As summer unfolds, many of us are preparing to hit the road on vacation. We’re looking forward to getting out of our daily routine and having some fun. However, vacation time can present challenges to even the healthiest people, and people with diabetes need to be especially vigilant about maintaining a healthy diet when they’re away from home.
“All of this emotion and anticipation often leads us to forget our focus of a lifestyle of eating right, exercising and making good choices,” noted Vanderbilt registered dietitian Amy Kranick.
One of the best things that you can do for yourself on vacation is to have a plan. Write your plan down and keep it with you, so you can refer to it often. Be realistic with your goals so that you have a good chance of following them, Kranick suggested.
“Make a commitment to yourself and part of your memory of this trip will be how much fun you had and how you stayed committed to taking care of yourself,” she added. “”The last thing you want to do is sabotage all your weight loss efforts with a one-week vacation.”
Once you have a plan in place, you can anticipate what kind of situations you might find yourself in. This is when you can go ahead and formulate some ideas of how you will respond.
After all, keeping on track on vacation really just boils down to two main principles: planning ahead and making good decisions. If you know you are going to be traveling—and how you will be traveling—it’s pretty easy to go ahead and prepare some food to take with you, just in case you don’t have any good options to choose from. And if you’re reasonably prepared, you will be ready to make healthy choices.
Traveling by plane
Airports can especially be a nutritional minefield. Exit the plane, take a right, and suddenly you’re in the middle of a food court with nary a healthy choice in sight.
In this situation, advanced planning is key. Registered dietitian Jennifer Garland recommends that travelers eat a healthy meal before their flight and pack a few healthy snacks in their carry-on bags. Good snacks include cheese sticks, almonds, a half-sandwich, a bag of pretzels or an apple. Those will all stay fresh during a long trip without refrigeration, too.
And then, after you make it through the security lines, buy a big bottle of water so you can stay hydrated.
Traveling by car
When you’re taking a road trip, you have a little more control over where and what you eat than you do on an airplane. Garland suggests packing a small cooler with a healthy lunch, such as sandwiches, fruit cups, baby carrots and celery sticks, light yogurt and string cheese. That way, you don’t have to stop at fast food restaurants or gas stations just off the interstate and hope for the best.
But what if you have to eat out? Or what if you want to? After all, you’re on vacation.
This is when the “making good decisions” aspect of eating while traveling becomes especially important.
You can find a healthy option at almost any restaurant or fast food place, if you try. Often, however, the portions are very large, so you may to consider doing the following:
- Splitting an entrée with someone else,
- Ordering an appetizer with a side salad instead of a large entrée,
- Leaving off the cheese and fries if you order a burger or sandwich,
- Using light or fat-free salad dressings to cut back on calories.
Kranick and Garland both recommend that future travelers check out a book called “The Calorie King” before departing. It has a wealth of tips on how to eat more healthily while on vacation, such as practicing portion control and filling up on low-calorie foods like green salad, rather than heavy hors d’oeuvres.