I once had a t-shirt that said “flying is just plane fun”. Truly, I did. I used to do a lot of flying in small single engine planes and I loved it! Fast forward twenty something years and I think flying is anything but fun. More importantly, I think air travel can be stressful and hard on your health.
The other day I was speaking with a friend of mine and she was telling me about her experience flying from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Toronto. Her story started when she was notified at the airport that her flight would be a bit late. Well as can often happen, a ‘bit late’ turned out to be a few hours late. When she did finally board the plane she had a horrible headache and needed to take a sinus tablet before take-off. At the first opportunity she asked the flight attendant for a glass of water. Now, I know flight attendants are frazzled by this point because they’re dealing with passengers who are upset, tired, hungry and thirsty. Not to mention, ‘the happiest ones’, who just missed their connection. I’m also willing to guess their blood sugar has dipped and these once happy passengers are now cranky. So ultimately my friend didn’t get her water until after takeoff. She learned that you can’t count on being served anything before takeoff.
Why tell this story? Well, in my former career, before I was a holistic nutritionist, I worked for a large company and had to fly for business most weeks of the year. I learned the hard way about the ins and outs of surviving air travel.
One of the first things I learned early in my many years of air travel is to never be in a position where you don’t have food and water. You don’t want to end up in an airport after all the food venues have closed and you have nothing to eat or drink. It’s simply too stressful to end up thirsty and hungry when your plane is delayed by weather or who knows what else. Always, always carry a snack or two and the largest water bottle you can carry when you are travelling. In an airport you’ll have to purchase water once you’re through security, so try to leave yourself enough time to get through security and purchase some water.
Why am I so adamant about always having water? Because, one of the most important things you can do from a health perspective is to stay hydrated, whether you’re travelling or not. Being dehydrated is the number one cause of fatigue and headaches. It’ll make jetlag worse and it weakens your immune system making you more susceptible to catching ‘bugs’.
Here are some suggestions and tips for choosing a meal. The following meal/snack suggestions may not be ideal, but they’ll keep you full longer, and you will hopefully be getting some nutrients to tide you over until you get to your destination:
Ideally, pack your own lunch and some snacks for the ‘just in case’ times. The advantage of making your own snack or meal is knowing where the ingredients come from and you can choose better quality. To make a lunch or a snack choose a lean protein, a good whole grain, lot’s of fresh, raw veggies, a piece of fruit and a bag of whole, raw, unsalted nuts. Eating a small meal that combines protein, a complex carbohydrate and fat every 3 hours will help keep your blood sugar stable and keep fatigue, crankiness and cravings at bay.
Or if you can’t pack your own snacks then your best choice for purchase are:
- Green smoothie such as the one at Starbucks – ask for it to be blended with ice
- Bag of unsalted nuts
- Unsalted trail mix
- Nut and Seed bar with limited or no sugar
- Egg salad sandwich on whole grain bun (add some lettuce and tomatoes)
- Sandwich with whole grain bread, heavy on the vegetables and just a small amount of learn protein and fat
- Lean meat or veggie burger with a salad (toss the white bun and add as many veggies as the venue has to offer
- A high quality protein bar – if you travel a lot stock up on your favourite high-quality protein bar so you can grab them on the run and throw them into your purse or briefcase
Avoid: sugar, alcohol and caffeine – they’re all dehydrating and add to jet lag, blood sugar spikes and dips and bottom line is they just don’t do anything to help your energy levels
ALWAYS carry change for vending machines – just in case you can’t find anything anywhere and have to rely on a vending machine – especially to purchase bottled water.
If you’re travelling internationally you may be more restricted in what food you can take through security. If you aren’t able to take your own snacks try to purchase a better quality snack and avoid the sugar and low nutrient snacks. And always try to buy at least a one litre bottle of water.
If you’re travelling by car then you have a lot more room and therefore more options. You can pack a cooler with snacks and drinks and be prepared. You don’t want to end up at a gas station purchasing a stale, soggy sandwich for your lunch. You can even pack a thermos with coffee, tea or soup.
Another way to stay healthy is to do what you can to avoid germs. By the time you get on a plane you have pushed elevator buttons, touched hand rails, touched your t.v. screen and volume buttons a hundred times and who knows what else, but by now you’ve been exposed to lot of germs. Washing your hands or using some hand sanitizer is a really good idea.
We all hear people complain all the time that they “caught their cold, flu or whatever bug on the plane”. It doesn’t have to happen. Eating nutritious whole foods, staying hydrated and taking some practical steps in avoiding germs can go a long way to helping you avoid getting ill during and after travel.
At holihealth we specialize in Corporate Wellness. We offer interactive and informative presentations and workshops, as well as, group or individual nutrition and lifestyle consulting. Please visit www.holihealth.ca to learn more or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org