By Jay Williams, Ph.D.
Does taking a vacation lead you take a break from healthy eating? If travel (pleasure or business) puts you in a downward tailspin from your at-home menu, you might want to create a travel-day food itinerary. Why start your trip feeling like crap? With some simple planning and strategy, you can hop off the plane feeling refreshed and ready for anything!
Good: Stay Hydrated
Even if you’re seriously strained for time and you absolutely can’t resist the airport restaurants, staying hydrated will do absolute wonders for your travel day. Though often over-priced, H2O is accessible everywhere (if you’re truly strapped for cash, go for the water fountains -- no excuses).
Drinking water will help with many of the obstacles that often arise throughout your travels. It can enhance your mood (a sense of humor is important when your flight is delayed), prevent headaches, aid in digestion and help with appetite control. I try to drink at least a cup of water for every hour I am flying, as well as increase my water intake pre/post flight. Herbal teas are another way to get those fluids in. If you’re prone to upset stomachs or indigestion while flying, ginger or chamomile are great solutions.
Here’s something you may not know: Commercial airplanes have very low humidity (lower than the Sahara desert, in fact) leading to dehydration. We feel most comfortable when humidity is around 50 percent -- air in the cabin can fall to as low as 3 percent on long flights.
And as much as you might want to knock one back on the flight, drinking alcohol while traveling isn’t a good idea. Alcohol dehydrates you,increases hunger, disrupts your sleep cycle, and messes with your blood sugar levels and your mood. If you want to spend your first day of vacation feeling haggard, with red eyes, dried-out skin and an irritable attitude, then go ahead and have that glass of wine on your flight... if not, opt for the water (no ice!).
Better: Low-Calorie Snacks
Don't ruin your diet before you even take off! Avoid the nut wagon, french fries and candy bars, and opt for one of these sub 150-calorie suggestions available in most airports:
Planters Dry-Roasted Pistachios:These nuts have 150 calories and are loaded with fiber to fill you up. The B vitamins are great for stress, and they take a long time to eat.
Mini Cliff Bar: These have only 100 calories and are packed with protein. There are four flavors, and their small size makes them easy to travel with.
Fresh Fruit Options: A small apple saves the day at around 80 calories and a potassium-filled small banana comes is about 75 calories.
Single Serve Sabra Hummus pack: A filling 150-calorie, high-protein sharable treat.
Best: Bring Your Own Food
With the airlines cutting out in-flight meals, preparing and bringing your own sky-ready food has become an art form. (Ignore the questionable looks from the TSA agent when he sees your Ziploc bag of protein powder). Here are some healthy and travel-friendly options to try:
Raw almonds and sunflower seeds:These are high in melatonin (the sleep hormone), which can help your body regulate your internal clock to an unfamiliar time zone. Almond butter with sliced apples, celery stalks or brown rice cakes are filling and easily packed.
Protein Powder:This can be mixed with juice or cold water. A study has shown that liquid protein was more effective than carbs or fat in suppressing nausea and symptoms of motion sickness.
Walnuts and dried fruit: Omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts keep your stress hormones and adrenaline in check in those high-stress, high blood pressure, high turbulence moments. Dried fruit supplies the antioxidants to protect cells from the stress effect of a flight delay and provides fiber for digestion.
Instant oatmeal: Individual packages can be easily mixed with hot water at the airport or in-flight for a filling high-fiber fix. (But do try to avoid brands with high sugar content.) Starbucks has one that's exactly 150 calories!
Eboost Supplement: This is an all-natural energy drink mix that, when added to water, forms a vitamin-rich supplement that increases energy levels and supports your body's immune system.
If you really want to upgrade your travel day, try committing to a 24-hour liquid cleanse. Cleansing on a travel day takes making poor diet choices completely out of the question, aids in keeping digestion and elimination on track in the new time zone, and sets you up for eating healthier/smaller portions the next few days of your trip. Not to mention you’ll look great in your bikini photos!