By Megan Hovis
Summer is filled with longer days, outdoor activities and lots of travel. As fun as it can be, it can also means getting off of your normal, healthy eating routine. There are ways to enjoy the adventures without ruining your healthy habits. As a self-proclaimed “routine eater” I used to be a bit frightened that all of the airport, hotel and restaurant foods would wreak havoc on how I felt during travel. Thankfully I learned some tricks that helped me stay on track.
My first tip is to PLAN AHEAD. If you are flying or riding in a car for several hours you want to be sure you have healthy snacks on hand. Some great choices include:
• 100 calorie packages of raw nuts
• Travel packages of Justin’s almond butter or peanut butter
• Baggies of low-sodium pretzels
• Dry cereal like Cheerios, Puffins, Shredded Wheat
• Low sugar protein bars for when you are in a pinch (Quest, KIND etc.)
• Mini whole wheat bagels or whole wheat English Muffins
• Apples, banana or pears
• Individual sized containers of hummus with celery or whole grain crackers or pita bread
Always keep sodium to a minimum as flying already dehydrates the body and extra sodium can lead to bloating
At the Airport:
If you have forgotten to pack enough food, or you have a delay in which you need to find a meal, here are your best bets for eating well at the airport:
• Starbucks: Opt for the Perfect Oatmeal: It is loaded with fiber and keeps you full during flight. You can also choose the reduced fat turkey bacon on English Muffin Sandwich. It provides protein and whole grains to keep you full.
• McDonald’s: Go for a salad with light dressing on the side (nothing fried), or even a grilled snack wrap. If they are serving breakfast an Egg Mcmuffin can do the trick in a pinch. Just be sure to drink a lot of water with it.
• Panda Express-: Try to limit the sodium by decreasing the amount of foods with heavy sauces. Try the Mixed Veggies Entrée for a good choice.
• Au Bon Pain: Try a whole grain bagel and fruit cup to keep yourself on track
• Dunkin’ Donuts: Egg White Veggie Flatbread has only 290 calories and provides 11 grams of protein
• Sushi: Order a pack of sushi with vegetables and lean fish (skip friend items and soy sauce)
Here are a few airport foods to avoid at all costs:
• Cinnabon Cinnamon Roll: One roll has 813 calories, 55 grams of sugar and 32 grams of fat
• Pizza Hut Stuffed Crust Pan Pizza: One slice of this pizza contains 390 calories, 21 grams of fat and 820 milligrams of sodium. Usually people don’t just stop at one slice!
• Au Bon Pain Baja Turkey Sandwich: This sandwich, which sounds healthy, actually contains 700 calories, 1,670 milligrams of sodium and 27 grams of fat
If you had planned well and were able to skip the airport food, what happens when your next flight is 10+ hours long? Here are some ways to overcome the fear of the airplane food:
• Become familiar with the airline you are flying and the options they provide during flight. Most major airlines list the meals/snacks online or can provide information if you call.
• As more and more people fly, airlines are starting to offer healthier low-fat, low-cholesterol, low-sodium, and low-calorie meals.
• You can request a special meal for dietary reasons, but must do this when you book the flight or before you travel. Many airlines can accommodate vegetarians, diabetics, and those with lactose or other allergy intolerances.
• Drink water throughout the flight! It is so important that you combat dehydration by sipping water every 15-30 minutes.
• Snack every 2-3 hours. In order to lessen jet lag, it is crucial that you eat a small snack in regular intervals.
• Never skip a meal! This will only lead to further fatigue and possible stomach distress
• If you have a bit of a weaker stomach, and have had issues when flying in the past, it is best to avoid beverages that irritate the stomach such as coffee, alcohol, and acidic juices like orange juice). Pure water, or teas are your best bets.
• Acid reflux is another issue that can occur when flying. To avoid this issue, it is recommended that you ban fried, greasy, and heavy foods.
Now that you have successfully made it to your destination, it is time to get back on your “normal” routine, or as much as you can. I always recommend finding a grocery store as soon as possible and stocking up on fresh, healthy foods. If you do not have a place to store the food, or there is not a local grocery store nearby, you may have to eat your meals out.
