Avoid nutritional disasters while traveling

Food pyramid disaster (U.S. Air Force graphic/James E. Luman)

Food pyramid disaster (U.S. Air Force graphic/James E. Luman)

FORT LEE, Va. -- Traveling is one of the biggest nutrition barriers I hear about from clients - especially with active-duty military members are constantly on the go. While it's true that eating healthy while traveling offers unique challenges, it doesn't have to be a nutritional disaster.
Some simple steps of planning and adjusting can lead to creating a healthier environment than when you're at home!

- Call ahead: Call the hotel in advance to see what appliances are offered in the room. Most military installations have guest lodging facilities that are equipped with small refrigerators, microwaves and coffee pots. Some of the rooms even have stove tops. There's no excuse for eating poorly there. Some hotels will also place a microwave or refrigerator in the room upon request, but be sure to ask if there's a fee associated with the added appliance.

- Bring breakfast: Unless you are going to have "eating meetings" every day, be sure to bring your own breakfast. I don't leave home without a bag of oatmeal and a jar of natural peanut butter. Be sure to pack it in your checked luggage as airport security may confiscate your peanut butter. I've learned this the hard way.

If your room doesn't have a microwave, simply run hot water through the coffee pot to mix with your oatmeal; don't forget a spoon or fork.
- Stash healthy snacks: Get into a habit of bringing healthy snacks in your carry-on luggage. It prevents poor choices at the airport and on the plane. If you have extra space in your check-in luggage, try to bring extra snacks such as granola bars or fruit. A box of healthy cereal is helpful, too. These snacks are great for hungry times in your room, but also for midmorning and afternoon snacks when you are not at an eating meeting.

Of course, to have a bowl of cereal you'll need milk which is also a great pre- and post-exercise beverage. The combination of casein and whey protein helps to repair muscles and the lactose to replace glycogen. If you worked out, have some cereal with your milk to add more carbohydrate for refueling.

- Water: Many people don't like to drink tap water, especially while traveling. If this is the case, buying jugs of water to refill a bottle you traveled with is a greener and more cost-efficient way than buying individual bottles. This is especially true if you are very active and need a lot of fluids.

- Meals on demand: For those nights that you're not obligated to eat out, it's a great idea to eat in your room. Who said a bowl of granola and milk is only a breakfast food. Some microwavable TV dinners have come a long way, too. With less sodium and saturated fat and more vegetables and whole grains in some brands than ever before, these choices are often better than eating out. A simple trip to the store can also set you up with all the fixings needed for a great salad or sandwich.

If going out to eat, try to choose your entree wisely and ask for substitutions if you would like a healthier side option. Fish is always a great choice while on the road. Americans don't eat enough fish and as a result, we miss out on all the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids. Ask for the sauce on the side as it may lower the nutritional quality of the meal. Asking for a side salad with dressing on the side, fresh fruit, steamed vegetables or whole-grain rice are other healthy choices.

Certainly eating healthy while traveling offers challenges, but with some planning you'll be on your way to a healthy trip.

For more information about making healthy choices, visit Ask the Dietitian on www.commissaries.com and post your questions on the DeCA Dietitian Forum. Be sure to look for other useful information in the Dietitian's Voice archive. Sign up with the DeCA Dietitian on www.twitter.com and get messages sent to your cell phone today. For delicious recipes, check out Kay's Kitchen. And to enjoy all your commissary has to offer, sign up for the Commissary Connection.