Article Summary:Nutrition basics that will help you make healthier choices when travelling.
Let's face it. Sooner or later, you're going to be stuck at the airport during mealtime and forced to eat at one of the many fast food establishments that abound. Making an uninformed selection can be disastrous for your diet, but with some knowledge and forethought, you can find menu items that do little or no damage.
Before you can make a decision about which menu items are the best for you, you have to understand some nutrition basics.
If you're really concerned about what you eat, we recommend talking to your doctor or a nutritionist about your specific needs. In general, however, most nutritionists (who aren't touting the latest fad diet) recommend that you split your calories in the following way:
- Carbohydrates = 30% to 40% of total calories
- Protein = 30% to 40% of total calories
- Fat = 20% to 30% of total calories
For example, you'll hear about 40-40-20 plans or 30-40-30 plans, for carbohydrates-protein-fat respectively.
How do you figure out where your calories are coming from? It's pretty easy if you remember how many calories are in each gram:
- Carbohydrates = 1 gram = 4 calories
- Protein = 1 gram = 4 calories
- Fat = 1 gram = 9 calories
Fat has almost 2.5 times the calories of carbs and protein. This is why it's very easy to get fat quickly off of fat! If you consume the same quantity of fatty foods as carbs or proteins, you'll ingest almost 2.5 times the calories!
So, to figure out the percentages, use these formulas:
- Carbs = (Grams of Carbs x 4)/Total Calories
- Protein = (Grams of Protein x 4)/Total Calories
- Protein = (Grams of Protein x 9)/Total Calories
When making your menu selections, strive for well-balanced meal that approaches 40-40-20. If you don't hit your numbers, don't despair. This is, after all, only one meal. But strive for meals that aren't so off-balance that they make it difficult to catch up.
Another point to ponder is calories per meal. To keep your metabolism performing at its best, most nutritionists will tell you to eat five or even six small meals per day, versus three large meals. For example, if you are on a 2,000-calorie per day diet, you might focus on eating five meals of 400 calories each.
Breaking your individual meals down into a calorie allotment will really put the menu items into perspective!
A few other tidbits:
- Target 25 to 40 grams of fiber per day
- Target less than 7 grams of saturated fat per day
- Skip the dressings and sauces to save lots of calories and, frequently, lots of fat
- Ditto for skipping the cheese
Finally, when you're about to order the fries, cinnamon roll, double burger with cheese, and so on, ask yourself if it's really worth it? Do you want to blow all of those calories and fat on a meal that you'll choke down in five minutes before your flight and that you'll never remember? Or do you want to save them to splurge on a great treat from a wonderful restaurant on your trip or back at home? It's your choice!
Karen Hiser is the owner and Chief Fitness Officer of Healthy Travel Network. Healthy Travel Network is the premier resource for business travelers who want to stay fit on the road. Our monthly newsletter and Travel Fit Tips cover a wide range of fitness and health related travel information, such as how to get the best hotel room workout and how to eat healthy while you dine out.