Pre-flight anxiety -- spurred by endless baggage lines, security checkpoints and screaming children -- need not extend to fears of repeat trips to the airplane lavatory. But eat the wrong thing before you fly and you may be contending with more than just an awful in-flight movie or space-invading neighbor.
Unfortunately, airport dining options -- like a greasy fast-food burger, oily pizza or a liquid lunch at the concourse bar -- are rather limited. Still, if you're disciplined, avoiding the gut-busting trifecta of grease, alcohol and carbonation can help contribute to a bloat-free flight. There are even a few nutritious foods surprisingly on our "don't eat" list that are best avoided before you take to the sky. And for the long-haulers wondering if there's anything to do to prevent jet lag as they zoom from New York to Beijing, there may just be a food-based remedy: eat nothing at all.
Remember to drink lots of water, eat some carrot sticks and nuts, and check out our five foods banned for pre-flight consumption.
No. 1: McDonald's Extra Value Meal
Okay, so we're using Mickey D's as the embodiment of greasy, artery-clogging fast-food joints typically found in airports. According to the medical community, the body doesn't do so well digesting foods laden with sodium and saturated fats in the first place -- and digestion at 37,000 feet proves even more difficult. So it's common sense to avoid these worst offenders before flying.
But beyond the digestion problems, there's also the issue of in-flight blood pressure. Sitting squished and immobile in a pressurized cabin hinders blood flow, setting off a physiological chain that leads to swollen feet. This can lead to the dreaded "economy class syndrome," officially known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which involves the formation of a blood clot in the legs.
According to the Times of London, scarfing down a cheese burger, chili dog, large fries and cherry Danish can further contribute to the constriction of blood flow. While no direct link has yet been made between DVT and eating a pre-flight meal high in saturated fats, fried chicken plus cramped airline seat is probably a combination best avoided.
No. 2: The Gas Giants
For obvious reasons, it's smart to avoid foods that encourage intestinal expansion, as the nature of the pressurized airplane cabin promotes further bloating. Chief among such foods are fried and super-saturated dishes, but even certain "healthy" foods -- onions, cauliflower, cabbage, baked beans -- can make you feel like an over-filled balloon.
And gas troubles can transcend questions of personal discomfort or public decency. In 2006, a flatulent airplane passenger forced an American Airlines plane to make an emergency landing. Fellow passengers reported smelling burnt matches, and the plane had to come down. A female passenger later admitted that she had struck the matches to conceal a certain aroma. The admission of guilt came after bomb-sniffing dogs discovered the extinguished matches.
No. 3: Alcohol