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10 Tips for Healthy Air Travel

Last week I attended the 8th annual Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitian Association (CPSDA) Conference in Kansas City Missouri. I dove into the latest sports nutrition research, networked with some of the nations top performance RD's and inspired interns and tried delicious new functional foods on the market. I’ll share what I learned next week, but for now a few healthy travel tips that help me stay on track.

Before my 7pm return flight I enjoyed a caprese salad with grilled shrimp and water with lemon while studying for my CSSD exam.

1. Have a mindful meal. Just like packing your clothes, food preparation starts hours before your flight takes off. If you have a morning flight (before your typical breakfast) consider your dinner choices the night before travel. If your flight is late morning or afternoon have a solid breakfast. Stick to foods that are high in carb, moderate in protein and easy to digest without causing any GI discomfort. Maybe stay clear of broccoli, cauliflower and Brussles sprouts that can cause gas or spicy foods that may cause acid reflux. Choose foods that are consistent with your typical fiber intake keeping you feeling “regular.”

2. Be Calm and Comfortable. Get to the airport before you reach panic mode! Check in early, even the night before with your smart phone. {Namaste your life!} Wear something comfortable that sets the tone of your flight. Athletes could wear compression socks, tops or pants to help with circulation. I typically wear leggings and zip-up over a simple tee. Socks and sneaks are easy to get through security and comfy on the plane if it's cold.


3. Hydrate your heart out! Planes are typically low in humidity which often results passengers feeling dehydrated. Athletes and weekend warriors are recommended to drink 12 glasses for woman and 15 glasses for men of water each day. Especially on a plane, 8oz per hour is essential for anyone to keep hydrated. Eating foods high in water content are also good choices such as veggies and hummus, a cup of low-sodium soup or fresh fruit.

Southwest Chicken Salad with roasted corn, tomatoes, black beans and guacamole.

4. Prepare to pay. If you didn’t pack snacks for the plane and wind up hungry don’t be surprised if you have to dish out extra dough. Prices are sky high because of demand and convenience. Not to say go for the cheap burger, stick to your guns and make a healthy choice. You may have to seek out a salad or sandwich but you know it will be worth it. I found chicken salads, tuna sandwiches, veggie and hummus wraps, even fresh fruit, all available at the airport.

5. Alternatives to alcohol. It’s a powerful diuretic that can cause severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. When dehydrated, athletes are at greater risk for muscles injuries such as cramps, pulls and strains. Alcohol can also suppress your appetite and reduced your body’s ability to burn fat and preserve muscle. Wine, beer and mixed drinks are often available on the plane, however it's a great opportunity to take advantage of free bottled water and stay hydrated! Your workout will thank you later.

My brother has forever looked forward to Bloody Mary’s on family vacations. Ordering a round for everyone after takeoff has almost been a tradition, which is really what I think he looks forward to. The last trip on our way to Hawaii, we checked out the sodium content on the tomato juice can and unexpectedly it was well above 100% RDA. Now we order a round of H20, sit back, watch movies and giggle our faces off until we arrive. Our tradition is making memories.

6. Skip the salt. Salted peanuts, pretzels and chips are the typical free-bee choices these days. You’re better off packing unsalted nuts or homemade trail mix that contain healthy unsaturated fats from nuts and seeds, keeping your satiated and content. The sodium holds in fluid at a cellular level and may leave you feeling bloated or gassy.

Magazines and airplane priced books can be $$$; Pack something in your carry-on or download your favorites on your smartphone.

7. Work, read or relax. Hours on a plane can be useful, they don’t have to be considered a waste of time. Catch up on a book, some work from the office or a movie you’ve wanted to see. I typically plug my headphones in and catch up on some reading. Sleep is something you can embrace, but shouldn’t count on as it’s never guaranteed, so board rested if you’re able to. Focus on your travel purpose and eat when your hungry, rather than to pass time.

I had no seat assignment both flghts. Simply asked and arranged window seats in minutes.

8. Select your seat. If you’re one to use the bathroom often or if you get stiff muscles choose the isle so you can easily stand up, stretch and move around. If you have a red-eye and hope to sleep try the window seat to rest your head on- remember to bring your neck rest! I always choose the window seat; looking outside makes me feel like I'm in a bigger space.

Once you arrive to your final destination...

9. Scout out snack options. Walk to a local market, grocery store or sandwich shop where you can stock up on a few snacks. Foods like dried and fresh fruit, nuts, trail mix and some sports bars are great on the go options. If you have a fridge available yogurt, hummus, whole grain cereal and milk are other options. Keeping healthy foods close by with help you stay on track in achieving your health goals.

10. Stick to your routine. Waking up at your regular time, having a similar breakfast and drinking plenty of water are three simple steps to start your travel off on a healthy note. The more you stick to your routine the better your body will feel. Sleeping in, extremely indulgent meals and extra coffee leaving you dehydrated won’t do the “pick-me-up” trick. At the conference I found a local market and coffee shop were I stocked up on snacks and walked to for breakfast a few mornings.

Hope these tips help you in your next adventure. Safe travels!


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