Staying healthy while traveling can be really challenging for anyone, but it’s especially difficult if you have fatty liver disease. Long hours on the road or on a plane and feeling out of your routine when you get to your destination can add extra layers of difficulty. It can be easy to think “well, I’ll just get back on track when I get home.” However, if you have an underlying health condition like fatty liver disease, making healthy choices while traveling is critical. Eating healthy travel snacks can help you feel better and make the most out of your trip, while also helping you combat fatty liver disease.
Keep reading to find out how you can stay healthy while traveling, with healthy travel snacks and other helpful tips.
Traveling with Fatty Liver Disease
Having fatty liver disease does mean you have to stay home! As long as everything is cleared by your doctor, a medical condition doesn’t have to derail your plans, whether you’re traveling for work, taking a much-needed vacation, or visiting family and friends. With guidance from your doctor combined with tips and strategies for making healthy choices, you can keep traveling while staying healthy. With practice, it will become second nature.
Healthy Travel Snacks: What to Pack
If you have fatty liver disease, trying to find healthy options that fit your diet plan and support liver health is extremely challenging while traveling. This may result in anxiety around traveling, or just feeling like there are no options. However, bringing your own food while traveling by car or plane gives you ultimate control over what you’re eating. When packing your own snacks for traveling, you know the ingredients and can feel at ease knowing you’ve made the healthiest choice possible.
Packing travel snacks spares you the nuisance of buying overpriced and underwhelming airport and in-flight food, while also helping you avoid long stretches of time without food while on a road trip.
Check out these options for healthy road trip snacks and snacks to bring on a plane:
1. Trail Mix
Making your own trail mix helps you stick to clean ingredients and avoid added sugars and preservatives. Try pairing nuts and dried fruit, which affords lots of healthy fats, vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. Types of nuts you could use include: walnuts, cashews, pecans, peanuts, and almonds. Types of dried fruit you could use include: mangos, cherries, raisins, dates, and goji berries. If you’re craving a little more sweetness, you could sprinkle in low-sugar dark chocolate chips, which contain polyphenols. Granola may also be added to your trail mix; just make sure that it doesn’t have unnecessary added sugar and refined grain.
Hummus is a savory dip made from chickpeas and tahini. You can make it yourself with a food processor or blender, but store-bought hummus works great too. Pair sliced veggies with hummus for a crunchy, nutritious, fiber-filled, vitamin-packed snack. Great vegetable options for dipping include peppers, raw broccoli, baby carrots, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes.
Guacamole makes a perfect, portable dip that’s filled with healthy fats, potassium, vitamin C, and fiber. Keep in mind that avocado, when exposed to air, begins to oxidize, so store guacamole in an air-tight container. Before leaving the house, liberally squeeze lime juice over the top of the guacamole, as the citrus protects the avocado from oxidation. Bring sliced vegetables or organic corn chips for dipping.
4. Veggie Chips
Snacking on veggie chips is an easy way to make sure you’re eating enough vegetables while traveling. If you have the time, you can make your own veggie chips at home in the oven. Generally, starchier vegetables with lower water content create chips with a good composition. Great examples are root vegetables like sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, and beets. Interestingly, curly kale also transforms into chips.
5. Fresh Fruit
Often covered by their own naturally occurring protective peel, whole fruits may take the cake as the snack requiring the least preparation time and the most nutrition. The most convenient options are those requiring no storage containers, like bananas, apples, kiwis, tangerines, and oranges. If you want to take the extra step of packaging fruit, fruits like blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries are nutritious options.
Sandwiches have seemingly been around forever, and there’s good reason for it. They afford an easy and nutritious way to combine ingredients. Always choose whole grain bread, as opposed to white bread. Whole grains are rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates, which means your body metabolizes the grain at a slow rate. In turn, your blood sugar remains steady and you feel energized for longer. Aim for sandwich fillings that don’t make the bread soggy. If you’re making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, try putting peanut butter on both slices of bread, and leave the jelly in the middle. Lettuce can also be used to protect the bread from fillings with more moistures. Try this unconventional vegan sandwich, which also happens to be high-protein: lettuce to protect the bread, sundried tomatoes, hummus, spinach, and sriracha.
Oatmeal is a great way to satiate hunger while staying healthy on a long voyage. The quickest and most convenient way to prepare oatmeal for traveling is by making overnight oats the evening before your trip. Mason jars are the best option for securely storing your overnight oats.
