Being a travel, food and beverage blogger may be an envious job to be in, but it comes with its own set of health troubles. We decide to sit down for a chat with Avni Kaul, a Diabetes educator, nutritionist and entrepreneur to decode the secret to stay healthy even while travelling. A few excerpts from the interview.
With travel being such an important part of our lives, how important is it to eat properly while travelling?
While travelling, one tends to choose junk food most of the time because that is what is so temptingly available usually. However, choosing wisely energizes the traveler leading to a positive state of mind. Keeping oneself hydrated with plenty of water and eating healthy food at regular intervals makes one enjoy the leisure time more. It is therefore, very important to eat right while travelling. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Stop at a grocery store instead of a fast food joint to pick up fruits, nuts, hummus etc. which you can eat while you are on your way. Also, choose to eat at a salad bar if that option is available.
- Eat at regular intervals and keep your portions small so that you feel energized and not sluggish or sleepy so that you may enjoy the journey.
- Eating plenty of protein is a good idea because it keeps one alert and stabilizes the blood sugar.
- One must always pack a few healthy snacks like almonds, hummus, yoghurt, berries, fresh and dried fruit, hard boiled eggs etc, in case good, clean food is not available en route and when one feels hungry.
- One must avoid sugary snacks, deep fried food, non-fat desserts and sweeteners because they deplete energy levels. Processed, baked food and alcohol should not be consumed either to maintain our regular metabolism.
- Keeping oneself hydrated at all times cures lot of junk food cravings and symptoms of overexposure to the heat or sun. Also, water flushes out toxins from one’s body keeping one fresh and healthy.
Always try to find out what healthier options are available wherever you go. Concentrate on eating fresh fruits, salads and drink plenty of water. Eat at regular intervals but keep a track of your portion size. Other things to remember is to focus on eating your vegetables regularly so that you won’t crave for junk food. And even if you indulge in some pasta or pizza occasionally, it won’t hurt your waistline. Also, try to include low-fat local delicacies which may not be well known. Staple food of most people everywhere in the world consists of lots of lean protein , fibre-rich vegetables.
One should avoid drinking fruit or vegetable juices, soda and energy drinks because they contain no fiber and empty calories. Instead concentrate on eating fresh fruits and vegetables available locally. Also, drink alcohol in moderation. It would be better if water and alcohol are alternated because that prevents hangover prevention and limits calorie count too. Drink as much water as you possibly can. Always keep healthy snacks handy to nibble or between meals. Have fun while taking care of your diet. Be aware of what you put in your mouth but let go once in a while without feeling guilty. Enjoy your travelling without stressing too much but remember to make healthy choices whenever and wherever possible to maximize your energy level and pleasure.
A lot of Indians have very specific and elaborate dietary restrictions. How do these people go about their diets while traveling?
It is important to eat sensibly while travelling especially between destinations. Also, keeping yourself hydrated at all times tops the list especially in a warm country like ours. Drink as much clean water as you possibly can and alternate it with fresh fruits, coconut water, nuts and dry fruits so as to keep up your energy level high and fight hunger pangs till the next meal.
Sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, chia seeds, watermelon seeds, pumpkin seeds melon seeds, almonds and walnuts are energy dense which satiate hunger for a long time. They are highly nutritious and full of omega-3 fatty acids, proteins, iron and antioxidants. Muesli is a breakfast cereal but in absence of better options can be eaten in any meal with hot or cold milk, chocolate drink or yogurt. It is easy to carry while travelling and is a rich source of vitamins, proteins, fiber and minerals. Oats can also be carried and soaked overnight in water or fresh fruit juice and blended with a banana or an apple next morning to get a healthy start to a new day. Carrying seasonal whole fruits while travelling is the best idea for they are easily digestible and provide instant energy. Baked or dry roasted flaked or puffed rice mixed with nuts and spices is another good and convenient option to carry in airtight containers. Roasted Bengal gram/chana is full of proteins, fiber, minerals and fatty acids besides having very few calories. So, they are popular snacks which can be easily carried. Sandwiches made of whole wheat or multi grain bread with peanut butter Is another great option for travellers for its good, essential fats, proteins and fiber will keep the hunger pangs at bay for a longer period. It is difficult for people with specific and elaborate dietary restrictions to manage their meals while travelling. However, a little planning is all that is needed to make your travel comfortable and fun.
Diabetes is very common in the Indian middle age group. How should people traveling with Diabetes should take care?
Diabetes, like any other disease should not prevent you from doing what you enjoy doing including travel. However, it would be a good idea if you plan your trip so as to have a comfortable and stress-free stay away from your comfort zone.
- VISIT YOUR DOCTOR and DIABETES EDUCATOR before you start your travel so that he may check your fitness level and also give relevant advice for your meals and medications.
