What should I eat?”
While the matter is easier to settle on a daily basis, the real trouble occurs when we step out of home and are away from our carefully-constructed dietary plans. The problem is compounded in a country like ours, where cuisine is as diverse as culture.
Dietary guidelines do vary, of course, depending on health conditions, nature of travel and other criteria. But consult any nutritionist, dietary expert or doctor, and the advice you will get — adequate hydration and snacking healthy.
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Swati Kumar Dwivedi, a senior dietician at Max Hospital, Saket, Delhi said, “Keeping oneself adequately hydrated is of utmost importance, but not with beverages or aerated drinks. Stick to water as much as possible. Coconut water is a good alternative. Even juices are not recommended.”
The other benefit of keeping oneself hydrated, according to Dr Ruchi Verma, in-charge of preventive health care programme at Max Hospital, is that it creates a feeling of fullness and helps us avoid junk food.
When it comes to snacking, several recent studies have been found to be leaning towards nuts.
A New York Times article titled ‘Snacking your way to better health’, dated December 9, quoted several recent studies that found nuts (all kinds) to be one of the healthiest snacks. The article said those who ate nuts regularly tended to be leaner, simply because nuts were replacing other high-calorie snacks such as chips, cookies and candy.
Another snack option is dry fruits. Carrying small pouches of dry fruits, possibly mixed with nuts, is highly recommended. If the trip is short, or if you have a portable cooler, experts suggest carrying fresh fruits and vegetables. Homemade sandwiches with whole grain bread and peanut butter are an equally good option.
Once your snacks are taken care of, monitoring the rest of the meals is pretty easy. Grilled over fried, baked over grilled, salads over burgers, whole wheat bread over white bread, oats over muffins, boiled eggs over omelette is common knowledge.
Fortunately, the hospitality and travel industries too have evolved with people’s increasing awareness regarding health. As a result, there is always a healthier, low-calorie option available. Arijit Basu, chief general manager (Delhi), State Bank of India, agrees. He travels for work at least six or seven times a month, most of them being two-day trips.
“Wherever I travel, meals are usually laid out in a buffet. And there, one always has the option to pick a soup or a salad over the high-calorie options. So if you are eating unhealthy, it is not because you don’t have an option,” he says.
Most airlines too have begun to offer a variety of menu options catering to specific needs of fliers.
Jet Airways, which is one of the few airlines in the country that still has an in-house catering department, offers at least 20 varieties of ‘special’ meals, which cater to the different medical and religious requirements of passengers. The medical ‘special meals’ include low-fat, low-salt, low-calorie, low-purine, non-lacto and gluten-free meals.
“Our research has shown that first-time passengers and those who travel occasionally want to enjoy every aspect of the flight, especially the food served. Alternatively, the profiles of frequent travellers, such as senior corporate executives and entrepreneurs, are more health conscious, often pre-ordering a healthy or low-calorie option. Our pre-ordered meals also include fresh fruits, whole wheat breads, cereals and yogurt,” the spokesperson said.
The thumb-rule is to pick complex carbohydrates over simple carbohydrates. This is because complex carbs are rich in nutrients, as opposed to the simple carbs which are essentially refined sugars with very little nutritional value. Also the complex carbs take some time to digest, thus ensuring that they don’t raise sugar levels in the body as quickly as simple carbs do.
Foods rich in complex carbs include whole-meal bread, cereals, vegetables such as spinach, yams, broccoli, beans, zucchini. Lentils, skimmed milk, whole grains and many other leguminous plants and vegetables also contain complex carbs.