So how do you make overnight oats? First, add about half a cup of dried old-fashioned oats to a pint-sized mason jar. Next, add about a cup of your favorite plant-based milk, such as coconut milk, almond milk, soy milk, hemp milk, oat milk, or cashew milk. Now for the fun part: add any fruit and nuts that you like! Great combinations include crushed walnuts and blueberries, peanut butter and raisins, cashews and raspberries. Almond butter is a delicious alternative to peanut butter.
For a little extra sweetness and flavor try adding applesauce, mashed ripe bananas, or a drizzle of honey, agave nectar, or maple syrup. For extra antioxidants, fiber, and protein, add two tablespoons of ground flaxseed or chia seeds and stir well. The last step is putting the oats in the fridge and allowing them to sit overnight. In the morning, you’ll have a delicious, filling, and nutritious breakfast.
One caveat: overnight oats may not make it through airport security, in which case you may need to eat breakfast before going to your gate. Another option is to bring dry instant oatmeal to the airport. You can easily add hot water when you get to your gate.
Pasta dishes can serve as healthy and portable snacks or meals, while also providing versatility of flavor. When shopping for pasta, make sure to stick to whole grain pastas. Whole grain wheat, buckwheat, and farro are hearty grain-based pasta. For an even healthier version of pasta that provides even more protein and nutrients, try lentil or chickpea pasta. Nondairy pesto or marinara sauce is a tasty and nonperishable option for flavor. You can also add your own flavor by adding a drizzle of olive oil, basil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to the pasta. For a snack that’s packed with protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber, choose whole-grain pastas and add toppings like edamame or walnuts. Sticking to shorter pastas like penne, fusilli, macaroni, or farfalle will be less messy than linguini and spaghetti when eaten on the road or on a plane.
9. Rice and Beans
This classic combo is packed with protein and fiber and allows for a variety of pairings. As with other grains, always stick to brown or whole grain rice. Try adding a curry sauce to basmati rice and chickpeas or using salsa as a sauce over black beans and brown rice. Rice and beans dishes also present the opportunity to disguise vegetables. Stirring sautéed kale, spinach, peppers, and mushrooms into your rice and beans dish provides extra antioxidants that can help fortify your immune system while you’re traveling.
10. Protein Powders and Supplements
Athletes and anyone thinking about their protein intake may find it difficult to get an adequate amount of protein while toting unperishable foods and making healthy choices. For many people, especially when eating a diet low in animal products, it can be a struggle to ensure an optimal intake of essential amino acids. Amino acids are the basic molecular units that comprise protein.
Our bodies require us to obtain a certain amount of specific amino acids to support our health. For example, amino acids are critical for supporting immune health, synthesizing and maintaining muscle, supporting liver health, and healing damaged tissue. The essential amino acids that we must consume in our diet include leucine, isoleucine, valine, histidine, lysine, methionine, tryptophan, and phenylalanine, and threonine.
Individual packets of protein powder can be easily added to water, coffee, or plant-based milk for a boost of energy. When looking for a good protein powder that works for you, try to avoid added sugars and preservatives, while seeking out powders that contain other nutrients like dried vegetables, spices, and probiotics. Plant-based protein powders usually use a combination of pea protein, flax protein, and oat protein, while also combining nutrients from fruits and vegetables. These extra ingredients provide the extra perk of antioxidants that soothes oxidative stress and probiotics that promote digestive health.
Another excellent option is essential amino acid powder, which is an easily digestible version of protein powder that affords optimal amounts of essential amino acids without the extra calories and elements of proteins. As a result, your digestive system, kidneys, and liver are able to easily process the amino acids and incorporate them into your biological function without expending too much energy or putting unnecessary wear and tear on your organs while traveling.
Protein bars are an excellent option for getting essential amino acids, just watch out for added sugars and preservatives.
More Healthy Travel Snack Tips
- You can bring food on planes. Keep in mind that some airport security may ask you to remove snacks when going through security. But overall, most snacks should make it through security just fine as long as they are not liquids. If you are traveling internationally, try to consume all produce-based snacks before going through customs.
- Stick to plant-based foods. Plant-based foods are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents that support your liver and fight against fatty liver disease. Plus, plant-based foods are less perishable than animal-based foods like meat, milk, and cheese. Especially when it comes to air travel, even if it feels like your travel plans are predictable, mishaps and delays could result in longer travel times that impede access to a fridge.
