Nutrition is Key to Successful Travel Plans

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Contributing Providers to this Wellness Tip:
Bethany Say, RD, LDN, CDCES
Bethany Say, RD, LDN, CDCES
Stefanie Arblaster, RD, LDN
Stefanie Arblaster, RD, LDN
Sheetz Convenience Store and Gas Station
Many gas stations and convenience stores now stock healthier options for travelers! Photo courtesy of iStockPhoto.com.

Hitting the road this summer or flying the friendly skies? Although the options for fueling our bodies may seem endless while traveling, finding nutritious options can be a challenge. Being able to transport and store nutritious snacks and meals isn’t always easy if you’re sitting in a hot car or are spending the day at the beach, for example. Bethany Say, RD, LDN, CDCES and Stefanie Arblaster, RD, LDN from MMC’s Mind-Body Wellness Center have some suggestions that are easy to pack and often readily available for purchase when you’re out and about!

“Healthy snacks for when you’re on the road will help you stay fueled throughout your travel day, giving you enough energy to provide less stops while traveling, and help you stay within your health and nutrition goals,” says Stefanie Arblaster. “Fortunately, most of these can often be found at gas stations!”

 

Snack Suggestions

From the Cooler

Girl on beach with veggie container
Buy or prepare a container of healthy options to take to the beach! Photo courtesy of iStockPhoto.com

Here are some snack suggestions from Stefanie that will help maintain your daily protein and fiber intake:

  • Hard-boiled eggs, cheese sticks, veggie/meat/cheese trays, turkey wraps, and Greek yogurt are all great options that many gas stations will have in a cooler somewhere in the store.

  • Most gas stations may also have protein shakes available. I always suggest looking for at least 20 grams of protein and the lowest added sugar content available (just remember: high protein, low sugar!). Some good brands I have seen at gas stations are the Fairlife Core Power® or Muscle Milk©.
 

Grab and Go Snacks from the Shelves

  • More convenient stores have begun selling a selection of fruit, like apples, bananas, mandarin oranges, and prepared mixed fruit containers.
  • Beef jerky is very easy to pack and transport, and most brands have 10-12 grams of protein per serving.
  • Snack bars, as long as they are lower in sugar content and high in protein, provide fuel and are easy to eat on the go or store in a bag. Try brands like KIND, Barebells, and Quest.
  • Peanut butter crackers, packaged or prepared by you, are enjoyed by both children and adults!
  • If you’re craving a crunchy and/or salty snack, grab a bag of popcorn! This is generally lower in saturated fat and has more fiber than a bag of potato chips. Look for brands like Smartfood® and SKINNYPOP®.
  • Sun Chips® have 2–6 grams of fiber per serving, depending on which size bag is available.
  • Nuts, like almonds, cashews, pistachios, and of course the variety within trail mixes, are a protein option readily available at convenience stores. Sometimes you may be able to find the flavored almonds, like salt and vinegar, barbecue, etc., to get a little more variety.
  • Along the lines of nuts, sunflower seeds are another popular snack in stock at gas stations!

 

French Fries on dashboard
Do you want fries with that? If you’re traveling, pass on this for a healthier option. Photo courtesy of iStockPhoto.com

“If taking along bags of nuts or trail mix, keep a Dixie® cup (2-oz size) in the bag to help with keeping those to a mindful portion”, says Bethany Say. “While these are healthy snack choices, they are fairly high in calories due to the fat content of the nuts. Consider trail mix options that only have dried fruit, nuts, and seeds in them.”

If you’re able to take some time to prepare meals for travel, or you can make a stop and sit down for one instead of snacking, Bethany advises making healthy selections, but with some concessions (no pun intended!):

“If stopping at drive-thrus or fast food options at a rest stop for a quick meal, consider getting a burger, sandwich, or wrap, but without the fries! You can always supplement that burger or sandwich with healthier snacks in the car if it doesn’t quite fill you up. Look for grilled chicken options, and for beverages go for zero to little sugar with unsweetened tea, water, light lemonade, and zero sugar/diet sodas. Salad is often still an option, but only if you’re stopped or not the driver!”

 

Hydration While Traveling

Hiker drinking from bottle
Don’t forget to stay well hydrated and to maintain your electrolytes! Photo courtesy of iStockPhoto.com

Watching your sugar intake with beverages is one thing, but what about staying hydrated when sitting in a hot car or running between connections? “I’d say that one of the easiest ways to stay hydrated is to bring your own water bottle that is larger in size to always have it with you and to avoid having to stop so much”, advises Stefanie.

“Also I would add that because the warmer months are coming up, if your travel plans involve a lot of walking outside in the sun, for example, to also keep in mind electrolytes. You may sweat more which can cause your body to get rid of both electrolytes and water through the sweat, so water alone may not be enough to keep your body hydrated. As far as brand recognition to ensure you’re getting the right type of electrolyte product, I’d recommend Propel®, sugar-free Liquid IV, or Gatorade Zero!”

 

A Special Message for Diabetics

Glucose monitoring supplies on airplane
Diabetes should bring extra resources on their travels. Photo courtesy of iStockPhoto.com

What about managing your nutrition while traveling because of a medical condition, such as diabetes? For our diabetic travelers, Bethany Say, who is also the diabetes program coordinator at the Mind-Body Wellness Center, has a checklist for keeping blood sugar in check when you’re away from home:

  • Carry a spare glucometer, supplies, and battery.
  • Try to keep your sleeping and eating schedules as similar to your typical routine as possible.
  • Do some sightseeing, walk along the beach, etc. after larger restaurant meals to help minimize high blood sugars after eating.
  • Be extra mindful of body cues for high/low blood sugars: shakiness, dizziness, fatigue, frequent urination, excessive thirst, etc.
  • Keep hard candies (not sugar free) and/or glucose tabs on hand in case of low blood sugar, especially if you are being more active and/or have more time between your meals than normal.

 

The key to a successful vacation this summer or a period of extended travel any time of year is preparation! In addition to packing your suitcase essentials, think ahead about how you will take or find nutritious food and hydration options to continue feeling your best in order to enjoy every aspect of your trip!

Disclaimer: Meadville Medical Center does not receive compensation for the brands referenced in this post. Any mention is purely for suggestion and context for the information on the topic of nutrition while traveling.

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