Traveling can be mentally and physically exhausting, especially during the busy holiday season. Long days, unusual schedules, delays, lost luggage (lost golf clubs!), and time zone changes can cause fatigue, hunger, dehydration, and frustration. Whether you are traveling to visit friends and family for the holidays, taking a ski vacation, or heading to warmer weather for some golf, the travel nutrition tips I give the professional players may also help you stay hydrated and energized while supporting your overall health and wellness.
Plan: Whether you are driving, flying, or taking a train, devise a plan so you have nourishing food and beverages for your trip. Prior to your travel day, determine where you will stop along your route for meals and snacks, identify available food options in your departure and layover airports, check for airline lounge access, or pack your own food to bring with you.
Hydrate: Traveling, especially on an airplane, can cause dehydration. Start hydrating the day before you travel by consuming plenty of water. On travel day, be sure to carry a water bottle with you or purchase one once you clear security, and then refill it throughout the day. Adding some electrolyte powder that contains sodium to your water can help the body better retain fluids. Alternatively, to achieve better fluid balance, you can consume healthy snacks that contain salt such as nuts, trail mix, crackers, and whole grain pretzels.
Balance Nutrients: Be sure to eat/pack a variety of foods. Foods with lean protein will help fill you up and keep you satisfied for longer periods. This includes animal, dairy, and vegetarian sources of protein. Carbohydrates, such as breads, crackers, rice, vegetables, and fruits, will help give you a quick boost of energy. Fiber in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables also help keep you satiated while aiding in digestion.
Snack Smart: While you may also want a bag of chips, cheesy crackers, or chocolate, it is a good idea to also pack snacks that continue to nourish your body. Fresh fruit and vegetable sticks can be refreshing and hydrating. Nuts, trail mix, granola bars, hummus, peanut butter, whole grain crackers, and whole grain cereals are good options that will provide nourishment and energy but won’t weigh you down.
Fast Food: Fried and fatty foods can make you feel sluggish because they take longer for the body to digest, forcing your body to work harder. Instead of chicken tenders and fries or a double cheeseburger with all the sauces, opt for grilled meats, grilled vegetables, lean deli meats, fresh vegetables (add extra to your sandwiches), and fresh fruits. Avoid the menu words fried, cheesy, creamy, crispy, and breaded. Choose items that are grilled, broiled, steamed, and roasted.
Staying Healthy: Traveling can cause various gastrointestinal issues due to eating at unusual times, eating new and different foods than you are used to, eating in high traffic establishments with buffets and help-your-self stations, and crossing multiple time zones. If you are prone to GI distress, pack all your own food for the day and avoid eating anything new while traveling. While there is some evidence that taking a probiotic may help with GI issues, consult a physician or dietitian first to determine if a probiotic would be helpful to you. And always remember that the best defense against foodborne illnesses is to wash your hands frequently.