10 Tips for Healthy Air Travel

Commercial aircraft cabin with passengers
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Summer is in full swing, school is out and work isn't quite as busy as usual. It's time to get out of town for a summer vacation — but don't let your healthy habits fall by the wayside. This summer, use these 10 tips to pack for air travel and a healthy trip. Tweet this

Have a Mindful Meal

Just like packing your clothes, food preparation starts hours before your flight takes off. If your morning flight is before you typically eat breakfast, consider your dinner choices the night before travel. If your flight is in the late-morning or afternoon, make sure to eat a solid breakfast. Stick to foods that are high in carbohydrate, moderate in protein and easy to digest without causing any GI discomfort. For instance, stay clear of broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, all of which can cause gas, and spicy foods that may cause acid reflux.

Be Calm and Comfortable

This isn't about nutrition, but plan to give yourself enough time to get to the airport before you reach panic mode! Check in early, even the night before with your smartphone. And wear something comfortable that won't cause trouble at the security line — I typically wear leggings and a zip-up over a simple T-shirt and sneakers.

Hydrate Your Heart Out

With pressurized cabins, planes are typically low in humidity, which often results in passengers feeling dehydrated. Keep your hydration to at least eight ounces of fluid per hour. Also, eat plenty of foods high in water content such as veggies and hummus, a cup of low-sodium soup or fresh fruit.

Prepare to Pay

If you didn't pack snacks for the plane and wind up hungry in the airport before takeoff, don't be surprised if you have to dish out extra dough. But you still can make a healthy choice! Seek out salads, tuna sandwiches, veggie-and-hummus wraps and fresh fruit.

Alternatives to Alcohol

It's a powerful diuretic that can cause significant dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Alcohol also can reduce your body's ability to burn fat and preserve muscle. Wine, beer and mixed drinks often are available on the plane, however it's a great opportunity to take advantage of free bottled water and stay hydrated.

Skip the Sodium

Salted peanuts, pretzels and chips are the typical freebies of choice while midair, but too much sodium at high altitudes may leave you feeling bloated or gassy. You're better off packing homemade trail mix made with unsalted nuts and seeds to keep you satiated.

Consider the sodium in beverages, too. Once upon a time, my brother would order a round of Bloody Marys whenever we flew together for family vacations. But on one trip to Hawaii, he checked out the sodium content listed on a can of tomato juice. It was well above 100 percent of the daily value! Now, we order a round of water, sit back, watch movies and giggle our faces off until we land.

Work, Read or Relax

Hours on a plane can be useful; they don't have to be a waste of time. Catch up on a book, do some light office work or watch a movie. I like to plug in my headphones and read. If you can sleep on a plane, great — but you never know if something will interrupt you. It's better to board the flight rested.

Select Your Seat

If you're one to use the bathroom often or if you get stiff muscles, try to get an aisle seat so you can easily stand up, stretch and move around.

Scout Out Snack Options

Once you arrive at your destination, take a walk to the closest market, grocery store or sandwich shop to stock up on healthy snacks such as dried and fresh fruit, nuts, trail mix and nutrition bars. If you have a fridge, consider adding yogurt, hummus and whole-grain cereal and milk to your shopping list.

Stick to Your Routine

To start you travel on a healthy note, wake up at your normal time, have a breakfast similar to what you eat at home and drink plenty of water. The more you stick to your health routine, the better your body will feel throughout your trip.

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Kate Moran
Kate Moran, RD, LDN, blogs at The Educated Plate.