Monday, August 17, 2009

Pack healthy food, not calories and fat

By Alison

A fellow RD, Elizabeth Ward, recently offered suggestions for eating healthy while traveling in a USA Today article. Definitely a timely topic as we plow through August and continue our summer getaways by car, train and plane. Traveling can be a great excuse to go into “I’m on vacation” mode and opt for high fat, high sugar snacks and meals.

My husband is used to the rigmarole I go through every time we go away. No road trip of ours is complete without a cooler packed with sandwiches, fruit, and water. There is also a bag of dried foods like cereal, pretzels, and healthy bars that won’t melt in the car.

On road trips, the highways beg for you to pullover and indulge in Carvel, McDonald’s, or other fattening fare. Packing a cooler can help you avoid the sudden impulse to stifle tummy rumbles with fried food, soda and candy. Do it the night before your trip so it’s one less thing to worry about the morning you hit the road. If you don’t have time or room for bringing food, many roadside picks are better than others. Elizabeth Ward offers suggestion of meals under 550 calories at popular stops including Subway and McDonald’s.

Here’s a few more suggestions to add to her list:

Dunkin Donuts: Many choices off of their DD Smart List are lower calorie and fat.

  • Egg white turkey sausage flat bread sandwich (280 calories, 6g fat, 3g fiber,19g protein)
  • Plain bagel with reduced-fat cream cheese (430 calories, 11g fat, 3g fiber, 14g protein)


  • Grande Strawberry Banana Vivanno Smoothie made with non-fat milk (270 calories, 5g fat, 7g fiber, 15g protein)
  • Reduced-fat turkey bacon with cholesterol-free egg & reduced-fat white cheddar sandwich (350 calories, 11g fat, 3g fiber, 20g protein)

Local deli/sandwich shop:

  • Always try to opt for your turkey, roast beef or grilled veggies on bread vs. a bagel, hero or other type of roll. Typically the bread will have less calories than most large rolls.
  • Get mustard or low-fat mayo vs. regular mayo.
  • Top your sandwiches with lettuce and tomato for extra fiber.
  • If you get cheese, ask for one slice, which averages around 70-100 calories and approximately 7g fat. Delis tend to add several slices of cheese and this can tally up quickly.
  • If there is a salad option, opt for grilled chicken or hard-cooked eggs for added protein. Choose a low-fat dressing and go easy with or avoid the cheese.

Ice cream or frozen yogurt stops:

  • Go for a "kiddie” or small size of regular or low-fat ice creams/frozen yogurt.
  • Avoid large sizes, shakes and added toppings.
  • Pick a sugar cone over a waffle cone. Waffle cones tend to hold more ice cream, meaning more fat and calories.

On our road trips, once we arrive at our destination I seek out the nearest grocery store. I buy milk for my cereal, more fruit, water, and maybe sandwich fixings if we are in the Adirondacks and planning some day hikes. Usually the rooms we stay in have a small refrigerator. If not, I pick up a bag of ice to keep perishables in the cooler.

This is not to say that we don’t go out to breakfast on vacation. When you’re trying to manage feeling overly stuffed and bloated, plus come home with an unpleasant souvenir of added weight after vacation, you must pick and choose your eating battles. For us, we love to indulge on great dinners accompanied by wine and dessert. The next morning, I’m not hungry for a massive breakfast so cereal, fruit and yogurt suits me fine.

Packing a cooler is not practical when you’re traveling via plane or to foreign countries. In these situations, you still may have a refrigerator in your hotel room and access to a local grocery. Pick up some staple items, like local fruit, so you have a healthy snack option in your room vs. visiting the vending machine. If there is no refrigerator, pick up nuts, high fiber cereals, healthy snack bars and other non-perishable items that you can stash.

Vacations are a time to kick back and relax. Enjoy local and decadent foods, but be smart about it. Keeping somewhat healthy while on vacation can help keep your digestive system regular, avoid feeling sluggish, and decrease the chances of weight gain once your return home.

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