Plan ahead
Keep insulin in your hand luggage
Know your food
Eating out
Eat when hungry
Regular testing
Keep active

 

Don't forget to pack your healthy habits

With good planning you can avoid falling into unhealthy eating habits while on holidays, writes Linda Malone

The sun, relaxation, holidays and eating out make summer an enjoyable time for all the family, but people with diabetes, in particular, shouldn't forget about healthy eating during the holiday season.

The temptation to over-indulge on high fat, high calorie food choices when on holidays can challenge a healthy eating plan. But it really isn't that difficult to eat well, maintain good diabetes control, maintain your waistline and still enjoy some tasty, mouth-watering delicacies.

Here are some healthy eating tips to pack along with your camera, shades and sun-screen to help get you and your diabetes through the holiday season while maintaining good glucose control.

Plan ahead.

With a little planning you can avoid getting trapped into unhealthy eating. Bring along a supply of healthy snacks such as fresh fruit, wholewheat crackers, scones and bread, breadsticks and raw vegetables. With these on hand you won't have to resort to high sugar, high fat choices.

Frequently, travel can be delayed, a meal can be delayed, or the cafe may be shut, so dive into your bag of healthy snacks if you need to satisfy a grumbling stomach. Airlines usually offer special meals for people with diabetes, but suitable meals can be selected from the regular airline menu items by selecting appropriate food choices.

Keep insulin in your hand luggage

If you use insulin, be sure to carry it with you at all times. Insulin should never be stored in the unpressurised baggage area of an aircraft when flying. It is very important to keep your insulin supplies at the right temperature. In hot climates, store your insulin in a fridge, insulated bag or cool box.

Know your food

Check on the basic forms of carbohydrate eaten in the countries to be visited. While away it should be possible to select healthy choices from local menus. As usual, eat regular meals based on starchy foods such as bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, chapattis and cereals. Where possible, choose high fibre varieties of these foods, like wholemeal bread and high fibre cereals.

Eating out

When abroad you may be eating out more often than usual, so you will need to select foods wisely from the menu.

Many oriental meals are tasty and healthy. Try to have just one or two courses, and choose items that are grilled or baked, instead of fried. Go for tomato-based sauces with pasta instead of creamy sauces. Stir-fried dishes can be another healthy option. Include a large portion of vegetables or salad with your meal, but watch the salad dressings!

Ask for sauces, gravy and dressings 'on the side' where possible. Opt for salad, fruit or a non-creamy soup as your starter. Where possible, choose fruit or low fat yoghurt for dessert. Try to pick a restaurant with a variety of choices to increase your chances of finding what you want.

Eat when hungry

Are you eating because you're tired, jet-lagged or irritable? Or are you eating because you are truly hungry? Before you have 'that chocolate', consider if you are actually hungry. If you aren't, go for a swim, a stroll or take a nap.

Combat the dehydration of air and road travel, which can leave you feeling tired, cranky and vulnerable to snacking. Hot climates can be especially dehydrating, so be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day. If the water quality is questionable, purify or boil it, or drink bottled water.

Choose treats carefully and battle the urge to splurge. The key to eating wisely is balance and keeping everything in moderation. Enjoy a wide variety of all foods; just don't overdo it. People with diabetes can fit virtually anything into their meal plan, in moderation.

Regular testing

While on holiday, test your blood glucose frequently. This is the only way of knowing whether or not your blood glucose levels are in the target range.

Keep active

Regular exercise is an important part of managing diabetes. Being physically active offers many rewards - it helps improve blood glucose levels, helps weight loss, lifts the mood, increases energy and decreases fatigue, anger and anxiety.

Focus on non-food activities as much as possible. Pick an activity you enjoy and stick with it. You may need to monitor your blood glucose levels more often when first starting an activity or sport, so check this with your diabetes medical team.

Summer holidays are fun, but don't leave your healthy lifestyle habits at home. Eat a balanced diet with a variety of foods, including fruit, vegetables, wholegrain foods, low fat dairy products and lean meat, poultry, fish or meat alternatives, and keep active. Most importantly enjoy the summer season - Bon Voyage!

Linda Malone is a senior clinical nutritionist in diabetes and endocrinology at St James's Hospital, Dublin.

Issue June 2003