- GET YOUR VACCINATIONS DONE EARLY if required so that if there are any adverse side effects, they can be treated before the fun part begins.
- MAKE A LIST OF MEDICATIONS with their generic names and dosages so that if needed, they may be replenished wherever you happen to be.
- If you take insulin, then WRITE DOWN THE TYPE OF INSULIN on a paper that must be carried on person at all times.
- Always CARRY DOCTOR’S PRESCRIPTION with you because some airlines and some countries require the documents before allowing you to carry any medicine.
- Also carry some IDENTIFICATION WITH YOUR HEALTH CONDITIONS and instructions to be followed in case of emergency.
- Always PACK YOUR MEDICINES IN YOUR HAND BAGGAGE and extra supplies in other bags so that in case your one bag gets misplaced or stolen, you are not stranded without essential medicines.
- Diabetics also sometimes suffer from hypoglycaemia- low blood sugar, so ALWAYS PACK SOME SUGAR CUBES, FRUIT JUICE AND DRINKING WATER.
Comfortable walking shoes, sunblock and medication for nausea and diarrhoea are other essential stuff that should be packed while travelling.
TIPS FOR DIABETICS TRAVELLING BY AIR
- Please check with the airline authorities about what medicines you are allowed to carry in your hand and checked in baggage.
- Always carry your doctor’s prescription, your medicine, the procedure of taking or administering the medicine in writing in case you are unable to tell it yourself and its common side-effects.
- Check-in early at the airport so that if the airport officials take more time in screening your medicines, you do not panic about being late.
- Some airlines offer special meals for diabetics but most are happy to alter their regular meal to fit into what is allowed. So, let them know beforehand.
- Always carry some snacks with you in case your flight or your in-flight meal is delayed due to some reason.
- Try to schedule your meals and medications according to the time-zone changes so as to be more comfortable.
- Please ask you flight attendant to wake you up at meal or medication time if you plan to sleep during your flight.
- Carry your insulin with you in your hand baggage because it may be exposed to extreme temperatures if checked in which may spoil its efficacy.
- If you use an insulin pump, please inform the screening officer at the airport beforehand. Also, ask him to check it himself rather than through the metal detector because that may adversely affect its functioning.
- Move around the airport terminal and the aeroplane as often as possible to improve your blood circulation.
TIPS FOR DIABETICS TRAVELLING BY CAR
- Check your blood glucose level before you leave home and then after every four hours while travelling.
- Stop after every few hours and walk about a little to improve your blood circulation.
- If you take insulin, then do not drink after the injection without having a meal.
- Do not drink for more than six hours at a stretch without a break for a meal.
- Do try to eat and take your medicines at regular times as much as possible.
- Do keep some high carbohydrate snacks with you to nibble on in case you are stuck somewhere in a traffic jam or have car trouble. They are really needed if one gets hypoglycaemia or low blood sugar
TIPS FOR DIABETICS TRAVELLING AT SEA
- Do not over-indulge at the buffets in cruise holidays.
- Be as active as possible to compensate for any food you eat.
- Do hare your medical history, treatment and its side-effects in writing with staff so that may be able to help in case of emergency.
TIPS FOR DIABETICS TRAVELLING ON FOOT
- Never go hiking or trekking alone no matter how attractive it sounds. Another person is a big support in case of emergency.
- Always carry a first-aid kit and insulin if you use it. Your companion should be able to administer the insulin if the need arises.
- Do not indulge in excessive physical activity for it may severely alter blood glucose levels. Also avoid getting cuts, bruises, sunburns, blisters or insect bites.
- Always carry extra food, water, medication and sugar. Eat and drink enough and make sure that your supplies are not contaminated.
STORAGE OF INSULIN WHILE TRAVELLING
Insulin should be stored properly at room temperature for it to be effective.
- If you are travelling in hot temperature, then store your insulin in an insulated bag or cooled thermos.
- Insulin should be kept in an insulated bag if the diabetic is travelling in freezing temperature. Or keep it close to your body if an insulated bag is not available.
- The needles and sharps that you carry can be disposed off at home if you are going for a short trip.
- However, if you are going on a longer trip, do buy small containers to store used needles etc to be disposed off whenever convenient. Always carry extra insulin pen with you if you use it.
BLOOD SUGAR SHOULD BE IN CONTROL WHILE TRAVELLING
- Check your blood glucose level regularly.
- Carry extra batteries and test strips with you.
- Carry alcohol swabs or moist towelettes to wipe your fingers before testing.
- Always keep a record of your medicines, injections and test results.
INSULIN USERS HAVE TO ADJUST TO DIFFERENT TIME ZONES
Adjust your insulin schedule if your journey is crossing several time-zones which happens if it is a long journey. Blood glucose control can go haywire by a change in time, altered activity or disturbance of body rhythm and sleep patterns. Try to follow your usual routine of injections and meals as much as possible. If you are crossing more than two time-zones, then please consult your doctor before embarking on your journey and get a meal and insulin schedule prepared accordingly. If, you are taking diabetes medication orally, follow the same procedure then also and be prepared for any unforeseen eventuality.
