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Holiday Travel Tips: Low Carbohydrate Diet

travel tips, healthy snack, pemmican, sugar-free

Author: Nicole Recine RN, MSN, CDE

The holiday season is upon us; for many, this is a time of traveling. Travel can be stressful when trying to stick to a particular way of eating. Many of my clients easily adhere to low carbohydrate-eating patterns at home, but have difficulty knowing how to implement this way of eating when traveling. It may often involve eating with others, emotional stress, relying on restaurants, as well as time changes or atypical schedules.  Additionally, holiday celebrations often center on foods that likely do not fit into a low carbohydrate way of eating. While you may choose to go off plan at a holiday meal, it is possible to maintain your normal way of eating during the travel leading up to the celebration. In this article, I will provide some tips on how to navigate traveling while maintaining a low-carbohydrate, nutrient-dense way of eating.


Travel Tips


Implement Intermittent Fasting


Many people struggle to figure out what to eat on a plane or in an airport.  My best advice is: Don’t.  For anyone with Type 2 Diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or obesity, intermittent fasting can be a great tool to use to help improve metabolic functioning. [1] [2] For short flights that are less than 6 hours, I always advise using it as an opportunity to practice fasting.  Flying is a very sedentary activity. It can be used to get work done, watch a movie, read a book, relax, or take a nap.  After some time on a low carbohydrate diet, most have the metabolic flexibility to go longer periods without food, as blood sugar and insulin levels become better regulated. It is not unreasonable to be able to go 6-10 hours without a meal.  This practice is useful when traveling.  Just be sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.  Some may also need to supplement with salt water for electrolyte balance.  If you are taking any medications for diabetes, you must talk to your physician before any attempt at fasting.





Never rely on airport food.


If you’re not up for fasting just yet, or have longer travel itineraries, my next best piece of advice is never to rely on airport food.  It is virtually impossible to find quality food in an airport.  Most options are fast food or snack items that often contain sugar or other undesirable additives.  I always suggest packing some items in your carry-on that can make a small meal.  Some options include pemmican, canned seafood, pouched salmon, 1-2oz of nuts, jerky, cold cuts, cheese wedges, or pork rinds. Some of my clients even carry small amounts of coconut oil, olive oil, or nut butters. These are all healthy snack items that are allowed in your carry-on bag (as long as liquids are less than 3 oz).  Word of caution: Most jerkies, cold cuts, meat sticks, and even pork rinds contain added sugar.  Luckily USWM offers a wide variety of jerky, pemmican, pork rinds, nuts, and meat sticks that are free of any sugar. I always stock up when I know I have a trip coming up.  Since they don’t require refrigeration, these items also come in handy during your trip when you need a meal in a pinch.


Scope out your options


Although airports are unlikely places to find healthy foods, there are some items to look for.  Just don’t plan on them being available. Coffee or teas are great options on their own and these are readily available in airports.  Many coffee shops will have heavy whipping cream on hand behind the counter if you ask for it.  You may be able to find hard-boiled eggs, but steer clear of ready-made eggs or egg sandwiches (even without a bun) since many of these items contain flour, sugar or other additives. For example, Starbucks sous vide egg bites appear to be simply eggs, cheese and bacon. However, the ingredient list reveals that they also contain multiple forms of sugar and starch, and at least five different thickeners such as carrageenan and guar gum.[3] There are obviously exceptions, but it is always better to be prepared than to rely on an airport food court to feed you.


My final piece of advice: Have fun and relax. Traveling does not have to be stressful. Avoid having to decide what to eat by planning ahead and being prepared.  Use travel time as an opportunity to catch up on books, watch a movie, or engage in whatever you do to relax.  The more successes you have traveling while staying low carbohydrate, the easier it will become.



Nicole RecineAbout The Author:

Nicole Recine is a nurse practitioner that specializes in diabetes. Nicole was a featured speaker at the 2017 KetoCon. Watch her KetoCon presentation.








[1] Arnason, Bowen, and Mansell, “Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Health Markers in Those with Type 2 Diabetes: A Pilot Study.”

[2] Mattson, Longo, and Harvie, “Impact of Intermittent Fasting on Health and Disease Processes.”

[3] Starbucks, “Sous Vide Egg Bites: Bacon & Gruyere.”