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The 13 Worst Foods to Ever Eat on an Airplane

We're just trying to make sure you and your fellow passengers have a pleasant flight.
The 13 Worst Foods to Ever Eat on an Airplane

Unless you’re flying first class or you’re aboard an international flight, meals and snacks are fairly scarce on airplanes these days, so it makes sense to pack a little something to munch on while you’re traveling.

The problem? Many meals—and yes, that includes beverages—don’t fare too well when you’re high in the sky, and they just don’t make for ideal airplane food. Some in-flight snack options and drinks can cause bloating or dehydration, while others are so pungent, you could offend fellow passengers. You also might be surprised by which orders annoy flight attendants the most.

We’ve rounded up 13 foods and drinks that have earned themselves a spot on the “no-fly” list, all to help you out during your travels. These are the foods to avoid eating on an airplane to keep from feeling discomfort and annoying others for the entire flight.

1

Garlic

Garlic bulbs and cloves Shutterstock

Not only do you want to avoid garlic-dusted snacks like chips, crackers, and popcorn on the plane, but you’ll also want to steer clear of garlic-heavy dishes the day before your flight.

Garlic contains allyl methyl disulfide, a compound that occurs in the chopped or crushed variety that is processed slowly by the body. “Garlic breath sometimes takes up to 24 hours to be removed from your body,” says Beth Warren, RDN, founder of Beth Warren Nutrition and author of Secrets of a Kosher Girl.

Not only is the pungent garlic scent excreted by breathing, but it also can come out in your sweat. If you do end up eating a garlic-heavy Italian meal the night before your flight, Warren says to try doing some damage control the next day with foods that are known to combat garlic breath, such as apple, mint, parsley, or milk.

2

Salami

Sliced salami Shutterstock

Skip the salami sandwiches! Salami is a high-histamine food, says Warren. “For people who are sensitive to histamines, eating foods with them could aggravate nasal allergies or sinusitis,” she says.

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Already, cabin pressure can affect your sinuses, so it’s best to go easy on them when it comes to what you’re deciding to chow down on.

3

Hard candies and chewing gum

Hard candy and gum Shutterstock

Yes, sucking on hard candies or chewing gum can help keep your ears from popping like crazy during takeoff. However, they’re also known to cause flatulence, something you want to obviously avoid on an airplane where cabin air pressure can compound the problem.

You may know that beans can cause gas, but for a fart-free flight, you may also want to avoid eating quickly, drinking out of bottles, or sipping on carbonated beverages, which can increase the amount of air you swallow and the gas you produce, according to the Mayo Clinic. Also, fructose, which is found in fruits and some sweeteners, is known to cause gas as well.

4

Broccoli

Broccoli bowl Shutterstock

While we’re usually cheering on cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, kale, and cauliflower because they are high in fiber and vitamin C, they aren’t actually great for the plane—especially if you’re prone to bouts of belly bloating. The culprit is raffinose, a complex sugar in these veggies that is tough to digest and can cause gas and puffiness. Other veggies that can cause bloating include corn, cauliflower, and raw spinach.

5

Pretzels

Pretzels Shutterstock

When you’re 30,000 feet in the sky, your taste buds really do start playing tricks on you, so you may want to pass on those tiny packages of pretzels that get passed out. One study found the reduced pressure in aircraft cabins makes foods and drinks taste differently, much like it does when you have a cold. The study, by Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics and commissioned by German airline Lufthansa, found your taste buds are desensitized to sodium by up to 30 percent when you fly. You’ll be left craving more salty snacks, and those high-sodium foods cause you to retain water and bloat.

6

Cookies

chocolate chip cookies Shutterstock

That same German study found that while you’re in the air, sugar is perceived to be 15 to 20 percent less intense. Essentially, save the sweets like cookies for when you’re on the ground and can actually enjoy the full taste.

7

Diet Coke

Diet coke on ice Shutterstock

Your flight attendant probably won’t let on, but pouring you some diet soda can be an annoying in-flight task that requires a lot of patience.

“Diet Coke really is the worst beverage to pour on a plane because the drink is highly carbonated, and at altitude, this causes a big frothy heat that takes ages to subside,” says Mateusz Maszczynski, a flight attendant with experience at premium airlines in both the Middle East and Europe who also runs the blog Paddle Your Own Kanoo. 

But Diet Coke isn’t the only culprit of froth. Lagers have the same effect, Maszczynski says.

8

Bloody Marys

Bloody mary toppings Shutterstock

You’re not imagining it: a Bloody Mary is actually pretty amazing when you’re flying. Researchers at Cornell discovered that tomato juice tastes really good on airplanes, and it’s not because of the cabin pressure or altitude. It’s because of the hustle and bustle that comes with being on an airplane. Study participants were better able to taste savory “umami” flavors like those that are present in tomatoes when they were in noisy environments.

However, flight attendants don’t love making Bloody Marys. They are time-consuming to whip up, for one. Plus, the slightest bit of turbulence could lead to a tomato juice stain, says Maszczynski. Sorry, but it’s still best to stay away from this cocktail.

9

Fish

Poached salmon Shutterstock

This should probably be a no-brainer, but leave the cans of tuna and sardines at home. “You have to be aware that you’re sharing a public space with a lot of other people in close proximity, and they might not appreciate the smell of sardines that you grilled a few hours ago—yes, that really has happened,” Maszczynski says.

10

Fast food burgers

fast food hamburger Shutterstock

Salads and sandwiches transport well and don’t carry offensive odors, says Maszczynski. But cooked food? Totally different story.

“Fast food like greasy burgers and fries are the worst offenders,” Maszczynski says. Aside from stinking up the plane, fast food is notorious for being loaded with sodium, which is overall just bad for your heart health. While sodium has been reduced in many packaged foods, it’s been increasing in chain restaurant items, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Eating high sodium foods will lead to dehydration, explains Evie Fatz, creator and owner of EAT.MOVE.LIVE., and a certified strength and conditioning and nutrition coach. Who wants to start a vacation with a headache stemming from being dehydrated?

11

Coffee

Black coffee Shutterstock

There’s some debate about whether coffee can actually dehydrate you, but it does have a mild diuretic effect, and we’re guessing you don’t want to be bothering your seatmates multiple times so you can use the restroom. Fatz suggests sticking with water until you’re off the plane.

12

Alcohol

Drinks Shutterstock

Alcohol does dehydrate you, Fatz points out, and who wants to feel dizzy and weak when you’re literally up in the clouds, far from the solid ground? Again, the best thing to drink on a plane is water. The simple act of flying can dehydrate you because the air on planes has very little moisture.

Also, Fatz explains, research shows we lose about 2 percent of total body water during a 6-hour flight. She recommends upping your water intake 48 hours prior to boarding.

13

Raw Onions

Sliced red onions Shutterstock

While salads and sandwiches do get the green light as flight-friendly foods, you might want to hold the onions. If you’re stuck with onion breath, the National Onion Association recommends eating a sprig of parsley, rinsing your mouth with equal parts lemon juice and water, or chewing on a citrus peel to get rid of the stench. You’re welcome in advance.

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