Whether you’re in for a long car trip or a cross-country flight, the holiday season is an especially important time to maintain your healthy eating diet. Thanksgiving and Christmas offer little wiggle room already, so to ensure that you get to eat your favorite holiday foods (stuffing! Mashed potatoes! Eggnog!) without gaining weight, make it a point to eat super healthy during holiday travel.
1. Eat before you travel. Even if you have a 5AM wakeup call, make sure to give yourself enough time to eat a healthy, homemade breakfast. No need to whip up a bunch of whole wheat pancakes — just aim for around 350 calories of fiber- and protein-rich fare. Healthy picks to try: scrambled eggs with whole wheat toast and almond butter; Greek yogurt with whole wheat cereal and berries; or a wafflewich with almond butter, cinnamon and sliced apples.
2. If you don’t have enough time to eat breakfast before takeoff, pick the right foods at the airport. Starbucks and other coffee shops are serving up especially tempting treats this time of year like their Holiday Gingerbread and Pumpkin Scone. But each serves up 440 calories and 52 grams of sugar and 480 calories and 43 grams of sugar, respectively. Even seemingly healthy choices, like the 8-Grain Roll, packs far too many carbs (67!) for any meal. At Starbucks and other coffee shops, skip the bakery case and opt for an egg and turkey bacon sandwich (320 calories, 7 g fat, 3 g fiber, 18 g protein) or simple instant oatmeal.
3. Speaking of Starbucks, beware of holiday seasonal drinks. Starbucks has officially unveiled its Winter lineup, featuring the Caramel Brulée Latte, Eggnog Latte and Gingerbread Latte. Each 16 ounce drink packs around 410 calories, 13 g fat (8 of them are saturated), 70 g carbs, 63 g sugar, and 4 g protein. Coffee and tea are the best choices for a morning caffeine boost, but if you can’t stomach black coffee or unsweetened tea, pick an unflavored latte or cappuccino made with nonfat milk (and hold the whipped cream).
4. Pack snacks. Bringing along healthy snacks are another way to avoid buying overpriced and unhealthy airport or gas station snacks. Traveling is no excuse to fall prey to packaged and processed snacks; it’s just as easy to throw an apple into your carry-on as it is a bag of chips. Pack travel-friendly fruits and vegetables like apples, bananas, berries, carrots, snap peas, and sliced bell peppers for a fiber boost; add nuts for satiating protein and healthy fats. Plus, nuts have been shown to reduce the glycemic index of a meal, which will keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable. For longer flights, pack your own meal: think sandwiches, bean- and grain-based salads, and hummus and chopped vegetables. Be wary of in flight snack boxes, which often contain seemingly healthy components but add up to far too many calories and sodium.
5. If you must eat at the airport or on the plane, try to look up nutritional information. Many airport meals are deceptively high in calories, fat, and sodium; looking up nutritional information beforehand, at the restaurant, or on your phone will help you make the most informed and healthy decision. Apps like RestaurantNutrition and Nutrition Lookup allow you to look up nutritional information for popular restaurants; GateGuru lets you look up which restaurants are in your terminal or gate. Similarly, for road trips, iExit tells you which restaurants are at upcoming exits.
6. Stay hydrated. Staying hydrated might be one of the easiest ways to fight hunger pangs, as hydration is often mistaken for hunger. Hydration is especially important when you fly: not only does dry cabin air wreak havoc on your skin, but toxins tend to build up faster at altitude when you’re dehydrated. This results in an upset in homeostasis, which may throw off your metabolism and adds unnecessary stress to your body. Sip on water; if that’s too boring, flavor it with lemon (ask for a few wedges from the flight attendant or a bar). For more flavor, skip sugary sodas, juices and coffee and pick unsweetened green tea, coconut water or kombucha.
7. Pack a treat. If you know you’ll be far too seduced by the smell of Cinnabon, a sprinkle-covered donut from Dunkin’ Donuts or king sized candy bar from the bookstore, skip temptation altogether by packing your own portion-controlled treat. A few squares of dark chocolate is the perfect replacement for a sweets craving — and is a far healthier choice than the 880-calorie Cinnabon or 440-calorie king size Snickers bar. As a bonus, dark chocolate is an excellent source of flavanols, antioxidants that have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, lung cancer, asthma, and Type II Diabetes. Your treat doesn’t have to be dark chocolate, though: as long as it’s portion controlled, it’s still a better choice than airport desserts.