How to Travel – And Stay Healthy – When You Have Diabetes
November is American Diabetes Month. Nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes. Another 79 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Throughout November, Fletcher Allen will share the stories of people with diabetes as well as tips, advice, and information from our team of certified diabetes educators. Keep reading!
It’s the time of year for travel. Whether it’s to visit family for the holidays, or to get away to somewhere warm, many of us will be on the road, in the sky, or even on the open seas.
Safe and healthy traveling poses challenges for many folks, but it can present some additional issues for people who have diabetes. While exercise, medication, illness, and time zone changes are some of the key topics that people with diabetes should plan for, the biggest challenge is food. Yes, food.
How can you stay on track to make healthy food choices while you travel? Here’s how:
Make it routine. Our patients tell us that a routine helps them to stay on track for healthy choices. Travel significantly changes our everyday routine, and we find that it is much more difficult to continue the same good habits that we have been able to set up at home. Schedule pit stops along the way for a healthy breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.
Plan ahead. When we travel, we are often confronted with different food choices, different types of cuisine, and different times for meals. We may not be able to have our usual choices. As always, planning is the key. We need to know what kinds of food choices will be available both during travel as well as when we reach our destination. Research the local cuisine and food options at your destination. If you are visiting family, talk to your hosts about the foods they intend to prepare and make any special requests in advance!
Pack carefully. Bring nonperishable foods and drinks on your trip. Be sure to keep a source of rapid-acting carbohydrates with you to treat a low blood sugar. Juice boxes are a great choice because they stay fresh. Likewise, small, individually-wrapped packages of candy, such as gumdrops or jellybeans work quickly to treat a low blood sugar. Foods that are high in protein can help to prevent low blood sugars. Some good travel choices are 1 oz. prepackaged processed cheeses, such as Babybels or small bags of nuts.
Eat well on the road (or in the air!). Choosing healthy entrees while traveling is more challenging. If you are flying, ask your airline about dietary alternatives or make them aware of any dietary restrictions you have. Check out the airport shops for prepackaged food items, fresh fruit, and other healthy choices. If you are traveling by car, consider an insulated case or bag that can be stocked with sandwiches, fruits, cheeses, yogurt, juice or milk. If you will be on an extended road trip it might be helpful to use GPS to locate convenience or grocery stores along the route to replenish supplies.
Talk to your concierge. If you are staying in a hotel or motel room, ask the front desk or concierge service about restaurant choices, convenience or grocery stores, or even farmer markets in the local area. If you can get some fresh fruit and vegetables, cheeses, yogurt and whole grain breads you will be able to save some money and calories for some of your meals.
Cruise for healthy choices. For those on cruise ships, you will have a literal smorgasbord available to you. Your challenge will be in selecting healthy choices. Again, choose lower fat and carb items. Fill your plate with vegetables and salads. Choose non-caloric beverages rather than alcoholic or sugary drinks. These strategies will show positive results at the next blood sugar check!
Move it! A walk after dinner is always a good choice.
I hope that with these tips, you can plan a healthier and safer trip for yourself. Be well and bon appetit!
Rhonda Lapidow, RN, CDE, is a Clinical Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator at Fletcher Allen Health Care. In 2013, Fletcher Allen earned national certification in diabetes education. Learn more about Fletcher Allen’s Endocrinology, Metabolism and Nutrition practice.