Many people will include some kind of travel in their holiday plans, whether a weekend getaway or an extended trip. When eating at fast-food restaurants and roadside diners, it can be hard to choose the best menu options for maintaining a healthy diet.
“Making healthful choices gets difficult when options are limited, but with a little planning you can get the nutrition you need,” said Mona Barnett, R.N., B.S.N., a personal trainer and health promotion expert in Austin, Texas. “Think about choices that provide complex carbohydrates, such as a whole-wheat bagel, and a little protein. Carbohydrates provide energy without a lot of fat. Small amounts of protein help you feel full longer and keep your muscles fueled,” she added.
Stop and Go
“Whether a restaurant or a brown bag, you should stop to eat your lunch or dinner if possible,” said Diane Quagliani, R.D., a dietitian in Western Springs, Ill., and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. “It can be a double whammy if you are sitting a long time and your choices are limited, especially to higher fat, fast-food type offerings,” she explained.
Quagliani added, “It’s easy to overeat if you are concentrating on the road. When you’re not focusing on eating, it’s easy to miss your body’s signal that you are full. You could easily go from satisfied to stuffed before you realize it.
“Stopping is a good strategy. You’ll enjoy your meal more, and can get in a bit of exercise. Try having a picnic if weather permits and get in a nice walk,” Quagliani said.
If your plans include a restaurant, look for whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean protein selections, says the ADA. Good choices include:
pasta with marinara sauce
grilled chicken and vegetables on pasta
rice and beans
soft tortillas filled with lean meat or chicken, and vegetables
“If you’re traveling by air, call at least 24 hours ahead and ask for a reduced-fat meal,” said Tammy Baker, R.D., a dietitian in Tempe, Ariz. Virtually all major airlines are happy to accommodate, she says.
According to the ADA, eating on the road can make it difficult to maintain your waistline, not to mention your good nutrition sense. The ADA’s nutrition experts advise you to pack your own nutritious meals and snacks, rather than relying on convenience stores, fast-food restaurants and other sources of quick meals on the go.
The ADA’s tips for healthful eating while traveling are:
Bring an insulated cooler for perishable foods such as yogurt, cheese snacks and sandwiches.
Leave room in your cooler for single-portion beverages, such as juice boxes or canned tomato juice.
For a slightly exotic snack, pack pita bread and hummus.
Other portable, healthy foods, which don’t need to be kept cool, include:
reduced-fat crackers with peanut or other nut butters
raisins and other dried fruit
small boxes of ready-to-eat cereal
individual cans of tuna packed in water
According to the ADA, the bottom line to healthful snacking and eating on the road is to plan ahead. Before you hop in the car, on a plane or a train, figure out your own fuel needs. Take some time to plan what you are going to eat, and it will be much easier to avoid travel temptations and control your food choices.