It’s officially summer. The kids are out of school, the sun sets late, and the vacation you’ve been looking forward to since the gray days of winter is fast approaching.
But wait … suddenly travel reality sets in:
– How do I keep my diet on track while traveling?
– How do I combat digestive issues while eating different foods?
– Will a week away mess up all my progress? I tend to be all or nothing, will I freefall into road snacks and drinks on the beach?
– Am I the only one who deals with this anxiety around travel?
First, as a clinical nutritionist who’s worked with hundreds of clients, I can promise you these concerns are normal. You’re not the only one who faces travel diet anxiety.
Second, there are many practical, simple tricks and techniques you can use to eat healthily and feel your best while traveling.
Disrupted routine is a given and kind
of the point of traveling. And I don’t know about you, but I’m not traveling to eat the same food I do at home. However, our bodies can get thrown off by:
- Disrupted routine
- Poor sleep — different bed, bad pillow, unable to sleep from excitement, etc.
- Increased stress (especially for parents)
- Digestive woes — eating things we aren’t used to and/or sluggish bowels
This can lead to heartburn, bloating, overeating and constipation among other things.
Most people struggle with constipation when they travel (again, I promise you’re not the only one). To maintain regularity, follow these tips:
- Water. Drink 8-10 ounces of water for every hour you’re on a plane or in a car. This also helps with detoxification, glowing skin, and energy. Add an electrolyte powder once a day.
- Move. Walk around the airport, at rest stops and every chance you get. Movement helps keep you regular, relaxed, and happier.
- Poop support. Consider traveling with supplemental magnesium which can help you go. Magnesium also helps with muscle relaxation and sleep. Pack high fiber seeds like chia seeds and ground flax which you can add to yogurts or oatmeal usually served at hotel breakfasts, etc.
- Eat more plant foods. At meals, try to get at least two foods that come from plants to provide the fiber that your gut and microbiome need. Choose nuts, seeds and dried fruit as snacks.
I regularly hear things along the line of “nothing counts on vacation” or “it’s just what my husband and I do” or “everyone else on the trip is doing it.” Then right after they just told me how physically awful they felt and/or how much weight they gained. Their stories are filled with guilt and shame. But this doesn’t have to be the case. You can have your cake and your nutrient dense smoothie bowl too.
Remember to treat your body kindly. This means taking the time that you deserve to rest while on vacation, as well as consciously avoiding things that leave you feeling worse off.
- Moderation really is key. Repeat to yourself — I do not need to eat the whole thing. At most restaurants, portions are out of control. Just because there is an XL Burger in front of you or an amazing lava cake, doesn’t mean that you need to eat the entire thing. When ordering, ask for a “to go” box and immediately put 1/2 or 1/3 in the box from the start. If you end up eating it, that’s ok but at least you gave yourself a chance.
- Sharing is caring. My husband and I often split menu items so we can mix and match to our advantage. Some dishes have more vegetables and are lighter, whereas others are richer and fattier.
- Scout out restaurants ahead of time. Watch Youtube videos of restaurant recommendations for the area. Read reviews. Look at photos of the food. Are there nutritious and delicious options that you want instead of just a boring house salad as the only healthy option? Plus, if you’re going to order something decadent or double fried — you’ll know it will be good based on reviews.
- It is NOT all or nothing. One fall off the wagon doesn’t mean the whole trip is ruined and it certainly doesn’t mean that you should just continue to eat junk because you already started eating junk.
- Live in the moment and enjoy.
Remember that you’re on vacation. This is your time to indulge. Be present. Eat mindfully — enjoy every bite and sip. Eat and sip slowly. Savor the food, the place and the company
- Liquid calories can be sneaky. Alcohol is loaded with calories and oftentimes sugar. This can not only pack on the pounds, but it can disrupt your sleep and lead to more intense cravings. Watch out for added sugar in smoothies and juices as well.
- Try to stick to regular mealtimes. Try to keep to your normal schedule. People tend to overeat when they skip breakfast or get home late. It also leads to blood sugar swings which can cause moodiness and fatigue. Who wants that while travelling?
- Pack high fiber and protein snacks to bring.
Travel Snack Ideas
Being at the mercy of airport food or snacks on the plane is no fun. Nor is being stuck in the car or an adventure with low blood sugar giving you a headache. Having snacks on hand can ensure you’ve got choices that work for your body (plus, keep the travel tummy troubles away). They also help you avoid binge eating when you get to mealtime.
- Nuts and seeds (e.g. almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds) These are high in healthy fats and protein which can help regulate hormones, ward off cravings, and keep you regular.
- Hard-boiled eggs They are a great source of protein and healthy fats, and can be easily packed for on-the-go snacking.
- Hummus and veggies Hummus is a good source of protein and healthy fats. When paired with veggies like carrots and celery, it can is a crunchy and creamy snack that satisfies.
- Protein Bars Look for bars made with whole foods and low in added sugar. You want a minimum of 3g of fiber and 10g of protein.
- Dark chocolate Choose a variety with at least 70 percent cocoa content, as it can help reduce stress hormones and improve mood. It is also high in antioxidants and prebiotic fiber. Avoid eating at night due to the small amount of caffeine in it which can disrupt sleep.
- Coconut chips Coconut is rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) which can give you energy and leave you feeling full.
- Roasted chickpeas This is a crunchy, high-protein/high-fiber snack can be flavored with different spices and seasonings. You can make them at home or buy pre-packaged versions at the store.
- Jerky Beef or turkey jerky is a protein-packed snack that can be easily carried in your bag. Look for varieties without added sugars or preservatives.
- Trail mix Make your own trail mix with a combination of nuts, seeds, unsweetened dried fruit (or try freeze-dried fruit), dark chocolate chips and coconut flakes. This can be a satisfying and energy-boosting snack.
- Protein-filled power balls These are a no-bake option that can be made ahead. They can be easily packed and eaten on-the-go for a quick energy boost. There are all sorts of recipes online. They typically involve oatmeal, banana, and a nut butter. They can have mix-ins like chocolate chips, walnuts, protein powder, coconut flakes, carrot shavings and dried fruit.
Article in the State College Magazine https://www.statecollegemagazine.com/articles/how-to-travel-well/