- Bring fruits and vegetables, especially when traveling by plane. Air travel is more accessible than ever and has become a routine part of life for those of us who travel frequently. What many people don’t realize is that air travel exposes the body to radiation from the sun. You may have noticed that at higher altitudes, your skin becomes more susceptible to burning. This is because higher altitudes bring us closer to the sun, exposing us to more powerful rays. Normally, humans live at an altitude of a few thousand feet above sea level. However, on a commercial plane, we are often traveling at an altitude between 30,000 and 40,000 feet. At these altitudes, the atmosphere is significantly thinner and combined with the close proximity to the sun, radiation is so strong that it’s able to permeate the fuselage of the aircraft to reach passengers inside. Radiation can result in the accumulation of free radicals within cells, which can lead to tissue damage over time. Although this radiation is not life-threatening and a few flights won’t hurt you, it’s still good to take precautions, especially if you’re a frequent flyer. Foods rich in antioxidants – like kale chips, beets, blueberries, and blackberries – are particularly protective against radiation-induced oxidative stress.
- Bring a cooler for road trips. Having a cooler on hand during road trips is helpful for keeping food fresh, or even keeping drinks at a refreshingly cold temperature on hot days. Made sure your cooler is filled with ice or ice packs to get food and drinks cold all day. Sticking mainly to foods that are nonperishable is still a good idea though; a cooler is only effective until the ice melts.
Healthy Travel Snacks: What to Get On-the-Go
Let’s be real though; getting food while in transit – at the airport, on a flight, or during a road trip – is sometimes unavoidable. However, it’s critical to choose healthy options when you have fatty liver disease. Is trying to be healthy a complete wash? Not at all. Attempting to be healthy at this point may seem like a futile effort, but there are strategies for weighing your food options.
Here are some tips for making the best choices possible and navigating the world of fast food while traveling.
1. Aim for Fast Food Restaurants with a “Make Your Own” Philosophy
Examples of these kinds of restaurants are Chipotle or Subway. Restaurants with this setup make it much easier to choose what you’re eating. Stick to whole grain, unrefined carbohydrates like whole-wheat bread or brown rice. Instead of meat, ask for an extra serving of black beans and guacamole for an extra punch of protein and vitamins. When possible, look for colorful vegetables or salads with darker greens. A good rule of thumb is that a more vibrant color signifies a higher concentration of antioxidants.
2. Look for a Short Ingredients List
Whether you’re looking for a quick snack in an airport or at a gas station, aisles are packed with processed snack foods. Most of these packaged foods contain saturated fats, excess sodium, added sugars, and preservatives and are devoid of vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. Instead of refueling your body, these packaged snacks instead spike your blood glucose, leading to an energy crash. Processing refined foods and chemicals taxes your body and nullifies any energy provided by calories or trace amounts of nutrients.
Instead, look for packaged foods that have a shorter ingredient list that includes familiar words. Lightly salted popcorn and unsalted nuts are safe bets. In general, steer clear of potato chips, which are filled with unhealthy oils and salt.
3. Stick to Approximately Serving-Size Packs
In many snack food shops, chips or crackers are sold in massive packages that contain many servings. While driving or while waiting for a flight, it’s easy to mindlessly snack on these foods and consume way more than you intended. To avoid eating too many calories, choose serving-size packs of snacks.
4. On Long Flights, Choose the Vegetarian Option
A long flight poses the fewest options for food, and if you didn’t bring any snacks, you’re pretty much limited to the two meal options. Sticking to the vegetarian dish not only increases the probability of getting more vegetables with your meal but also helps you avoid processed meats. Plus, breaking down meat proteins can be taxing on your body, especially the kidneys. Traveling already takes a toll on your body, between the physical exertion, sleep deprivation, and exposure to new viruses and bacteria. Stick to more digestible foods to lighten the load for your organs.
5. Stay Away from Meat
Most likely, the meat that you have access to while in transit is lower quality and filled with saturated fat, preservatives, coloring, and other additives. Examples include beef jerky, pepperoni, and sliced lunchmeats. Though these meats contain protein, they don’t contain any other useful nutrients. Furthermore, processed meats are high in sodium and saturated fats, which can increase your blood pressure, raise your cholesterol, and exacerbate fatty liver disease.
Choosing Healthy Options at Your Destination
Making healthy choices at a restaurant can seem overwhelming, especially in an unfamiliar location. When you get to your destination, eating healthy while traveling can be easier than you think if you know what to look for. Keep in mind that food options and availability will vary greatly depending on where you are.
In general, try to steer clear of fried foods and when ordering a salad, ask for the dressing on the side. Many restaurants are very accommodating in making substitutions and alterations. For example, chefs can often prepare vegetarian or vegan versions of dishes by substituting rice, beans, and vegetables for meats and leaving out the cheese.
If you’re traveling internationally, it’s also important to soak up the local culture and try the traditional foods, regardless of whether they are healthy. In this case, regulating the serving size is key. Stick to very small portions and tasting plates of foods that may be unhealthy, while filling up on healthier options.
