Monday, August 22, 2011

Tips for healthy eating when traveling

Adapted from Fit Soul, Fit Body by Brant Secunda and Mark Allen

Is fast food your fall-back plan when eating on the road? It’s best to avoid foods that leave you feeling depleted, bloated, and tired. As athletes know, healthy food and plenty of water sustain your energy levels, fuel your muscles, and help you recover quickly. The food you eat on the road will serve as your traveling repair kit.

Healthy eating starts where you stop.

Instead of stopping at a fast-food joint, stop at a grocery store that offers whole or healthy foods -- fruits, bagged carrots, nuts, hummus -- or a supermarket that features a salad bar. You’ll expand your choices (and reduce junk-food temptations).

Eat frequently and in smaller amounts.

Eating small amounts of healthy foods throughout the day tells your brain that the food supply is plentiful, so it's okay to burn through those calories quickly—plus you’ll have more energy. Eating too many calories in one meal -- even if they're healthy calories -- sends your brain the message that leaner times must be around the corner, so those calories get stored as fat. Eating too much at one sitting also makes you sluggish and sleepy.

Eat plenty of protein.

Eating the right amount of complete protein for your weight and activity level stabilizes blood sugar (preventing energy lags), enhances concentration, and keeps you lean and strong. A complete protein is any animal and dairy product or a grain plus a legume (such as whole grain bread with nut butter or corn tortilla with beans). Protein gives you energy for a long hike, a long drive, or a day at the beach.

Photo of pears by Beverly Burmeier
Pack snacks so you're not skipping meals.

When traveling, we may not have access to food at regular intervals. Or we skip meals so we can have that big piece of chocolate cake later. But your body responds as if it's facing a food shortage, and your metabolism slows down to prevent you from starving. Pack healthy snacks in your car or backpack such as almonds, raw vegetables and hummus, yogurt and berries, fresh and dried fruit, and hard-boiled eggs.

Avoid "feel bad" foods.

When you're on the road, it's particularly essential to avoid foods that drain your energy and deflate your mood. Foods to avoid: (1) simple carbohydrates or high glycemic foods, such as fruit juices, sodas, refined grain products, or sugary snacks; (2) anything deep fried; (3) nonfat desserts and sweeteners, which are loaded with chemicals that your body can't easily metabolize; (4) anything partially hydrogenated (this includes nondairy creamer, Jiffy-style peanut butter, margarine, and most packaged baked goods); and (5) excess alcohol.

Drink lots of water.

The body needs water for virtually all of its functions. Drinking plenty of water will flush your body of toxins, keep your skin fresh, and help you eat less. It will also help you avoid travel lag, symptoms of overexposure to the heat or sun, and junk-food cravings. Many of the unhealthy cravings we experience on the road can be satisfied with a refreshing drink of pure water.

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