, a drink in the hand. And this, just before they are to board a flight. It makes me wonder why do they do it.

Eating just before a flight is not a good idea. The wrong choice of food and drink can cause the stomach to bloat, which can get really uncomfortable, mid-flight. As if being buckled and restricted in a tiny seat is not bad enough.

Flying can have an adverse effect on the body’s metabolism. Foods that you otherwise enjoy could give you that bloated feeling. Blame it on the cabin pressure and being confined to the seat without any physical activity. The last thing you want on a long-haul flight is a distended belly. And this can be avoided if you avoid certain foods before and during a flight.

Fast food

Fast food restaurants serve excessively fatty foods that taste yummy but are not easy to digest. Long haul flights cruise at a height of about 35,000 feet and at that height, the body stops functioning at its optimum level. It tries to adjust to the new environment that it has been pushed into. As a result, the blood circulation gets hampered and digestion slows down. At tens of thousands of feet above sea-level, the stomach is unlikely to quickly break down a meal, consumed at a fast food joint. The digestive juices do not function the way that they are supposed to, and the meal will just sit in the belly, cause flatulence and a belly ache.

If you must eat before you board a flight chooses something healthy that is light on your digestive system. And stay away from fatty, salt-laden foods and sugary foodstuff.

Read more about the Indian dishes for Street food lovers

Cruciferous veggies

Cruciferous veggies include good for you, healthy veggies such as cauliflower, broccoli, beans, Brussel sprouts, radish, horseradish, onions, and cabbage etc. However, these veggies take time to digest and, in the interim, can cause gas to build up in the intestinal tract, which can lead to discomfort and stomach cramps.

Choose your veggies with care, especially if you have a flight to board. Consume easily digestible veggies such as carrots, bell peppers, and cucumber. Also, avoid potatoes and all types of beans and lentils, as they too induce the buildup of flatulence. Hummus, the otherwise healthy spread, is to be avoided too, as of course chickpeas.

Salty snacks

The gases in the body expand during a flight and cause the infamous ‘jet bloat’. Inactivity and sitting in one place cause the feet and legs to swell. And these conditions can become aggravated by eating salty snacks. Salt promotes water retention and eating a snack high in sodium, just before a flight, will worsen the bloated feeling since the body will hold on to more water.

Caffeine

Coffee, tea and cola drinks are loaded with caffeine unless of course, you pick the decaf variants. Caffeine is a good stimulant, but it also depletes water and dehydrates the body. Caffeine is known to be a mild diuretic, and you might find yourself making numerous trips to the bathroom to relieve yourself if you have had a caffeinated drink before the flight.  

Instead, select an herbal tea – chamomile, fennel, and peppermint teas are refreshing and have a relaxing effect on the mind and body. They have the ability to soothe the stomach and aid digestion. They will quell any kind of travel sickness that you might experience.

Aerated drinks

Aerated drinks are nothing but sugary drinks to which carbonated water is added to make them fizzy. The sugars in aerated drinks do not digest easily and the carbon dioxide present in them will lead to a bloated belly. Drink sparkling water, rather than having a can of carbonated drink. Spring water and mineral water are also good choices.

Alcohol

It is best to avoid alcoholic drinks before boarding a flight. You do not want to board the plane with alcohol in your veins. You can always have a drink on the flight, but do not start before you are airborne.

Like caffeine, alcohol too dehydrates the body. Aircraft, as such, have very dry air and with alcohol, in your system, you would become dehydrated sooner.

Sugar-free gum

While sugar-free gum sounds like a healthy option, but they contain the chemical sorbitol which interferes with the processes of the digestive tract, causing bloating and cramps.

When you chew gum, you inadvertently swallow air, which finds its way into the stomach, creating that bloated feeling.

Fast before a flight

Sounds crazy, but it helps to skip a meal, before a flight. It gives the intestinal tract a much-needed break. You will feel lighter and not suffer from any discomfort caused by food. Eat wisely before and during a flight and you will be better for it.

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