Below are some tips on healthy eating when eating out is your only option:
Healthy Breakfast Options –
At a restaurant:
• Choose an omelet filled with vegetables and order a side of whole-wheat toast instead of a stack of pancakes and syrup.
• A bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruit is very filling and loaded with protein and fiber
• Order a whole wheat bagel or English Muffin and pair it with a side of egg whites and fruit or yogurt
At a hotel:
• Choose a whole grain cereal with low-fat milk (add fruit if available)
• Yogurt topped with fresh fruit
• Yogurt or hard-boiled eggs make a good protein packed meal
• Whole grain toast or English muffin with peanut butter and eggs on the side
• Avoid high fat or fried items, danishes, pastries or sweet muffins
At a convenience store:
• Low fat milk and low-sugar single serve cereal packs are great and convenient- Be aware of the cereals that contain more than 8g of sugar per serving.
• Protein bars (low sugar) can often be found at convenience stores. Watch out for high sugar bars.
• Some stores provide a refrigerated section that has fresh fruit, yogurt, string cheese and hard-boiled eggs. These are great choices for breakfast
Healthy Snack Options –
• Choose fresh fruits and vegetables whenever possible (limit sauces or dips)
• Buy bottled water and drink frequently. You never want to be without it!
• Look for individual packages of low-fat string cheese, low-sodium nuts, and eggs.
• Find bags of whole grain crackers or pretzels to have as your safe food at all times. Again, it is better to have these on hand in case of hunger emergencies.
• Limit unhealthy fat items (such as friend foods, donuts and pastries, heavy sauces) as much as possible. They will just make you feel sluggish and tired.
• Do your best to find a sandwich shop or a grocery store that cells sliced protein. Making a sandwich on whole grain bread with lean meat and veggies is easy and quick. Often, delis will allow you to build a salad with greens, lean protein, and light dressing as well.
• Keep nuts on hand. These include, almonds, cashews, and walnuts. They can be great to just grab a handful if you have a long wait at a restaurant of the timing of a meal is out of your control.
Healthy Lunch or Dinner in Restaurant –
Start the meal off right with a low-sodium soup or a green salad. When traveling, it is not uncommon to become “stopped up.” Eating a high fiber salad may be just the trick. Just be sure to use light vinaigrette or olive oil based dressing (instead of creamy, rich dressings) and does not include crispy fried items. You may also want to follow these tips:
• Split a meal with a friend or family member. Most restaurants serve 3-6 times a normal portion size of your food items. Just because you are on vacation does not mean that nutrition doesn’t count.
• Choose items that are grilled, steamed, form the “light” section or that can be prepared in a healthier way. It never hurts to ask your server to prepare your food a different way in order to benefit nutritionally.
• Load up on vegetables. Almost all restaurants have mixed veggies as a side choice. Just make sure the vegetables are not loaded in butter. Be sure to ask the server before you order. Ask for the veggies to be steamed only.
• If you are truly craving dessert, split it, or order a nice fruit cup or a light sorbet. You don’t want to stuff yourself every meal just because you are away from your normal routine.
If you must stop at a fast food restaurant in order to get something in your system, try to be very selective about what you order. Here are some things to look out for:
• Keep your eyes out for a sandwich shop where you have control over what goes into your meal. Prepared sandwiches are usually not a great option. Start with whole grain bread and add lean protein and loads of veggies. Keep your condiments light (light vinaigrette or mustard). Pair it with a piece of fruit or yogurt.
• Watch out for buffets!! Unfortunately most people end up eating 3 times the amount that they normally would just because there are so many options. It is also very easy to just have a little here and a little there. It adds up!
• No matter where you are, keep portions in check. Don’t super-size your meal. Even if you think it is a great deal, you don’t need all that food. If you are still hungry opt for a healthy snack an hour or two later.
All of that being said, it is also good to have a bit of “flexibility” when traveling. The hotel you stay at may not carry your special brand of almond milk, the grocery stores may not carry your favorite recovery drink, and the restaurant you stop at may not have whole grain bread as an option. Do the best you can with what you have, and don’t let the thought of not eating perfectly ruin your fun on vacation. Eat the best you can, relax, and have a great time in a new place!! Just try to get back into your healthy eating routine as soon as possible when you return from your trip. Safe travels!