• Shelly Barnes: Don’t let summertime travel hijack a healthy lifestyle

    By Shelly Barnes -

    As warmer weather begins to settle in, many of us are looking forward to upcoming vacations and getaways. While travel opportunities bring excitement and adventure, travelling can also present some challenges for people who try to maintain a pattern of healthy eating.  

    University of Tennessee Extension nutrition specialist Kristen Johnson said, “The good news is that there are many steps you can take to make healthy decisions about food and beverages while you are travelling.” 

    Keep healthy snacks on-hand so that you are less likely to rely on unhealthy snack foods like chips, cookies, or candy when you get hungry.

    “Whole fruits like apples, oranges or bananas, whole-grain crackers, air-popped popcorn, unsalted nuts and dried fruits are healthy, portable snacks. If you have access to a cooler, store cut up vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, and peppers in snack-size containers or bags,” Johnson said. “If you need to purchase a snack at a convenience store, many places are stocking healthy options like fruits, unsalted nuts or low-fat and fat free yogurt.”

     Travelling often means relying on restaurants for many of our meals. When dining out, keep a few tips in mind to help you make a healthy choice. 

    “Be sure to review the restaurant’s menu and nutrition information online ahead of time to help you make a healthy meal choice before arriving. You may be less tempted by the sights and smells of less healthy dishes if you arrive to the restaurant with a decision in mind for your meal,” Johnson said. “Scan the menu for terms that usually indicate a dish is lower in calories.  Foods that are baked, braised, broiled, grilled, stir-fried, poached or roasted are usually lower in calories that foods that are described as battered, fried, breaded, buttered, creamy, crispy, smothered or rich.”

    Restaurant portion sizes are often large, try splitting a meal with a friend or family member or ordering an appetizer for your meal. 

    “Remember that your beverages count, too,” Johnson said. “Some beverages like regular sodas, lemonade, sweet tea, fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks and even alcoholic beverages can be high in calories. Choose water more often to reduce calories.”

    Meals cooked at home tend to be lower in calories than meals prepared in restaurants. If you have access to a kitchen, consider preparing some of your meals yourself. This allows you to be in control of the types of foods served, the amount and type of fats used in preparation and the amount of salt added to your foods. 

    “Involve your travel companions in planning, shopping and preparing meals,” Johnson said. “Take advantage the opportunity to explore local foods by seeking out a local farmers market and preparing a favorite local dish.”

    Enjoying new tastes and flavors is one of the joys of traveling. As you choose meals, consider all of the foods and beverages you have consumed over the past several days. Make sure that you are choosing a variety of healthy foods, including fruits, vegetables, dairy products and whole grains. Balance occasional indulgences, like desserts or a high-calorie entrée, by making healthy food choices throughout the rest of the day and engaging in physical activity.

    The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture celebrates 50 years of excellence in providing real life solutions through teaching, discovery and service. For more information on this or other family and consumer sciences-related topics, contact Shelly Barnes, family and consumer sciences Extension agent for UT Extension in Wilson County. Barnes may be reached at [email protected] or 615-444-9584.

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