Top 10 Tips For Staying Healthy On the Road (Or Anytime)
We’ve all been there. Vacations and traveling are exciting opportunities that help us see the world in a new way, and to experience different cultures, ideas, people, climates, and foods. But for gluten-free, Paleo, vegan, and every other label in the natural food world, it can be challenging to find options while traveling that will suit your tastes, as well as your health.
Just recently I took a quick trip to see a wedding in the mountains. It was beautiful, yet the location wasn’t too great for healthy options. However, I was able to use some of the tips I will share with you below to help me eat easily, while also “indulging” in things that I don’t normally eat, e.g. pecan pie.
Sometimes what we consider “unhealthy” food might be unavoidable on the road, especially if we haven’t planned ahead of time. These simple tips, tricks, and ideas will help you enjoy your vacation while also keeping blood sugar spikes, free radicals, and artery clogging trans-fats at bay.
Tops 10 Tips for Staying Healthy On the Road
Staying healthy on the road doesn’t mean you have to fast until you get to your destination. In fact, if certain foods are unavoidable simply because you have to eat, then go ahead! But, there are certain things you can do to counteract highly-refined carb foods, vegetable oils, and processed chemicals. Here are my favorite top 10 tips for staying healthy on the road.
- Ask for lemon water, or unsweetened ice tea with lemon. Crazy as it sounds, the acid in the lemon juice will help reduce the glycemic effect of a high-carb food, reducing the blood sugar spike you receive after eating it. This means a steadier stream of blood sugar will be released, and your insulin will not shoot as high if you were to eat that roll, cake, or taco shell on its own. Rapid blood sugar and insulin spikes result in decreased insulin sensitivity and fat storage, so using this tip will help you in every situation.
- Have one protein source with your meal. Eating a bowl of pasta (and at restaurants, it usually comes to around 4 bowls) with no protein will result in a fast rise in blood sugar and insulin. This, again, leads to insulin insensitivity as well as free radical damage and inflammation. Simply exercising afterwards doesn’t ward off the inflammation caused by the high-carb food choice. Adding a protein, like steamed fish, chicken, or beef will also help reduce the glycemic load on your body.
- Fast. OK, so I said you didn’t have to do this, and you really don’t. Fasting isn’t for everyone, especially for those who are used to eating 3 square meals a day, plus snacks. Simply put, fasting helps to increase your insulin sensitivity and decrease inflammation and free radical damage. So, when you fast, you are less likely to store carbohydrates as fat, and more likely to use them as energy. Sometimes I fast just because I’m not always hungry in the morning. I’ve found that skipping breakfast occasionally causes me no real harm. With this tip, it’s always important to listen to your body. If you are hungry, then eat.
- Plan ahead. I’ve been known to bring in my own food to restaurants because I was very religious about what went into my body. These days – not so much. I can usually find a healthy, tasty option and most restaurants, and I never feel like I’m sacrificing anything. However, I do take almonds and walnuts with me when I know I am taking a long car trip. These healthy nuts will fill you up with their monounsaturated fats and healthy protein and fiber. So, if you do decide to order a burger and fries at your next stop, you will be less likely to eat the entire meal if you have been snacking on a handful of almonds half an hour to an hour before.
- Don’t eat when angry, upset, sad, or in a negative atmosphere. Stress causes your blood sugar to become unbalanced by decreasing your insulin sensitivity. This can result in weight gain, especially if you are eating high-carbohydrate foods (but really, stress eating on any macronutrient can cause weight gain). But most of the times it isn’t all about the weight – blood sugar instability can lead to diabetes, cancer, depression, and more, simply because our bodies do not like deviating from homeostasis. When homeostasis is disrupted, dis-ease occurs. Therefore, always eat your meals when you are in a neutral, or (more so) positive mood. Your blood sugar and insulin are more likely to respond normally under pleasant internal and external conditions.
- Eat slowly. Put your fork down after each bite and really taste the food. So many people seem to have a “got to eat it now” mentality, as if their food will quickly be taken away from them. This is really the result of not being present. When you are acting unconsciously, and your mind is somewhere else, that’s where problems occur. We tend to overeat, over think, and overact when we are not present. Eating slowly will give you time to feel satisfaction and reduce your overall intake of food.
- Order salads, but be careful about the dressing. Restaurants, including fast-food restaurants, have really upped their game on the salad menus. They aren’t boring these days. We have taco salad (I usually eat the inside and skip the shell), salad with chicken, shrimp, walnuts, cranberries, and an assortment of salad dressings. Salads are usually lower in total energy (due to lower carbohydrates) and high in antioxidants. Be warned that most salad dressings are made with soybean or canola oils. Ask for olive oil and vinegar (although, in my experience, when asking for olive oil the waiters willbring out vegetable oil, so politely make sure). Add some protein, even if its just walnuts or almonds, to increase nutrient intake and satiety.
- Share a dessert. I don’t usually praise restaurant desserts, because most of them are super sized and are loaded with sugar, gluten, and rancid vegetable oils. However, if you aren’t as worried about these things as I am, yet you still are health conscious, and you would like a dessert, share one with your party. One slice of cake can easily be shared with 4 people, each person getting a taste without actually eating the entire dessert.
- Add cinnamon. This tip should really be Part Two to tip #8. Half a teaspoon of cinnamon has been shown to help balance blood sugar levels, so adding this to your meals when eating out will be helpful in reducing your blood sugar spikes after meals.
- Replace your french fries with sweet potato fries. Many restaurants are now offering sweet potato fries on their menus. Although they are more than likely fried in soybean oil, when it comes to regular french fries and sweet potato fries, the sweet potato fries are the lesser of the two “evils” (not the appropriate word I want to use – food isn’t evil, it’s just food!). Sweet potatoes are anti-inflammatory and slightly lower on the glycemic index. Plus, their bright orange color indicates their high availability of antioxidants.
So there you are – my top 10 tips for staying healthy on the road, while traveling, or anytime! These really help me out, and I hope you can incorporate them into your life and see what works for you.
Until next time, this is The Healthy Advocate.