Frequent fliers swear by a variety of tricks to avoid jet lag: Seek sunlight upon landing; always choose water; avoid alcohol. But there’s more to stoking the body’s circadian rhythm than through a sunny day or a bottle of water.
“Research has shown that when and what you eat can affect your internal biological clock,” says Ryan Maciel, R.D.N., a dietitian based in Needham, Mass. “That’s good news for frequent flyers. Altering what you consume and when you eat could lessen the effects of jet lag.”
Because the solution sadly doesn’t lie in a flight attendants’ cart, here’s how to get started.
Time your first local espresso well
To help your body adjust to a new time zone, you want to eat breakfast when it’s time to eat breakfast in your destination, and lunch when it’s time to eat lunch. But caffeine proves to be a particularly potent ingredient. “It takes most people six to eight hours to metabolize caffeine so that they don’t feel the effects of it anymore,” says Dana Hunnes, Ph.D., R.D., a senior dietitian at Ronald Regan-UCLA Medical Center. That means a 3 p.m. cappuccino in Rome (even if it’s 9 a.m. at home) can make falling asleep at 10 p.m. that much harder. Hunnes’ rule: If you arrive after noon, save the coffee for the morning.
Need something to sip into the evening? Opt for caffeine-free herbal tea, Maciel says. Ingredients like valerian and chamomile promote healthy sleep, too.
Look for berries
Dry plane air and jet lag can dehydrate you and seriously slow your gastrointestinal system, but walking through a local farmers’ market could help. “Berries may potentially help with jet lag as they are filled with phytonutrients, antioxidants, fiber, and water,” notes Hunnes. “They hydrate, they have fiber—which helps with regularity—and the antioxidants can decrease inflammation associated with dehydration and travel.” Other fruits such as watermelon and water-rich vegetables like celery and lettuce can keep you quenched, too, says Maciel.
Eat carbs for dinner
Italian travelers should enjoy their pasta. Foods like rice, pasta, and potatoes make the sleep-promoting amino acid tryptophan more available to your brain, notes Maciel. Lean proteins like poultry and fish also contain high amounts of Tryptophan.
Later in the night, consider a bedtime snack of cherries—one of the few foods to contain the body’s natural sleep hormone melatonin—or bananas, which are full of magnesium and potassium, two minerals that help us fall and stay asleep, says Maciel. Pair them with a glass of skim milk: “The calcium in milk acts as a sleep aid by helping to convert the amino acid tryptophan into melatonin.”
Eat for energy
Despite the familiarity of the glowing arches after a long flight at an airport halfway around the planet, proceed with caution: Processed fast food can reduce levels of a calming brain chemical called serotonin, making it difficult to fall asleep later, says Maciel. Adds Hunnes: “The salt will just make you feel more bloated than the plane did. The cheese may just constipate you more.”
Be boring. Roasted vegetables, greens, whole-grain pasta, or healthy fats in avocados or nuts will provide you with sustained energy throughout the day, says Maciel.
And to tame your mind’s unrelenting image of a bacon, egg, and cheese? Settle for a compromise. Starbucks’ Spinach, Feta, and Cage Free Egg White Breakfast Wrap is low-calorie, says Maciel, and has filling protein, vegetables, and whole grains.
This article originally appeared on CNTraveler.com.