If Air Travel Wreaks Havoc On Your Stomach, Here Are the 5 Best Foods to Eat Before Flying (and What to Avoid)

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Americans are traveling by air again in a major way. Want specifics? According to Airlines for America, we'll see 10% more air travel in spring 2024 than 2023, which is a lot—and that's not even counting the 2024 holiday season, either.

If you'll be flying in the near future, you surely want to do everything in your power to make the experience as comfortable and stress-free as possible. Here’s one thing that should be an important part of your travel planning: What to eat before and during your flight.

Related: 5 Stubborn Myths About Flying

Why Flying Can Be Hard On Your Stomach

Many people underestimate the toll air travel can take on your body, particularly your digestive system.

“Flying can be exciting, especially if you're going somewhere fun,” says Lisa Moskovitz RD, CDN, author and founder of NY Nutrition Group. “However, it can also be incredibly stressful on your body, leading to major GI side effects such as bloating, gas, constipation or diarrhea. Why? First, if flying is emotional for you that tension can have a direct impact on how well your GI tract is functioning, as our mind and gut are very closely connected. Second, the low cabin air pressure causes gas to expand in your belly and leads to extra bloat and discomfort.”

While you are more likely to have issues if you’re already prone to digestive conditions or have a sensitive system, anyone can experience occasional flight-related stomach troubles. Luckily, choosing your pre-flight food options wisely can help your trip go more smoothly. Here are some of the best foods to eat before flying, as recommended by experts.

Related: 40 Travel Essentials Chosen By Flight Attendants, Professional Packers and More

What to Eat Before Flying


This technically may not be considered a food, but all of the experts stressed the importance of staying well-hydrated when flying. “Probably the best thing you can do before (and during) your flight is drink water,” says Aviva Rubin, MS, RDN. “Water prevents dehydration and reduces jet lag while keeping you from feeling lethargic.”

Keeping yourself sufficiently hydrated is a simple way to get your flight off on the right foot. “Try to drink about eight ounces of fluid for every hour you are in the air,” advises Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD, CSOWN, FAND, senior director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training, Herbalife Nutrition.

Related: Should You Drink a Gallon of Water a Day? Experts Weigh In


Oranges are an excellent source of water as well as vitamin C, which is an effective way to boost immunity,” says Rubin. Bananas are another good option. “With bloat-fighting potassium, bananas can be easy on digestion, easy to travel with and easy to eat no matter where you are on your journey,” says Moskovitz.

Related: This is The Healthiest Fruit on the Market, According to Registered Dietitians

Lean Protein

Eating lean protein gives your body the nutritional boost it needs without the high-fat downsides. “Eat lean protein such as nonfat yogurt, turkey, or chicken to make you feel full and fuel your brain,” Rubin recommends.

Maximize the benefits by combining lean protein with fruits or veggies. “The best combo is some protein with some good-for-you carbs like fruits, veggies and whole grains,” says Bowerman. “The carbs will help you sustain energy, and the protein will help to keep you satisfied, and may keep you from indulging in the typically unhealthy snacks that are offered by the airline. So, a turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread, or, for shorter flights, an apple or orange with some nuts or string cheese; a protein bar; or a carton of yogurt with a piece of fruit would all work well.”

Related: 16 Healthy, High-Protein Foods

Unsalted Nuts

Nuts are not only portable, but they provide a great source of gut-friendly fiber and protein,” says Moskovitz. “They also offer magnesium that can help fight against bloat. Choose unsalted to minimize the water retention that is a common side-effect of flying.”

Related: 10 Healthiest Nuts to Snack On

Protein Bars

Protein bars are easy to stash in your purse or bag and grab on the go. “While not all protein bars are created equal, options with about 5g grams of fiber, at least 10 grams of protein, and zero artificial sweeteners are a suitable addition to your suitcase,” says Moskovitz. “They can keep you energized and full for several hours on your flight.”

Related: 40 Delicious, High-Protein Breakfast Foods

Foods to Avoid Before Flying

While some foods will make your stomach feel better during a fight, others will inevitably make it worse (and unfortunately, many of those foods are available for purchase in the airport!) Here are the top foods you should avoid before or during a flight:

Salty Foods

“That will increase your thirst,” says Bowerman. “As it is, flying is dehydrating.” This means things like chips, pretzels, crackers and salted nuts aren't your best bets—despite, somewhat ironically, being the most common complimentary in-flight snacks. Here are other sneakily high-sodium foods you may want to avoid before or during a flight.

Related: These Are the Saltiest Foods

Caffeinated Beverages

“Coffee may help you take on a stressful travel day, but keep in mind caffeine is a stimulant that can also aggravate stomach acidity and increase gastric motility, which in turn increases bowel movements,” says Moskovitz. “Further, if you like it light with milk and sweetened with sugar, those are two extra additives that can be major gastrointestinal offenders.”

Related: How Much Caffeine Is Too Much?

Big Salads

“Typically, loads of veggies are a great way to get loads of nutrients,” says Moskovitz. “However, they can also be harder to digest and lead to more gas, bloating and general discomfort, especially if consumed right before a long journey.”

Related: What Your Farts Reveal About Your Health

Fried Food and Fast Food

“It might be easy, quick and accessible, but fast food is full of dehydrating sodium and inflammatory fats that can lead to bloat and disrupted digestive tract,” says Moskovitz. “If that fried food comes with a bubbly soft drink that carbonation is additional air in your belly that could quickly expand as the cabin air pressure declines.”

Related: The Healthiest Fast Food Options

Anything Not In Your Normal Dietary Routine

“This is not the time to eat unfamiliar foods,” says Bowerman. “You don’t want to face a stomach upset while you’re on a plane. Stick to your usual diet as much as possible.”

Next, Post-Pandemic Travel Dos and Don'ts