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Eating on Vacation for Diabetes

Everyone eats differently on vacation than at home. Those of us who have diabetes probably vary our diet less than others, but being away from our usual places always means eating different food.

On vacation we eat out more and usually go to restaurants that we have never seen before. For me, that’s one of the joys and surprises of vacation.

Since New Year’s Day I have been vacationing with a friend in a rented condo on Pine Island in Southwest Florida. Neither of us had ever been to this relatively undeveloped barrier island off the coast from Fort Myers and Cape Coral before.

Another friend, Dyveke Kanth, lives in Sweden and like me, follows a low-carb diet. She writes for the Swedish low-carb high-fat website LCHF.se and has followed a very low-carb diet for years. “I think that it is the only right way to eat even if you do not have diabetes,” she says.

When I wrote Dyveke that I was vacationing in Florida, she asked me, “How is it going with the food in Florida? Is there anything for you to eat there?”

A Reddish Egret Catches a Fish for its Breakfast
(Estero Island, Florida, January 15, 2013)

Good questions! I had the same concerns as I planned my vacation here. But finding good low-carb food here has not been as difficult as Dyveke and I had thought it would be.

I didn’t try to bring any special foods with me from my home in Colorado because I was travelling as light as possible for my lengthy stay in Florida. I probably should have brought raw almonds and macadamia nuts, because they travel well and I haven’t been able to find them here. I brought only my favorite single-estate Assam tea that I buy from Upton Tea Imports, because of the unfortunate fact that quality tea in this country is exceedingly rare.

In addition, I brought two kitchen items I knew that I would need: a tea strainer and single-cup egg poachers. I prefer my eggs poached, because heating them hotter isn’t healthy, and I don’t like they way poached eggs spread out so much without the egg cups.

Finding high quality eggs themselves for my breakfast has been easy in the two supermarkets here, Publix and Winn-Dixie. Cage-free eggs fortified with omega-3 are available.

The second main component of my usual breakfast is not only available here but was a most pleasant surprise. I usually eat wild smoked salmon with my eggs, and I have never found anything better than what a lovely lady named Sam smokes from wild Norwegian salmon at Andy’s Island Seafood, six miles down to road in the funky fishing village of Matlacha.

Since we are staying only a few feet from the Gulf of Mexico, fish has become a big part of my diet here. On this vacation in Florida, just like an earlier vacation in New Zealand, I am feasting on fresh local fish, this time mostly grouper, hogfish, snapper, cobia, triple tail, mullet, and mahi-mahi. Of course, fish is one of the healthiest foods we can eat as well as tasting wonderful in its many types and preparations.

One breakfast food that I have to do without this month is kimchi. I haven’t even been able to find its less spicy probiotic cousin, sauerkraut.

Lunch has been a bit more of a problem, but not because of the lack of low-carb food. The problem has been a dearth of organic food, since no natural food markets are anywhere around here. My lunch is usually salad, and at home I eat organic vegetables and fruit.

Greens are, of course, the heart of the salad that I usually have for lunch, and Publix delighted me by carrying Organicgirl’s “I Heart Baby Kale,” which is organic. That store also carries the best vinegar, Bragg’s apple cider vinegar, which is also organic. I couldn’t find any organic olive oil or coconut oil, but the Lucini brand of extra virgin olive oil that I found here is decent.

Broccoli crowns are here, but organic broccoli is nowhere to be found. Neither are avocados, but the tough skin of conventional Hass avocados protects the fruit from insecticides. I haven’t seen any sort of boy choy in Florida.

Dinner here is usually fish in a restaurant. Of course, I pass on the bread, crackers, French fries or other forms of potato as well as the myriad other stuff made from wheat or other grains. Soup and/or salad suit me just fine. When I eat in, it’s the best seafood chowder ever to enter my mouth, Bahamian conch chowder that I take out from Andy’s.

I skip the usual berry desserts that top off my dinners at home. I wouldn’t dream of eating conventional berries any more than I would consume salad greens that weren’t organic.

What I am eating in Florida isn’t all that different from what I eat at home. In some respects, particularly the more and fresher fish here, it is actually better.

Whatever we eat on vacation, the spectre of weight gain always looms over our holidays. Of course, weight gain is probably inevitable whenever we vacation of a cruise ship.

On land when we keep active, however, weight gain isn’t a foregone conclusion. After two weeks of constant birding in Belize at the end of 2011, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I actually weighed less when I returned home than I had before I left. We can get away, have our good food, and stay healthy too.

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

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  • donald jackson at

    Low carb, good fats moderate protein it works I am off all meds lost 40 lbs. 74 yrs old moderate excercise and good diet will keep You OK!!!