Summer is a time for trips. Whether you are taking a day trip to Bear Lake or an extended vacation, one thing you’ll always have to plan for is what food you’ll eat.
When traveling, the easy choice may not always be the most nutritious choice. And while that may be OK for a meal or two, over time eating low-nutrient foods can affect your energy levels and your overall mood, both of which are important to having an enjoyable vacation. In this article we will explore why nutrition is important when traveling and learn some ways to make healthy choices for different travel situations.
Why is nutrition important when traveling?
It’s common knowledge that eating healthy has many benefits. Nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, lean meats, low-fat dairy, and whole grains provide our bodies with many essential nutrients.
These essential nutrients in food have many roles in maintaining key physiological processes in our body. When we consume the recommended amount of those nutrient-dense foods each day, we are following a healthy dietary pattern.
Maintaining a healthy dietary pattern can help you feel your best. You always want to feel your best, but it is especially true when traveling. If we are not consistent in following a healthy dietary pattern, we miss out on essential nutrients and our short- and long-term health is affected.
In the short term a poor diet may lead to low energy, bloating or headaches, affect our immune function, and more. We want to minimize these by making healthy food choices when traveling. Here are some tips you can try when traveling this summer:
Tips for day trips
n Pack nutrient-dense snacks that the whole family can enjoy and do not need to be refrigerated. Types of easy and healthy snacks include cut veggies and fruit, pretzels or crackers, trail mix, fruit leather, beef jerky and popcorn.
n Skip the sugar-sweetened beverages and bring water instead. Staying hydrated is just as important as the food you eat.
n Before the trip, research places to eat in the area. Having a couple of places in mind where you might want to eat and knowing what foods they offer on their menu can help you choose a place with healthier food options.
n Find balance with your food choices. On your trip you may be visiting the town to try the famous huckleberry ice cream or the world’s best chocolate cake or even the largest pizza slices in town! Food on a trip can be a special occasion and a great memory. So instead of skipping out on a memorable food moment to make a “healthier” food choice, plan ahead. This could include packing healthy snacks, eating a nutrient-dense breakfast or lunch, or even having more nutrient-dense meals the day before. This will provide your body with the nutrients it needs and dismiss any guilty feelings you may have from indulging in a special treat.
n Don’t skip breakfast. Mornings on the day of a trip can be busy with getting the car packed, getting yourself and your kids ready and getting out the door. Plan ahead so you have time in the morning. Prepare as much as you can the night before and wake up early enough to give yourself time to eat breakfast. Skipping breakfast can cause crankiness in children and adults and lead to poorer choices at lunchtime.
Tips for multiple-day vacations
Many of the tips from the previous section could also be applied to multiple-day trips. But unlike single-day trips where you may have one or two meals away from home, all of your meals will be eaten out when traveling for multiple days. Here are a few more tips you can use when traveling for an extended period of time.
n Share entrée items with those you are traveling with. Restaurant portion sizes are often much larger than what you’re able to eat, but getting a to-go box when traveling is not practical. Sharing an entrée item can remove the feeling of having to eat all your food even past the point of fullness. It can also help save money.
n Choose nutrient-dense sides. While it’s tempting to always choose to have fries on the side, balance your meals by ordering a side salad, a baked potato, steamed vegetables, or other items that are higher in nutrients and lower in calories.
n Look for menu items that use cooking methods such as steamed, oven-roasted, stir-fried or pan-fried, grilled, or broiled. These are examples of healthier cooking methods which are often lower in calories.
In summary, while we often go on vacation to escape the stressors of everyday life, eating healthy is one thing we can’t leave behind. Choosing to have a healthy eating pattern can keep your body healthy and full of energy when traveling. Try out these tips on your next vacation and see how making small changes can make a big difference.