Nutrition When Travelling: Eating Healthy in Unfamiliar Destinations

Lisa Fritscher February 1, 2011 No Comments

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Diet and Travel

Travel is filled with opportunities to blow your diet

Travel is fraught with opportunities to completely blow your family’s diet. Fast food restaurants and greasy spoons beckon hungry road trippers, while many airlines have cut back the in-flight options to stale potato chips or high-sugar candy. The good news is that it is entirely possible to make healthy dining options during your trip. The bad news is that it requires advance planning and organization.

Road Trips

The best way to avoid pigging out on unhealthy food is to eat small, frequent meals. On a road trip, consider packing your own food. Dad and I travel full-time in our RV, and we try to always keep a “car bag” packed. We generally carry individual tuna salad kits, canned meats such as Vienna sausages or sardines, crackers, fresh fruit and a small assortment of cookies and candy. When we remember to pack the cooler, we add yogurt, fruit cups, cheese sticks, hummus and other healthier options.

Packing Food for a Picnic on the Road

Packing a picnic puts you in control of your family's dining

One of my favorite childhood road trip traditions was picnicking at roadside rest areas. Before each trip, we splurged on fun foods that we didn’t get every day. At the rest area, my parents would let me buy a soda and some cookies or chips to add to my meal. Instead of sitting still in a restaurant or inhaling burgers in the car, we had some time to run around in the grass and enjoy the sunshine. My favorite stops were always state Welcome Centers, where we picked up maps and tourist brochures or visited the attached museum displays. Now that Dad and I travel full time, we don’t always go the picnic route, but we still try to stop at the Welcome Center every time we cross a state line.

Flights

Airport Food and Nutrition

Airport food has greatly improved in recent years

Last year, Dad and I discovered one of the dirty little secrets of the airline industry–first class still gets amazing food service. We were booked in coach on Alaska Airlines from Anchorage to Denver, but the upgrade fairy decided to smile on us and we were sent to first class. It was an overnight flight, so I didn’t expect much, but we had a never ending supply of hummus, gourmet crackers, trail mix and other treats.

If you, like us, generally fly coach, don’t expect the airline to feed you too well. When we got to Denver, we ran into someone we had met in Alaska. He told us that on his coach class flight on Frontier, he was offered stale potato chips–for a fee. This has been our experience as well across several airlines.

Instead, take nutrition into your own hands by packing some snacks in your carryon bag. Current TSA regulations allow you to carry on food items that are not liquids or gels, and rules surrounding pies and cakes can get tricky. Minimize your hassles by choosing pre-packaged items that are entirely sealed and are of a fully solid consistency.

Alternately, most major airports have dramatically raised the quality of food that is sold airside. Although airport food is pricey, much of it is reasonably healthy. Look for cafés that sell wraps, salads and sandwiches, all of which are easy to carry onto the airplane. You can purchase bottled water airside as well, rather than waiting for flight attendants to come around with drink service.

Cruises

Healthy Dining Options on Cruise Ships

Cruise ships offer a wide range of healthy dining options

Cruise ships are well known for the seemingly limitless array of food choices, almost all of which are included in your fare. Although deep fried, high-fat options are everywhere, cruise lines now offer a plethora of healthier selections. Look for items that are labeled “spa fare” or similar. These healthier choices follow strict guidelines regarding the amount of fat, cholesterol and sodium they can contain. Some cruise lines publish nutritional content labels for their healthier options in the menus, while others do not. Regardless, sticking to spa fare and simpler dishes can drastically reduce your family’s chances of gaining weight on your cruise.

In Town

Healthy Food Options at Local Restaurants

Scope out the local restaurants when you arrive at your destination

Although you may be able to curb bad habits until you get to your destination, the majority of your vacation meals are eaten once you arrive. Thankfully, both traditional restaurants and museum cafes have gotten on board with healthier solutions.

Shortly after checking into your hotel, take the time to scope out the neighborhood. Familiarize yourself with not only the chain restaurants, but also the mom-and-pops. Knowing where to go for a good home-cooked meal can help you avoid making bad choices out of sheer hunger or exhaustion.

Likewise, if you know you’ll be spending the day at a tourist attraction, check out the café early in the day. This gives you time to study the menu and make arrangements to eat elsewhere if nothing on the menu appeals to you.

Finding Balance

Treating Yourself is Fine in Moderation

There's nothing wrong with the occasional splurge on a decadent dessert

Ultimately, you are on vacation and you deserve to splurge a bit. If your lodging provides a kitchen, you can prepare some meals yourself. You can also keep healthy snack items close at hand. But don’t go overboard.  Allowing your kids to eat some chicken nuggets, sharing a pizza or even indulging in a decadent dessert won’t totally ruin your family’s diet. Like anything else in life, moderation is the key.

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avatarAbout the Author:

Lisa is a full-time travel writer. She lives in an RV with her disabled father and writes about their experiences. Although she has no children of her own, Lisa loves being an Aunt to her own relatives and the children of all her friends. You can follow her adventures on her blog, Travel Confessions.

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