by Cheryl Echevarria
From the Editor: Cheryl Echevarria is the president of the National Federation of the Blind Travel and Tourism Division and also vice president of the National Federation of the Blind of New York's Greater Long Island Chapter. In 2012 she was selected by Governor Andrew Cuomo as the Disabled Entrepreneur of the Year. She and her husband Nelson operate Echevarria Travel.
I've noticed that, as people become more conscious of how food affects their health, leaving home can sometimes present challenges for those who want to keep eating well, who want to avoid illness, or who have certain food restrictions. Here are some great tips from other seasoned travelers on how to enjoy your culinary adventures without compromising how great you want to feel. I'd love to know what other tricks or tips you have for eating well on the go. Send us your ideas to put on the NFB Travel and Tourism website at <www.nfbtravel.org>.
To help avoid trouble with eating well when you travel, try these tips:
One of the best parts of travel is getting to taste and savor all kinds of new and delicious foods, whether you're driving across the state or flying across the world. And without a doubt it's fun to let go a little and eat things you wouldn't normally eat during a week at home—that's part of the freedom and excitement of being on vacation.
But we all know the feeling when we've had way too much for too many days in a row: the lack of energy, the bloating, the dehydration, the headaches, the hangovers, the pronounced jet lag, and the increased susceptibility to illness. All of these things can really get in the way of maximizing your travel enjoyment. And, if you're someone with food restrictions, a diabetic like me, you know the added frustration of trying to find good food that will be good to and for you.
The great news is that it's easier than ever to make the kinds of food choices that will keep you healthy and energized while you're away from home and varying from your usual routine. Here are some simple ways to eat adventurously and well while you're enjoying the best moments of your trip:
1. Plan ahead. Often when we're traveling, we're out of our routine and aren't eating at regular intervals. Sometimes we can go several hours without eating anything. Contrary to the popular myth that you should hold off eating to save room for a big meal, going for long stretches without eating actually slows metabolism and causes your body to become sluggish and tired and to hang on to calories. Our bodies experience this food deprivation as mini-starvation, and this sends our brain into panic mode. To keep blood sugar stable and avoid energy lapses (which can then lead to overcompensating with high-sugar or fried foods), aim for eating a little bit every couple of hours while in transit and while you're out and about. Eat foods that are nutrient-dense and high in lean protein. Pack snacks for easy access: nuts, seeds, hard-boiled eggs, firm fruits (such as apples), veggies, hummus, or natural fruit-and-nut bars.
If you know where you're staying, scout out restaurants in the area. Check with your hotel or resort to peruse menus and see what's available. Once you arrive, you can use an app like AroundMe (1) to locate healthier restaurants in your area. Check out these smartphone apps that can help you find gluten-and other allergen-free options while you travel (2).
2. Don't forget the grocery store. A supermarket, especially a local co-op, can be your best ally while traveling. You'll have easy, cheap access to fresh produce and healthy snacks. You'll find a wider variety of great foods that are free of gluten, dairy, and other common allergens at a reasonable cost. Plus many co-ops also have a deli, where you can get delicious sandwiches, salads, or wraps to take with you during the day.
3. Your mother was right: get your greens and take your vitamins. While you're traveling, your immune system is exposed to many new pathogens—especially on airplanes and other forms of mass transit. Make sure your body has what it needs to stay healthy, fight germs, and process toxins. Don't forget to pack your multivitamin and other supplements. If you can't get ready access to fresh greens, consider getting some powdered greens that you can bring and easily mix into a glass of water or a morning smoothie.
4. Speaking of morning smoothies—if you're really dedicated to getting your daily intake of fruits and veggies, you might even consider bringing along a travel blender (3). This might seem extreme to some, but consider this: most travel blenders are under $20, fit easily into a suitcase, and are easily put into the back of the car. This can be just the thing to make a power breakfast of fruits, nuts, and vegetables quickly that will keep you going all morning.
5. Drink more water than you normally do. Planes and hotel rooms are notoriously dry. Walking around all day expends energy and dehydrates your body. Often people drink alcohol or sodas with meals, and these are also dehydrating. Drinking more than your usual eight glasses of water a day will keep you energized, hydrate your cells, keep your skin glowing, and help flush out toxins.
6. Drink less alcohol than everyone around you is drinking. This can be challenging, especially on business trips, where drinking is a familiar pastime. But, in addition to worsening dehydration and jet lag, tossing back more than two drinks leads to more unhealthy eating. A study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that men take in an extra 433 calories on average from alcohol and food when they consume more than two drinks.
7. Try to get your eight hours of beauty rest—easier said than done, I know! But getting decent rest helps steady your metabolism, resets your adrenal system, and boosts your immunity. Being sufficiently rested will make every other choice you face on your vacation much easier.
8. Try the "one-and-done" rule. Let yourself have treats, and enjoy them—just keep it to once a day. Get that gorgeous piece of chocolate cake. Have an extra helping of steak fries. Order the thing that's generously doused with butter, and love every single bite. Then be done with the less-than-healthy food, and remember that you always have another day for that one little indulgence.