Tripping the Scale

by Charles Platkin, PhD

I just got back from the first leg of my holiday travels — ah, the romance of globetrotting. Unfortunately, that quickly faded when I got to the airport, had not eaten breakfast, and found that the only place open was the coffee stand selling shrink-wrapped cheese danish. As we enter the holiday season when traveling is at its peak, the stress mounts, we’re rushing from here to there, and eating becomes both a pacifier and a means of survival. It’s hard enough to maintain a healthy lifestyle during the course of our familiar, daily routine — but what happens when you are forced to exit this comfortable environment, disturbing your normal schedule and habits?

Whether you’re traveling by car, plane, train, or boat, keep these tips in mind so you can stay on the road to wellness this holiday season.

First, figure out what, where and when you’re going to eat on your trip. It may sound unromantic or tedious, but give it a try — it might actually enhance your dining and experience. “Write a meal plan for yourself,” suggests nutritionist and personal trainer Shira Isenberg, RD, “Traveling is stressful enough. You’ll be amazed by how liberating it is not to worry about food while you’re on the road!”

On the day of travel be sure to eat a meal before you leave your home or hotel. Don’t let yourself become ravenous — that’s the quickest way to end up eating “garbage” foods. If you’re on the road, pack nutritious snack foods such as individual boxes of cereal, yogurt, boxes of raisins, fruits or vegetables packed in resealable bags, or animal crackers.

Wherever you’re going, be sure to pack a water bottle. Traveling can be notoriously dehydrating, leading to a false feeling of hunger, dizziness, headaches, or fatigue.

Across the nation, airlines have cut back on the food they serve in order to save money. Instead of serving meals, they provide high calorie snacks that offer little nutritional value and are not very filling.

If you’re traveling longer distances, be wary of the meals served on most flights — a study of 15 different airlines found that the average in-flight meal contains close to 1,054 calories! If you are flying to your destination, be sure to order a special meal when you book your reservations. “Most airlines offer selections such as low-fat, low-calorie, vegetarian, diabetic, heart-healthy, kosher, fruit, and others. And always avoid the desserts, as they tend to be loaded with calories!” advises Theresa Davis, MS, RD.

Remember — once you’re buckled in, you’re at the mercy of the airline to feed you — unless you’ve planned ahead.

When you are in a new place, it’s hard to know which restaurants to choose. Buy a travel guide so you will know some local eateries, or ask the concierge of your hotel what he or she recommends for healthy dining. Be prepared to be specific — there are varying degrees of what one might consider “healthy”. Don’t be afraid to call ahead and ask the restaurant if they have healthy selections (look for menu items that are baked, grilled, steamed or broiled). Even fast food restaurants have healthy choices — take a look at their Web sites for nutritional information.

Another tip is to request a room with a kitchen when you book your hotel. “This way you can actually make meals for yourself if you can’t find any restaurants that suit your tastes or your healthy lifestyle,” says New York City Nutritionist Carey Clifford, MS, RD. In fact, there are many hotels such as Residence Inn, Extended Stay America, and Homestead Studio Suite Hotels, where rooms with kitchens are standard, and they’re reasonably priced.

While a large number of hotels have workout facilities, there are many that do not. Call the hotel to find out if they have a relationship with any fitness clubs. If they have no relationship or they can’t recommend a nearby club, contact the local chamber of commerce. Additionally, The International , Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) established the IHRSA Passport Program to give members of participating IHRSA facilities (approximately 20 percent of all fitness clubs in the U.S. are members) guest privileges in over 3,600 clubs worldwide when traveling — so ask your current fitness facility if they are members of this program. You can search for participating clubs at

If there are no gyms available, there are many exercises you can do in your hotel room, such as crunches, push-ups, wall sits, squats, and lunges. Pack a jump rope, resistance bands, water-inflatable weights, or workout tapes — these are easy to carry and provide a good workout without any professional equipment. For water-inflatable weights, visit:; for fitness videos visit

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