Incorporating Exercise into Your Trip
Being active can be difficult while in transit. When you’re on a long road trip or flight, you don’t have options to exercise aside from regular stretching and walking. When at your destination, however, there are more ways to incorporate movement into your trip. If you’re strapped for time, brisk 30-minute walks and at-home workout routines are great options. If you are sightseeing, try to see how much you can explore on foot. You may be surprised by how far you walk when exploring beautiful sights.
Especially if you’re going on vacation, kicking back and having a few drinks on the beach is an appealing idea. However, drinking can increase your appetite and cause you to reach for unhealthy comfort foods like burgers and fries. Even a couple of drinks can negatively impact the quality of your sleep by inhibiting your body’s ability to enter REM sleep and increasing your heart rate. Drinking too many alcoholic drinks can lead to liver inflammation or a nasty hangover that can leave you feeling crummy for an entire day.
Avoiding alcohol altogether is the best course of action when traveling with fatty liver disease. But, if you do decide to drink, you can limit the toxic effects of alcohol by sticking to one or two drinks over the span of a couple hours and avoiding drinking right before bedtime. That way, you’ll be able to get a good night’s rest and can wake up feeling refreshed.
Managing Mental Stress
Psychological stress influences our food choices and making healthy choices while stressed is notoriously difficult. When traveling for work, the additional stress of traveling compounds baseline work stress, making it more likely to cave at the thought of our favorite comfort foods. Even if you’re on vacation, the stress of traveling, jet lag, sleep deprivation, and long hours contorted in an unnatural position and increase the desire for fatty comfort foods.
Though it may seem counterintuitive, mental stress directly impacts physiological stress and vice versa. Experiencing mental stress followed by eating unhealthy foods only fuels this feedback loop that leads to increased inflammation. On the other hand, choosing healthy options despite mental stress will actually equip your body and mind with the nutrients and antioxidants needed to fight the effects of stress.
De-stressing techniques can help calm your mind. Deep breathing, yoga, and meditation are proven ways to help your body and mind enter a relaxed state.
Other Helpful Tips for Staying Healthy While Traveling
- Give your immune system a boost. Regardless of whether you’re susceptible to getting sick or feel strong, eat foods rich in vitamin C and antioxidants, like fruits and vegetables. These foods have an added bonus of helping reverse fatty liver disease.
- Wear compression socks. Compression socks are extremely tight-fighting socks that prevent blood from pooling in your lower extremities. These are helpful for everyone, but especially those who may be more vulnerable to developing blood clots. For example, you may be at risk for developing blood clots if you have high cholesterol or take certain medications.
- Move around when possible. If you’re on a long flight and the seatbelt sign is off, take the opportunity to walk around and stretch. If you’re taking a long road trip, take periodic breaks at rest stops to stretch and go for a brisk walk. Like compression socks, regular movement keeps your blood flowing, and helps prevent swelling and blood clots.
- Fasting while flying. This is especially relevant if you’re taking a long international flight. If you’re traveling into a different time zone, you may want to try holding off on eating until after you land. Just make sure you eat a full meal before heading to the airport. An additional benefit is that pausing digestive activities helps your body conserve energy that would normally be channeled towards breaking down and metabolizing foods. Temporarily fasting allows your digestive system to reset and eating a meal at your destination helps acclimatize your body to a new time and routine. If you fast during a flight, always make sure you are drinking plenty of water.
- Staying hydrated. All aspects of traveling can lead to an increased risk of dehydration.
Being Prepared, Just in Case
When looking out for your health while traveling, making sure you are prepared for unexpected circumstances can make a big difference.
If you’re taking medication regularly, make sure you have a sufficient supply on hand, so you won’t run out for the duration of your trip. It’s a good idea to even pack medications for a few extra days, just in case there’s an unforeseen travel delay.
You never know when you may need medical care, especially if you have a health condition like fatty liver disease. Medical conditions flare up, accidents happen, and so do stomach viruses and food poisoning. Depending on whether you’re traveling internationally and the length of your trip, it may be a good idea to book travel insurance so you can access medical care when you need it, without having to worry about cost. Having coverage will also give you peace of mind – a vital part of calming mental stress.
With careful planning, it is possible to stay in a healthy routine while traveling when you have fatty liver disease. Maintaining a healthy diet helps minimize the physical and mental stress of traveling. A healthy travel lifestyle helps you feel your best so you can make the most of your trip, and also supports you in dealing with a health condition like fatty liver disease. Once you get in the habit of making nutritious food choices and bringing your own healthy travel snacks, healthy traveling will become a seamless part of your travel routine.