One of the most annoying aspects of traveling (besides the long lines at check-in and the paltry number of different boarding areas) is that it can upset your digestive system. There are lots of reasons for this, like changing time zones, not drinking enough water, and being strapped to a small seat for hours, just to name a few.
Dealing with bloating and other digestive issues while traveling is annoying for everyone, but imagine having to work all the time with a smile plastered on your face. How the hell do flight attendants do? As travel professionals, they know how to feel good while traveling. Here, four flight attendants share the eating and drinking habits that make them feel their best.
They start small
Ask any flight attendant what an average day looks like for them and you’ll get the same answer: there isn’t. The hours are also long, really long. “My schedule varies, but on a typical day I work one to three flights, which is between seven and 12 hours on duty at work,” said Noelle Cors, a flight attendant based in Chicago and Daily Departure blogger. “Many days I wake up at 4am and am at the airport for 6am flights.”
Brianna Kaplan, another flight attendant based in Chicago, said she’s on standby (aka “on call”) so often she doesn’t know where she’s going until the day before the flight or up to three hours before the flight. Either way, the flight attendants all say their schedules make meal prep quite difficult. But once they’ve started, they start their days like many of us: with coffee or tea.
For their first meal of the day, the four flight attendants say they keep their breakfasts small and simple. “I’m going to eat something like a Nature Valley bar before I start work. “Then, if the first flight is long, I’ll have time to eat what I made for breakfast, which is usually after noon,” said Jamie Ruble, a flight attendant based in San Francisco. Francisco. “For breakfast, I pack scrambled eggs mixed with bacon and sometimes sausage, spicy guacamole, and gluten-free pita bread or corn tortillas,” she said. (OK, that sounds way tastier than anything on the in-flight menu.)
Rachael Sullivan, a flight attendant based in Charlotte, North Carolina, has a similar eating routine in the morning. She said she usually grabs something light, like an Rx bar, before the workday starts. “With so many inconsistencies in my schedule, I also try to eat my meals at around the same time every day, so if I have a show at 4am, I’ll try to wait a few hours to eat breakfast to keep my internal clock aligned,” she says.
They keep their meals balanced
In addition to starting the day with something small that won’t overload their digestive systems, the four flight attendants say they make sure to eat balanced meals with protein, healthy fats and fiber. This helps keep them full and also supports the digestive system.
For Kaplan, that means a mid-morning meal of avocado toast or a smoothie, which she brings from home. And for lunch, she opts for a salad bowl or a burrito bowl. “Flight attendants don’t have set breaks most of the time, so you only eat when you can. Usually this happens after service and garbage pickup,” she said. Ruble says a typical meal she brings on board is chicken, broccoli or asparagus and rice.
Sullivan has a gluten intolerance, which can make it difficult to know what to eat. “Some airports specify dietary restrictions on their website, which is super convenient. I also know that I can always count on Farm fridge, my all-time favorite airport food, Panera Bread or Chick-fil-A for gluten-free food options,” she said. She adds that her husband also enjoys cooking for her, preparing lunch boxes that she can bring on her travels, that he documents on Instagram.
While passengers can usually purchase a hot meal option on long flights, Nors said flight attendants don’t always have the luxury of a hot meal. “Often the day is really busy and it’s hard to find time to sit down and eat a meal,” she told us. “We don’t have microwaves on planes, but we do have ovens, so that’s a way for many flight attendants to reheat their food, if they have the time.” But she likes to bring food that can be eaten as it is because using the ovens takes time.
Dinner is usually eaten at the hotel and all flight attendants say they try to maintain the same balance of protein, healthy fats and fibre, although their last meal of the day is usually a bit larger than their pre-packaged breakfast and lunch. “One of my favorite brands to pack for dinner is loma linda“, Cors said. “They have tons of vegan and really delicious microwave dishes – and they only take a minute in the microwave.” Her other go-to dinner is the vegetable stir-fry, which she loves because that it is easy to prepare and that it keeps well.
They pack healthy low sodium snacks
While most airlines don’t run out of crisps or salted nuts, the four flight attendants say they like to bring their own snacks on the plane. (PSA: Sodium can be bloating and dehydrating.) Cors said blackberries, blueberries and grapes travel well, so she likes to bring them on her flights. They also contain fiber, which helps support the digestive system. “Another snack I like to bring is roasted hummus and carrot sticks,” she said, calling another high-fiber snack.
Here’s what they drink – and don’t drink
While it can be tempting to pop liquid so you don’t have to pee during a flight, the four flight attendants stress the importance of staying hydrated – the key to not having to pee. traveller’s constipation. Kaplan says she avoids drinking sodas on flights, which can cause bloating.
They appreciate the local cuisine
One of the most obvious benefits of being a flight attendant is that you can travel all over the world, which all four flight attendants say they get the most out of when they have time to explore a city. “I love getting out and exploring what makes each place special,” Ruble said. “For example, I eat fish in Florida, and in Wisconsin I always share cheese curds with someone. And I like to have a cocktail or two.
The bottom line is that the food and drink rules that flight attendants follow to keep their digestion on track while traveling are great tips to follow at all times: stay hydrated and eat balanced meals. Oh, and have fun. This is also the key.