Holiday travel can make selecting healthy meals and snacks a challenge. UF/IFAS Extension shares some tips that can help you stay on track.
“When we talk about making healthy food choices in general, we always want to practice consistency,” Gabriela Murza, a family and consumer sciences agent for UF/IFAS Extension Osceola County said. “Health never takes a break. It is best to have those good behaviors in place, plan ahead, be realistic and maintain a balance. It helps make the travel experience a bit easier and more enjoyable.”
“The first thing that I would tell anyone, especially those dealing with certain health challenges or goals, is to have a plan,” she said.
Planning can be as simple as researching the restaurants you will cross paths with prior to your travels.
“Many restaurants now include calorie counts on their menus,” Murza said. “That’s not to say that someone should focus only on those numbers because calories do not always paint the whole picture, but that is good to be aware of.”
In general, the healthier options at restaurants and fast food stops are grilled. You can also opt for a kid’s meal which often contains an appropriate number of calories for an adult. Many restaurants offer healthier side options, but you may have to specifically ask about them, she said.
Meal planning so that you can bring your own healthy snack options along for the trip is the best option. Especially for long durations of travel, having the day or two before to select food choices and pack portable and nonperishable snacks is key.
Trail mix, nuts, cereal bars, tuna salad kits and beef jerky are all excellent options that are non-perishable and easy to travel with. If you are craving fruit, citrus is a great option that does not require refrigeration. Applesauce or other pureed fruit that you can buy in a pouch are great alternatives.
Even if you plan to purchase meals while you are out, packing these snacks is a great idea just in case travel delays occur. Healthier food options while traveling can be expensive, so packing ahead is also more cost effective.
“Have water with you no matter what,” she said. “Flying can dehydrate you so drinking water through the process is really important. Bring empty water bottles and fill them up once you are past security before you get on the plane.”
Road trip food safety.
Packing for road trips is a lot easier, but it is important to remember key food safety tips to prevent food-related illness on your trip.
“You always want to make sure to bring along a cooler with plenty of ice to keep the items cool,” she said. “Bring a thermometer and keep food items below 41 degrees to maintain freshness and prevent bacteria growth.”
It is important to individually wrap food so that it is not directly exposed to the ice. Remember, perishable food is not considered safe to eat after it has been left out for two hours or more.
“Last but certainly not least, wash your hands before handling any snacks or meals,” she said. “Especially when you are traveling by plane or train where you are touching items touched by hundreds of others that day. Even if you only use hand sanitizer, that is better than nothing.”
“Be realistic and understand that if a fast meal option is all you have available to eat, be sensible and do the best you can,” she said.
“The holidays are hard, many stores and restaurants come out with the holiday items that have a lot of sugar,” Murza said. “What used to be 100 calories now has 200 calories or more just for the special holiday flavors that add extra sugar.”
Balance it all out.
“Balance what you are eating and when you eat it,” Murza said. “Maintaining balance is always a good strategy when you do not have a lot of options.”
If you are traveling for the first two meals of the day and must eat something unhealthy, perhaps have a lighter option for dinner once you reach your destination.
“Traveling for the holidays is a treat for many people,” Murza said. “The whole experience in itself is a special time and planning ahead and staying on track with healthy choices can make it even more enjoyable.”