Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Diabetes: Eating on Vacation

In a recent article about planning to travel with diabetes, we touched briefly on the subject of food. Most travel food can be a diabetic’s nightmare, with very little fresh fruit and veggies, and a lot of sugary, salty snacks and fast food. Once you reach your destination you could also encounter issues with the local foods having more sugar, salt, and calories than is recommended for healthy people, much less diabetics.

Bringing your own food can make things easier, but it can also cause you to miss out on the local flavor. However, there are solutions that can help you enjoy some local delicacies during your vacation, without threatening your health.

The Diabetic Diet

The first thing you should realize is that having diabetes doesn’t mean that you have to deprive yourself. While it is true that you should seriously limit your consumption of foods that are high in sugar, or have a high glycemic index, that doesn’t mean that you have to completely avoid everything.

The key is in making healthy food choices so that you can include the occasional splurge, such as a cocktail with dinner or a starchy side dish. The American Diabetes Association has several useful tips for eating well on vacation including:

•  Keeping a schedule. The excitement of vacation often means we end up eating at irregular times. Noontime breakfasts and late-night dinners are often the norm. But for diabetics, a change in routine could mean serious blood sugar spikes or hypoglycemia. When on vacation, try to keep as consistent a dining schedule as possible. If you can’t then be sure to have healthy snacks on hand so that you can eat at the scheduled time, no matter where you are.

•  Check your blood sugar. Check your blood sugar frequently throughout the day. Keeping regular readings will let you know how well you are managing your blood sugar levels, and can help you determine if that piece of cake or glass of wine is in the cards for that day. Make sure you stock up on testing supplies before your trip, so that you don’t run out. If you can’t find the supplies you need for your particular brand of glucose meter, you can buy diabetic test strips at adwdiabetes.com and similar online retailers.

•  Watch portion sizes. If there is any time to turn in your membership to the clean plate club, it’s when you’re on vacation. Many restaurants have huge portions and it could be tempting to eat it all, especially if taking home the leftovers is out of the question. One way to avoid getting too much food is to ask if there are lunch portions available. Another option is to share an entrĂ©e with someone else.

•  Ask for substitutions. Many restaurants are willing to accommodate people who have special food needs, including making substitutions. Instead of having starchy potatoes as a side, you could substitute steamed vegetables or a salad.

•  Splurge with care. It’s ok to allow yourself the occasional treat. If that chocolate cake is calling your name, order a piece, and eat it wisely. For example, you could get an extra plate, take a few bites for yourself, and then share the rest with everyone at the table. Another option is to see if they have miniature or sugar-free versions of the same dessert. If you do eat the whole piece, and then make adjustments elsewhere in your diet to accommodate the extra sugar and calories from the cake. For example, if you know you’re going to have some cake, consider eating a low-calorie dinner that’s high in fresh vegetables, and low in sugar and fat to “make room” for the cake.

•  Eat in. If you are staying in a place with kitchen facilities, you can reserve a night or two where you prepare a meal in, and eat at home. Even if you are in an exotic location, you should be able to find some familiar staples like eggs, chicken, beans, and fresh vegetables, from which you can create a healthy, diabetic-friendly meal. Eating in will not only helps you manage your diabetes, it could also save you money.

As you can see, remaining diabetic-friendly on vacation does not mean that you have to feel deprived. It’s mostly a matter of being aware of how and what you are eating, and making the appropriate adjustments.

This is a blog post by Nancy Evans.

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