Healthy holiday nutrition on the go

By | November 21, 2023

Vacation and travel are two factors that can each make healthy eating challenging. Put them together and you have the perfect recipe for highly processed, on-the-go meals that are loaded with salt, calories, unhealthy fats, and refined grains.

This is the time of year to indulge a little, but it’s important to maintain a balanced approach and not overdo it and give in to temptation or convenience (airport vending machines anyone?). Luckily, with a little advance planning, you can make room for holiday treats when you’re out and about visiting loved ones And Keep your healthy eating goals on track.

Understanding the challenges of eating on vacation

When you embark on a vacation trip, food traps seem to be everywhere. On the road, fast food restaurants sing their siren song at rest stops, train stations, bus stops and airport terminals. Vending machines tempt you with quick and portable snacks. And once you reach your destination, you’ll likely be bombarded with all sorts of homemade treats, aisle after aisle, at various festive gatherings.

In fact, there seems to be food everywhere, whether you’re sampling baked goods made “just for you” so as not to hurt Aunt Millie’s feelings, mindlessly nibbling on the offerings of a cheese board while watching the game, or whether you’re trying to make something Although you usually only have a short amount of time during the year to enjoy some holiday favorites, it can be difficult to maintain a balanced approach to mealtime.

Pre-trip planning for healthy eating

A little pre-trip planning can be the first line of defense for sticking to your nutritional goals during the holidays.

Embrace your identity as a healthy eater.

A simple suggestion from Duke University Health System? Tell yourself that you are a healthy eater. Studies suggest that the idea of ​​being someone who eats healthy leads to greater intentions to follow through. Thinking about past times when you made healthy choices can help boost motivation to continue that trend.

Pack healthy meals and snacks.

Taking the time to pick up some portable groceries before your trip can help you avoid the temptation and convenience factor of fast food restaurants (and is especially helpful for those with dietary restrictions who may have difficulty getting to transportation hubs safely and to find suitable options). . If your travel style allows it, the Cleveland Clinic recommends bringing a small cooler with ice packs and filling it with things like fresh vegetables (e.g. baby carrots, celery sticks, mini cucumbers) and portable fresh fruit (e.g. bananas, apples). , grapes), low-fat cheese spreads or cheese slices, single-serve containers of hummus or guacamole, and whole-grain chicken or turkey wraps. Also, make sure you bring enough water.

If you can’t accommodate a cooler (or want to supplement the offering), consider non-perishable items like applesauce, single-serve containers of tuna, single-serve bags of vegetable chips, packets of nuts or trail mix, air-popped popcorn, low-sugar protein bars, and peanut butter sandwiches on whole-grain bread. (Check this list with the Transportation Security Administration [TSA] to determine what foods are allowed on planes, trains and ships.)

Check out the dining options along your route.

Find out what options are available along the roads you travel on or at the air, train or bus terminals you pass through. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises that chain restaurants and similar establishments with 20 or more locations must post nutritional information on their menus. Many of these menus are available online, allowing you to plan your meals in advance.

Request a mini-fridge in your hotel room.

If you’re staying in a hotel at your destination, ask for a mini-fridge in your room or choose a suite with kitchen facilities so you can prepare your own food. And if your transportation allows, pack a few small kitchen items and appliances, such as a can opener, reusable containers and a travel blender, recommends the Duke University Health System.

Navigate to transport hubs and eat on board

If the food facilities at an airport food court or other transportation hub or on an airplane are your best or only option, you can take steps to make the healthiest choices possible.

According to Kaiser Permanente, it’s important not to go to restaurants excessively hungry, as this can lead to overeating or making unhealthy choices. To keep portion sizes under control, avoid overly large portions at fast food restaurants and consider splitting the meal with one of your tablemates. Alternatively, if you have access to a fridge, you can ask for a to-go box and pack half of your meal before you start eating.

To reduce the fat content of your meals, opt for dishes prepared by boiling, poaching, grilling, baking or steaming. Have butter, sour cream, sauces and dressings on the side and avoid high-fat extras like cheese or bacon on burgers.

If possible, opt for additional vegetables, such as as toppings on pizzas or as substitutes for sides such as French fries, or try vegetarian dishes. And choose whole grains like brown rice or whole grains instead of refined or heavily processed options like white rice or white bread.

When it comes to drinks, opt for water, fruit-flavored sparkling water, or unsweetened iced tea instead of soft drinks or cocktails.

For healthy choices on board, the website Expatica recommends staying away from foods covered in sauce (which is often high in fat and sugar). Avoid white bread, white rice and refined pasta. skipping the drink during the flight; and choosing a meal high in lean protein (e.g., white meat chicken or turkey, sirloin steak, or beans).

Healthy Choices at Holiday Feasts

Arrived at your destination and ready to enjoy vacation fun and food? According to Marci Gluck, PhD, FAED, a psychologist at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it’s important to maintain a flexible mindset and not take an all-or-nothing approach to your holiday meals. “Celebrations don’t have to interfere with your lifestyle. You’ll have plenty of options to follow your plan and eat healthy,” she says. Jody Engel, MA, RD, an NIH registered dietitian, recommends eating foods you love in moderation and choosing special treats that are unique to the season rather than things you can eat at any time. It’s also important to eat mindfully – paying attention to each bite and savoring it rather than distractedly chewing can leave you feeling satisfied with less.

Stay hydrated and avoid excessive alcohol consumption

When it comes to drinks, there are a few rules that apply no matter where you are. First, make sure you drink enough fluids. According to the National Council on Aging, drinking plenty of water can also help improve energy levels and aid in weight management, among many other benefits. Maintaining adequate hydration can also prevent illness and speed recovery – an important consideration during cold and flu season. According to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, this is about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluid per day for men and 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluid per day for women, both from food as well as drinks.

During this festive season, it’s also important to consume alcohol in moderation (if you decide to do so at all). According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), moderate alcohol consumption is considered to be 2 drinks or less per day for men and 1 drink or less per day for women. (A drink is defined as 12 ounces [oz] (Beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.) And if you have any health problems, you should discuss with your doctor whether a certain amount of alcohol is safe.

A toast to health and joy on your holiday trip

As you stroll through busy airports and gather at tables full of tempting treats, it’s important to remember that the greatest gift you can give yourself this season is health. With a dash of planning, a dash of self-control, and a great sense of adventure, you can enjoy the flavors of vacation without neglecting your wellness goals.

Here’s to a happy holiday, to balanced plates like the scales of culinary justice and to toasts in honor of health and happiness. May your travels be joyful, your celebrations fulfilling, and your holidays filled with the warmth of your health. Have a good trip and enjoy your meal!

Medical Advice Disclaimer: This information does not constitute medical advice or recommendations of any kind and you should not rely on the information contained in such posts or comments to replace consultations with your qualified healthcare professional to address your individual needs.

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