chicagotribune_flyingfoods_nandiOriginally published on
By Alison Bowen, Contact Reporter

Making a quick food decision in an airport can haunt you a few hours later on a flight.

Some foods can wreck your digestive system. There is never a good time for this, but it’s particularly bad when you’re stuck in an airplane seat — especially when the seat belt sign is on.

It’s a familiar struggle for Dr. Partha Nandi, who frequently travels and thinks through what to eat.

His typical traveling routine? Bringing his own specific snacks, instead of relying on airport or airplane food.

Nandi confirmed what many have suspected — food at the airport is generally a terrible idea.

“Everything there pretty much you should try to avoid,” he said. “The greasy burger, the Philly cheese steak with the cheese dripping off it with onions.”

Don’t get desperate.

Often, he said, people overeat or opt for something less-than-healthy because they’re worried they won’t get food on the flight or will have to purchase it.

“It’s really tough,” acknowledged Nandi, of Michigan, where he’s host of the television show “Ask Dr. Nandi.” “The rule of thumb is that you have to start eating before you are actually on the plane.”

At home or at the hotel, munch on something simple. Fish or turkey breast with cottage cheese, for example. Or grains and fruit.

“So you don’t want to have this huge hearty American breakfast,” Nandi said. “Keep it light.”

Digestion can really backfire at 30,000 feet.

“When you’re in the air and you’re not in your normal environment, you can have more cramping, more gassing,” he said. “And sometimes you can’t get up to go to the bathroom.”

Avoid anything greasy, which will be gas-producing. Don’t order beans, onions, that Chinese takeout.

Also, opt out of alcohol and carbonated drinks, which are dehydrating. And coffee, which acts as a diuretic.

Avoid extreme temperatures, foods or drinks super cold or super hot. Instead, think chilled apple juice, or bananas and berries.

When the airport’s restaurants are limited, you can purchase things like carrot sticks or celery, even a cheese sandwich.

A main go-to of Nandi’s is a handful of nuts, which is easy to carry on and feels light but brings protein and some fat.

Plus, he adds, if you’re traveling for business, “You want to go in rested. You want to go in hydrated and not feeling bloated.”