School is out, summer is here, and many of us have plans to hit a carnival or amusement park in the coming months. But while roller coasters and Tilt-A-Whirls might be on many of our schedules this season, for countless other folks they’re vomit-inducing nightmare fuel.
The jostling you experience on these coasters—along with the wafting smells of frying foods and axle grease—is enough to soften even the most iron stomachs on the wrong day. And the last thing you want to do is waste your ever pricier amusement park ticket on standing in line for the restrooms instead of the rides.
The good news is that there are plenty of precautions you can take before and after you hit the rides to avoid feeling ill. The Takeout spoke to Sarah Clark, a Chicago-based nurse practitioner, for some tips on how to manage motion sickness without having to forego one of the other great pleasures of the park: the delicious food.
My mom’s side of the family has a tendency to get a little queasier. She always left the amusement park parenting duties to my father, who in turn declared that she was “missing the fun gene.” While that’s a bit harsh, it is true that some people already know that they’re prone to motion sickness; I personally have no issue with coasters, but small boats can sometimes trigger nausea for me. (Call me a land-ho!)
If you know there’s a chance that the rides will get your breakfast a-churning, there are pre-park precautions you can take, Clark says. Hydrate and don’t eat heavy meals the day before you plan on hitting the rides, and eat a small, bland breakfast the morning of your trip. Think plain toast, dry cereal, or oatmeal. It’s a preemptive BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) diet strike.
The more depressing the food, the better. Save the fun for later! And if you don’t mind throwing a few extra items in your bag or pockets, bring along some ginger chews or nausea medication like Dramamine.
If you find yourself getting a little queasy once you start riding, there are safe foods that’ll help keep the churning at bay—and some foods to avoid at all costs.
“Skip the fried foods, or save them for the end of the day before heading home,” Clark says. These foods already have the potential to cause discomfort, even if you weren’t throwing yourself through the air all day. Plus they’re also slow to digest, so they’ll be sloshing around in your stomach even longer.
“Protein-rich foods like hot dogs, turkey legs, or chicken kabobs are better than burgers or chicken fingers,” Clark adds.
Another good option is to find carbs that are on the bland side. When you get stressed, your stomach produces acid that can upset it even more, but carbs help soak up the acid. As Clark notes, “Pretzels or popcorn can be okay, but skip the cheese sauce or butter.”
And be sure to drink water throughout the day. If you do want more of a sweet fix (it’s an amusement park, after all—you shouldn’t totally deprive yourself!), Clark recommends opting for lemonade over soda, and popsicles or sherbet instead of ice cream. The less sugar, the better. Again, it’s all about choosing options that are easier to digest, and sugar can be tough on our stomachs and are more likely to cause headaches.
“Regardless of what you eat, be mindful of portion size and stop before you’re full,” Clark says. “Smaller, more frequent meals are better. Split things with a friend.”
So there you have it: You’ll save a little money and try a greater number of treats, all while staving off nausea and headaches. Who says having the motion sickness gene can’t be a little fun?