It’s that time of year when hopping on a plane or hitting the open road is a necessity for holiday travel. But whether you are visiting friends or family, or escaping the cold for a tropical vacation, it’s important to keep your healthy ways in check – no matter the season.
My first rule of thumb: Preparation is key.
While a healthy lifestyle is easier to maintain in the comfort of your home, traveling presents new challenges. Dining out and eating at other people’s homes is wonderful, but it can also be a source for unhealthy, indulgent dishes. And, while airports have gotten better with providing healthier options, they are not always available.
A few things I pack for a weekend on the road: Fresh cut veggies, easy-to-pack fruit like an apple or banana, a gluten-free sandwich to munch while I am on the plane or in the car, food bars like KIND and Picky Bars, resealable bags filled with raw nuts, gluten-free granola like Purely Elizabeth brand, an empty shaker bottle and a few packets of gluten-free protein powder.
All of these items are easy snacking options and great for on-the-go moments when I can’t quickly locate something that is healthy. Plus, having a few items stashed as stowaways makes it easier to put together healthy snacks and meals once you’ve passed airport security or made a pit stop along the road. For instance, a container of yogurt purchased at a store can easily be topped with raw mixed nuts or gluten-free granola. Small containers of peanut butter or hummus are also typically available for purchase, adding something extra to fruits and veggies – both are no-no’s at airport security. This will also help save you a bit of dough – those airport and rest stop finds can get pricey!
Once you’ve arrived at your destination, it’s important that you are not afraid to enjoy eating out. You may or may not be surprised by just how many restaurants are more than happy to accommodate your requests for healthier versions of your favorites. Avoid anything with words like “creamed,” “fried,” “bisque,” “breaded,” “sautéed” and/or “tempura.” Opt instead for items that are steamed, grilled or baked, like grilled fish, steamed green beans, brown rice, baked potatoes and more. If you think your dish might involve butter, ask if the chef can use olive oil instead.
When dining out, it’s also important to keep in mind that while it’s hard to be “that” guy or gal with all of the questions, the more information you request from a server, the less of a chance you will have of completely derailing your healthy eating ways. Always keep a smile on your face and thank helpful servers for making your dining experience enjoyable. Don’t be afraid to request to speak with the chef. A big ol’ smile and some manners will go a long way in ensuring a delicious dining experience! With all of that being said, a bite or two of some not-so-healthy dishes is OK, too. It’s all about balance, so a couple bites of cake or your favorite mashed potatoes isn’t going to be a deal breaker.
Want the scoop on two one of my favorite travel treats? Try these Key Lime cashew bars (raw, gluten-free and vegan) and chocolate cherry cereal clusters (gluten-free and vegan).
Key Lime cashew bars (makes 12 squares)
1-1/2 cups raw cashews
1-1/3 cups pitted dates
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon sea salt
juice of 1/2 a lime
Pulse all ingredients in a food processor or high-speed blender until pulverized. Scoop mixture into a 9-inch by 9-inch square baking dish using a spatula to press into dish and spread evenly. Refrigerate for 1 hour and then cut into squares. Store bars in refrigerator.
Chocolate Cherry Cereal Clusters (makes 24 clusters)
2 cups brown rice cereal
2 cups gluten-free oats
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1/2 tablespoon vegan butter
1/2 cup dried sour cherries
1/2 cup vegan, gluten-free chocolate chips
Lightly brush two 12-cup mini muffin trays with safflower oil – or use cooking spray – and set aside. Measure brown rice cereal, oats and sea salt into a medium bowl and set aside. Place brown rice syrup and butter into a small saucepan and warm over low heat until butter is melted, stirring constantly. Pour mixture over dry ingredients and stir. Fold in dried cherries and chocolate chips. Spoon mixture into muffin cups and press into cups using the back of a spoon. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Caroline Shannon-Karasik is the upcoming author of a gluten-free healthy lifestyle book, set to be released in January 2014. She is the author of the popular gluten-free blog, sincerelycaroline.com and is currently training to become a certified health coach. Her writing and recipe development has been featured in several publications, including, VegNews, Kiwi and REDBOOK magazines. Caroline lives with her husband Dan and four adopted cats in Pittsburgh, Penn. Caroline can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.