MANAGE YOUR BLOOD SUGAR LEVEL DURING ILLNESS
Blood sugar levels fluctuate a lot when you fall ill and they are difficult to manage if you are travelling. However, if certain precautions are taken, the ill-effects can be kept in check.
- Blood sugar level should be checked more often if one is unwell. Ideally, check it after every two hours.
- Diabetes medication should be taken on time as scheduled.
- Keep yourself hydrated by drinking as much water as you possibly can.
- Take at least 15 gms of carbohydrates every hour.
- Consult a doctor and tell him about your medical history so that he may make an informed decision.
- Rest as much as you can whenever possible.
Travelling relaxes you whether it is fir business or for pleasure. However, if you have diabetes, it is advisable to take a few precautions so that your holiday is not cut short by illness. Most important is to consult your doctor or a diabetes educator before leaving so that you are well-prepared for any emergency. Never travel alone and if you have no companion, then carry your prescription and the method of medicine usage in writing so that help may be arranged for you, if needed.
Keep a list of the medical facilities available in the area you are travelling to and be in touch with your embassy at all times. Carry extra medicines. Try to eat and drink on time and sensibly despite the lucrative offers. But travel insurance to cover for medical emergencies. And remember always to have fun for that is what travelling and holidays are for albeit in moderate doses so that it may last you through the journey without medical problem. Temptation to go wild in any way whether eating, drinking, walking barefoot on the beach, club-hopping etc. should be restricted keeping in mind your diabetes.
How much water should we drink in a day while traveling?
Our body is made up of 60-70% water approximately and we need to replenish this on a regular basis to stay healthy. We lose our body water routinely and therefore need to drink at least 7-8 glasses of water every day. This requirement for water increases when we travel especially when we travel by air. Air travellers experience physiological changes due to increase in altitude, cabin pressure and low humidity. The symptoms of dehydration are many like dry mouth, headache, thirst, constipation and feeling light-headed. It may also result in an increased heartbeat, confusion, dry skin low blood pressure and fever. However, adequate water intake may prevent all of the above. Make a habit of drinking as much water as you possibly can at all times. Carry a water bottle with you wherever you go and refill it when it is empty to avoid running out of water. Clean drinking water is not available at all places so buy bottled water whenever in doubt.
Coconut water, fruits, juices and smoothies are other more tempting options to keep you hydrated while travelling. They are healthy and bring about change in taste. Tea and coffee are other options when one feels like drinking something hot. They refresh and relax you and make your travel tiredness go away for some time. Go easy on your alcohol intake, however, when you are travelling by air as it adds to dehydration. Water is used in our body to process other beverages that we consume. Hence, water is the most essential liquid we need to keep ourselves hydrated specially while travelling.
Soaking in a hot tub, pool or bath after along flight is also a good idea for it replenishes moisture directly through your pores along with relieving travel related stress. Every person requires different amount of water to be adequately hydrated at all times. On an average, daily requirement of a person is 7-8 glasses though it depends on a lot of factors like the environment, level of exercise and medical condition. Always check if the water is clean before drinking because contaminated water causes a lot of health problems specially in the gastro-intestinal areas. Do not add ice to your drinks unless you are sure of its source for that may carry water-borne bacteria. It is absolutely necessary to be hydrated at all times specially when you are travelling as it is the simplest way to remain healthy and enjoy your trip.
Many of our readers are food lovers and love to gorge on tasty yet junk food. What would be a good way to detox for them?
I firmly believe dieting is not about deprivation but more about discipline. For those who like to gorge on junk food – first things first, remember that moderation is always the key. If you count the calories that are going into your body, and correlate that with the kind of exercise or physical activity that you will have to do to expend those, sometimes you will choose to forego overindulging. Having said that, I feel fasting at least one day a week is good for a weekly detox. On that day, start your day with a glass of warm water and lemon. Follow this up 15 minutes later with a handful of pre-soaked almonds. Have one whole fruit before you sit down for breakfast. Make sure you include at least one glass of fresh (not packaged) juice in your breakfast – which should not have anything fried or processed. Poha with chaach or fluffy besan ki roti with some curd or ragi roti with pudina chutney are fine. Mid-day snack should be one whole cucumber. Have just a bowl of dal and some brown rice or roti for lunch. Eat dinner by 7pm – again either fresh soup with a salad made of at least 3 whole vegetables. Make sure you abstain from any processed food that day and drink at least 14 glasses of water.
Do let us know if Avni’s expert advice helped you plan your travels better. You can visit her website at Nutri Activania.