Diabetes Diet

Eating Right on the Road

Not even the holidays are as hard on us as eating right as traveling. At least we spend the holidays with friends and family who know — or need to know — what we eat.Actually, what we don’t eat is even more important for those of us who have diabetes. We know that keeping our blood glucose levels as low as possible after a meal is the key to managing our diabetes. And eating starch and sugar are what we need to avoid in order to keep our levels in check.But when we are on the road, we are eating out all the time, often in places where we have never been before. The people who cook for us when we travel seldom have any idea about healthy food. If they are thinking at all, it is about making the food taste good.

Taste is good, but healthy is better. We demand both, and we can get that with a little effort.

One of my friends who knows that I follow a very low-carb diet and that I travel a lot asked me how I combine them. It gets easier with practice.

At the beginning of this month I returned from about two weeks in the Central American country of Belize. Not only did I keep my blood glucose levels in check but I also lost weight on a trip.

Eating out can actually be quite similar to eating at home. Either way, breakfast for me is almost always eggs with bacon or sausage. Lunch is usually salad, even in Belize, which doesn’t have the usual third-world problems with lettuce. Dinner is usually fish or meat with some cooked veggies.

It’s the add-ons that can get you on the road. Breakfast almost always comes with toast and hash brown potatoes. The trick is to ask for a substitution, which is usually a fruit bowl. On a trip to New Mexico a couple of weeks ago the tour group that I was a part of chose to eat at a Denny’s restaurant, hardly one of my favorites. But I was happy to have them substitute fruit for the toast and sausages for the hash browns.

Sometimes, restaurants, particularly smaller ones that cater to a local crowd, don’t make substitutions. In that case, my usual strategy is to tell them to just hold the toast and hash browns — if it’s not on the table, it won’t tempt. Or if I am eating with friends who don’t have diabetes, I will sometimes pass the starch on to them.

Another strategy is to relax a bit. I am not on a diet, because what I eat is for the rest of my life. So when necessary, I compromise a little bit. For example, in Belize almost every meal comes with rice and beans. I can easily skip the rice or any other grain, but I will accept some beans, even though they are rather high in carbs. But they are low-glycemic carbs.

And I do make other exceptions. The ceviche that one restaurant in Belize served me was so intense from the citrus marinade and chili peppers that I broke my rule of avoiding all grains. I had passed on to a companion the corn chips that came with the ceviche, but I took back a few to calm my stomach.

I travel a lot, and over the years I have had only one problem. That was on a Sierra Club expedition to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah. The only choices for breakfast on the third day were bagels, muffins, cereal, and melon slices. This offered me almost nothing to eat except for some emergency jerky I had with me — even though I had told them about my food preferences when I signed up for the outing.

If I had known then about the wisdom of intermittent fasting, I might have stuck around. But I also felt disrespected and left the tour early (and made sure to tell the Sierra Club later about my disappointment). I’m still glad that I cut out, because it gave me the chance to explore even more beautiful places.

Almost every place we go, we have good food options.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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  • Bea February 9, 2012 at 9:11 am

    I enjoy your blog posts so much, David. Thank you for your good advice. You’re a role model for me.