A recent MarketWatch Guides survey revealed that 52% of Americans are planning to fly this holiday season, while a Hopper survey reveals more than one in five holiday travelers plans to drive out of town for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s or all three.
Maintaining healthy eating habits during the holidays when food is part of the celebration can seem a challenge ridden with guilt especially when you add in the stress of travel arrangements into the mix. If you think sinking your teeth into a tangible healthy eating plan throughout the holidays is impossible, experts at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) serve up a few tips.
Jessica Alfonso, a registered dietitian and UF/IFAS Miami-Dade County Extension agent with the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) offers some strategies for enjoying holiday meals without feeling guilty and while traveling.
“It is important to remember that the holidays are about family, friends and being together,” she said. “Holiday time can also provide a unique chance to promote health and well-being while creating meaningful moments of togetherness and joy. Incorporating these tips will help keep our families safe and healthy.”
Here are some tips to consider:
Tips for the road.
Plan for taking smart snacks like nutrient-dense foods that can be easily snacked on a long trip where fresh food is unavailable. Some shelf-stable options include nuts and seeds, nut butter packets, dried fruit with no added sugars, whole grain crackers, low-sodium jerky, popcorn, and pouches of salmon or tuna.
During your trip, you may find yourself with the opportunity to try a new food spot. New food experiences are half the fun of traveling. You can enjoy a delicious meal while still adding nutrition to your plate. Check the menu in advance to make an informed choice. Restaurants also tend to provide a generous portion – you can ask for a half portion if available or ask the restaurant to pack half in a to-go box for another meal.
Keep it cool with food safety first.
If you pick up pre-packaged foods for the ride, make sure to pay attention to the expiration date. Always make sure to wash your hands before and after handling plastic packaging and before eating.
Here is a tip on limiting alcohol consumption.
Celebrate this holiday season by creating refreshing, aesthetically pleasing mocktails using fresh fruits, herbs, and a touch of fizz from sparkling water. Don’t forget to garnish creatively—cheers to all the flavor and none of the extra calories from the alcohol.
It is ok to eat before the party.
Don’t starve yourself to “save up” for the big meal. Instead, nourish your body throughout the day to avoid feeling overly hungry. Choose foods that contain fiber and lean protein to promote satiety throughout the day – options include vegetable sticks with hummus, Greek yogurt with berries, and whole grain crackers with light tuna.
Add nutrient-rich foods to your travels.
Start by adding foods from each food group, such as fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains, to your day to ensure it is providing your body with a variety of nutrients.
Listen to your body and respect your body’s cues.
Respect your body’s internal hunger and fullness signals. During a holiday meal, check in with your body – pause, and if you feel comfortably full, you can save these holiday foods for the next day. Don’t forget to stay hydrated throughout the day – we can often confuse dehydration with hunger.
During this holiday season, make family time active!
Choose to include enjoyable activities that promote togetherness, decrease screen time, and add movement. Ideas can include playing a friendly game before the holiday meal, a family gratitude walk post-dinner, or a family dance party that keeps the celebration going! By weaving physical activity into the holiday season, you create healthful, memorable experiences for everyone.