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Low-Carb Travel Guide

How to Eat Low-Carb on Airplane and Car Trips

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Updated August 03, 2009

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Photo © Tom Denham
Heading off to parts known or unknown? Worried that you’ll have trouble sticking to a low-carb way of eating? Fear not! This Low-Carb Travel Guide will allow you to have fun while wandering.

Why It’s Best to Stay Low Carb

A low-carb diet is different from other ways of eating. You’ve been working with your body to change the way it uses food, as well as your appetite system. If your vacation includes a vacation from low-carb eating, be aware that your work will likely be reversed. You will probably start to have food cravings again, which starts up a cycle that is hard to break. You may have less energy, be mentally foggy, and all the rest of it. Remember how you felt before low-carb? You don’t want to have to start all over again.

Plan Your Strategy

Although returning to high carb eating is a bad idea, you can usually safely “loosen up,” at least a little, if you choose to do so. Several possible approaches include:
  1. Raise your daily carb intake to a level where you don’t lose weight, but don’t gain either. Atkins calls this the point of “Carbohydrate Equilibrium.” On a different diet, you might move to the maintenance phase temporarily. But be careful to monitor your carb cravings and how you feel. If you find yourself with urges to eat when you aren’t hungry, STOP, and cut back on carbs.
  2. Add one or two servings of carbohydrate per day to what you are already eating. So, you could have one medium ear of corn on the cob OR a small serving of potato salad OR a sliver of blueberry pie. But know your limit.
  3. Decide that two or three times during the vacation, you’ll have a meal or treat where you don’t worry about carbs. (This does not mean “stuff yourself with carbs until you can’t fit any more in” –- prudent eating until you are satisfied is always the common-sense guideline on quantity.) Make sure these occasions are at least 3 days apart. The rest of the time, stick to your usual way of eating. For most people, one high carb meal won’t throw their bodies off too much (although there could be short-term negative effects that some people call a “carb hangover”), but several in a row will. Don’t push your luck.
  4. My own approach is similar. I basically stick to my usual low-carb eating, but when an occasion comes up to try a new food or something I don’t usually have an opportunity to eat, I will have a small portion.

Know How To Eat Away from Home

  1. Brush up on your skills for restaurant eating.
  2. Load up on non-starchy vegetables and protein foods.
  3. If you’re going to be around food-pushing relatives, don’t try to explain your diet to them (why invite an argument?), but be firm, and know your own mind. Ahead of time, picture looking at Aunt Mildred and practice lines such as: “It looks great, but I’ve found out that starchy foods don’t agree with me.” “My doctor says I have to stay away from sugar, or I might become diabetic.” “Oh, that pie looks wonderful, but I simply couldn’t eat another bite after that delicious meal.” “This grilled chicken is fabulous. Could I have the recipe?” “REALLY, no thank you.”

Bring Your Own Travel Food

If you’re going on a car trip, it’s easy to pack plenty of your favorite low-carb foods in a cooler. Pack raw vegetables and low-carb dip, meats and cheeses, containers of salad, hard-boiled eggs (or deviled eggs), fresh low-carb fruit, and calorie-free beverages.

Tip: If traveling by air and then renting a car, purchase an inexpensive cooler when you get to your destination. Then head for the grocery store to stock up.

If you are flying, it’s doubly important to pack your own food. You can absolutely forget getting suitable food on planes these days. On most US flights (the ones I have experience with), the only food available once you’re boarded is a total carbfest. So what to do? If the trip is short, you can just eat before you go, but most of the time you will need to take something with you. It’s safest to bring it from home. But most airports now have meal salads, and even sometimes low-carb smoothies and other selections to take on the plane with you.

Tip: A soft-sided, 12-pack drink cooler can fit in a carry-on bag.

Your Low-Carb Emergency Kit

The plane is late. You’ll miss your connection if you stop to get something to eat. What to do? When away from home ALWAYS have a low-carb emergency kit accessible. This can be as simple as a bag of nuts in your purse or something more elaborate. It should contain nonperishable low-carb foods such as:
  • Protein bars (but watch for suspicious ingredients such as maltitol, and watch the carb count on the bars)
  • Nuts, seeds, or low-carb trail mix
  • Jerky
  • Snack sausages
  • Protein mix to put into coffee or diet soda
  • Tuna in foil packs or small cans
  • Soy nuts
  • Sturdy vegetables like celery will be fine without refrigeration for a day or so
  • Small wax-coated cheeses such as "Mini-Bel".
  • Flax seed meal for extra nutrition and fiber. Besides adding it to yogurt, cottage cheese, etc, you can add hot water to it to make a cereal at the hotel "continental breakfast". Sometimes there's even peanut butter to add to it. (Also sweetener and a pinch of salt are good additions.) More Ideas for Flax Seed Meal More About Flax Seeds
Whatever you do, don’t be so focused on your diet that you forget to have a great time.
  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Low Carb Diets
  4. Low Carb 101
  5. Low-Carb Living
  6. Low-Carb Travel Guide - How to Travel in Cars and Planes and Stay on a Low Carb Diet

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