Holiday travel is the pits. It’s tough enough dealing with mile-long security lines and mile-high bag fees. But the worst part of holiday air travel? The food. Airports are impressively lacking when it comes to healthy meals.
But fear not! There are some simple (yet game-changing) steps you can take to hack the system. Here are 7 things you can do to take your gut health to cruising altitude when traveling this holiday season!
1. Eat beforehand
Sounds like classic “mom” advice. But eating before you reach the airport is crucial. For a few reasons. First, homemade meals are inherently healthier. We’re talking way less sodium and wayyy fewer calories.
Take the Atlanta Airport, for example. In Terminal E, your choices are: McDonald’s, Qdoba, Panda Express, TGI Fridays, and Arby’s. Your chances of scoring a meal from one of these places for fewer than 1,000 calories are about as slim as your chances of getting a Qdoba burrito that doesn’t have a gaping hole in it. Aka, VERY slim.
At home, however, you can opt for a balanced meal of your choosing. Our recommendation for optimal gut health? Opt for the four phonetic F’s of food: fiber, fat, ferments, and phenols.
There’s another very compelling reason why eating before the airport is a good idea: it’s good for digestion! When you eat beforehand, this gives you ample time to walk off your meal through security and to your gate. And every minute after eating lowers post-meal blood sugar by about 1 point—which is important for energy, mood, and long-term prevention of serious health conditions.
Guess mom really does know best.
2. Be a 2 percenter
Did you know only 2% of Americans take the stairs when there’s an escalator nearby? Yikes. We get it: you’ve got luggage, you’ve got security lines to get to, you’ve got the stress of air travel which is sweat-inducing enough, nevermind a flight of stairs.
But here’s the thing: incidental exercise — aka, the workouts you get from everyday activities like walking or taking the stairs, not necessarily hitting the gym — can have a huge impact on public health. Minor daily exertions can lead to major gains. Even two flights of stairs climbed per day can lead to 6 lbs of weight loss over the concourse of one year, according to one Duke study.
So, next time you’re in an airport, don’t put your legs on auto-pilot.
3. Find your inner Waterboy
Water is essential for life. So it makes sense that proper hydration is crucial for a number of bodily functions, including: proper digestion, improved cognition, joint lubrication, infection prevention, and so much more.
Trouble is, airplanes are like flying dehydrators. Airplanes are pressurized to 8,000 ft of altitude, which only exacerbates dehydration since you’re getting less oxygen into your bloodstream.
Make sure to hydrate, so you don’t feel like your head’s still in the clouds after you land.
4. Construct the perfect DIY meal
Again, most airport meals are crazy high in calories. For example, there are:
- 1,080 calories in a McDonald’s Big Mac Combo Meal
- 1,120 calories in a Jersey Mike’s Club Sub
- 1,130 calories in a Qdoba Steak Fajita Quesadilla
- 390 calories in a Starbucks Cinnamon Dolce Latte
You get the point. There are some terminally unhealthy options in terminals.
The good news is that it’s easy to circumvent the available options. In other words, you can get creative with what actually constitutes a “meal” and fill up on a variety of whole food snacks like fruits, nuts, lean jerky, and 70% dark chocolate.
You’d be surprised how quickly you can become satiated with these types of foods. And not only are they lower in calories, they’re also higher in fiber and healthy fats — both of which are beneficial for gut health.
5. Jump time zones like a pro
Jet lag is like spending time with your in-laws over the holidays: bad for your health.
Not only does crossing time zones wreak havoc on your circadian rhythm (and middle school math skills), but it also messes up your gut. Traveler’s constipation, anyone?
The key to hacking your body clock and food consumption actually depends on where you’re going.
Flying West to East? Try fasting or light snacking since you’re actually losing time by going east. East to West? Eat more than you usually do. This’ll help keep your body adjusted.
6. Get fiber before your meal
What’s the one major food ingredient missing from American diets? The same one practically non-existent in airports: FIBER.
By simply adding Supergut Fiber Mix to any beverage before an airport meal, you can dramatically reduce blood sugar spikes (which will improve your energy levels when traveling), and improve digestion (which can help combat the dreaded travel constipation).
7. Use a 10-foot pole
Some airport staples are simply that much of a “No Fly Zone” for your health. Make sure to read ingredient labels and stay far away from offenders like:
- Refined and added sugars
- Pre-packaged salad dressings—opt for olive oil & lemon instead
- “Healthy” snack bars with loads of added sugars
- Sugary drinks like airplane juices and sodas
Bon appétit, bon voyage, and happy holidays!