Summer travel tips

Summer vacation is a time to take a break from work and school, but not from healthy eating. Will you be travelling by car or plane? Will you be staying at a hotel or a campground? Are you heading for the beach or the mountains? Each location and activity requires a different set of preparations and precautions. Here are some tips for eating well and feeling your best wherever you are.

Up, up in the air

These days, taking a plane is more and more like taking the bus. While your ticket gets you a seat, a meal is often not included. Before leaving, check with the airline for the details of your flight. Most airlines offer special meals that meet various dietary or religious requirements (vegetarian, low fat, kosher, etc.). Want to order one? Be sure to place your order at least 24 hours before the flight’s scheduled departure.

  • Drink at least one glass of water or juice for every hour you’re in the air.
  • Go easy on diuretic drinks like cola and coffee. Since dry air dehydrates you quicker, you’re best off drinking liquids that are effective hydrators.
  • Consume alcohol moderately or not at all. Not only does alcohol favour dehydration, its intoxicating effects are intensified at high altitudes.
  • Limit your intake of carbonated beverages and gas-producing foods like cabbage, broccoli and beans.

Changes in air pressure sometimes cause earaches. Try these tricks to reduce the discomfort:

  • Chew gum
  • Suck on a hard candy
  • Swallow saliva
  • Yawn
  • Give babies a bottle or pacifier.

On picnics

Summer is picnic season. And, as often as not, picnics mean picnic baskets. Use them for dry and non-perishable foods and plates and utensils. Everything else should go in the cooler. For the cooler to work properly, make sure it contains plenty of ice or freeze packs and don’t let it sit in the sun or in a parked car until you eat—cars can turn into virtual ovens.

Leave foods out of the cooler for as short a time as possible. Many foods become unsafe to eat and can cause food poisoning if left unrefrigerated for two hours or less on a hot day.

On the road

On long car trips, plan regular stops to stretch your legs and fill your lungs with fresh air; the trip will seem shorter and the kids will get bored less quickly. If your route takes you on roads where access to provisions is infrequent, remember to fill your picnic basket and cooler with food that’s easy to eat in the car. A few suggestions:

  • Sandwiches are the perfect food for car-bound diners, especially the driver and children.
  • Stock your cooler with crudités, cheese, fruit, single-serving containers of vegetable and fruit juice and water.
  • Homemade muffins and cookies will satisfy your collective sweet tooth.
  • Pack some cooling foods and drinks, especially if it’s hot outside. For example, freeze juice boxes, small tubs of yogurt or fresh fruit (grapes,blueberries, raspberries, strawberries) the day before you leave and keep them in the cooler. They will be only partially thawed when you get around to eating them.
  • Transform your glove compartment into an emergency food cache by filling it with packages of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, granola bars, dried cereal, rice cakes and other non-perishable food.
  • Does a passenger have heartburn? Take a tip from pregnant women and offer the sufferer some saltines or other light crackers or a can of ginger ale.

Travelling abroad

Traveller’s diarrhea, better known as turista, is an annoyance we all would rather do without. It can usually be avoided by observing a few basic rules of hygiene:

  • Use only bottled or treated water for drinking, washing fruit and brushing your teeth. Give ice cubes a pass unless you know they’ve been made with treated water.
  • Peel all fruit (or, failing that, wash it in bottled or treated water).
  • Eat only cooked vegetables if at all possible.
  • Avoid unpasteurized milk and raw-milk cheeses.
  • Avoid reheated food, salad bars and food from street vendors, because refrigeration equipment and sanitary conditions are often inadequate.
  • Wash your hands often, especially before eating. Use hot, soapy water or an alcohol-based antiseptic solution.

If you do come down with turista, stop drinking milk. To prevent dehydration, you should frequently drink small quantities of bottled water or diluted juice (one part juice to two parts water) in which you’ve dissolved a pinch of salt. You should also avoid irritants and stimulants like coffee, raw vegetables and colas. If the diarrhea lasts for more than 48 hours or is accompanied by blood or a fever, see a doctor.

No vacantion for food allergies

Travelling can be an opportunity for gastronomic discovery. Yet for individuals who suffer from food allergies, it can also be a cause for worry. Here are some ideas for avoiding mishaps and dealing with them if they occur.

  • Before leaving on a trip, inform all parties concerned (the airline, travel agency, tour guides, etc.) of the presence of a person with allergies and the foods that he or she is allergic to.
  • Bring a sheet of paper on which you’ve written the names of the problem foods in the languages of the countries you’re visiting (or, failing that, in English). Even better, a photo or drawing of the problem food will be understood by everyone.
  • Bring several foods that the person with allergies can eat in the event the meals or snacks on offer are too risky.
  • Always have an EpiPen-type auto-injector handy. And in your baggage keep a renewal prescription that will be understood in the country you are visiting.
  • Be aware that some sun creams contain egg and milk by-products. Don’t let your guard down.

Stéphanie Côté