Traveling on a Diet: Avoid Weight Gain (cont.)

Reis and McCabe have the right idea, say nutrition experts.

"You never know when there will be long delays when you're traveling -- especially around the holidays -- so if you plan ahead, you won't be stuck going to the first fast-food place you find," says Samantha Heller, MS, RD, senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Medical Center.

Some portable snack options include:

  • Raw nuts (but keep the portions to about 1/4 cup) and soy nuts
  • Fresh or dried fruit
  • Bagels
  • Pretzels
  • Low-sugar granola bars
  • Low-fat energy bars
  • Mini carrots
  • Bottled water

Wellness coach Larina Kase, PsyD, MBA, has a few other tips for "traveling lean":

  • Don't leave hungry, or you'll be much more likely to make poor food choices. "Start off your trip on the right foot with a healthy meal before you leave," says Kase.
  • When you reach your destination, look for healthy food options in or near your hotel. When you're pressed for time, you'll be less likely to run to the closest fast-food restaurant if you know there's a cafe with healthy salads and sandwiches right around the corner.
  • Don't think of traveling as a break from your regular life and healthy eating habits. "Calories count whether they are consumed in the air, on the road, or in a hotel," Kase says.
  • Cut calories wherever you can. Avoid sauces, or at least ask for them on the side. Just ordering a sandwich without mayonnaise, for example, can save you 30 grams of fat.

Fitness expert Debbie Mandel, author of Turn on Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, suggests filling up on fresh fruits and vegetables at local markets when you travel. Not only may you discover foods that you can't find at home, you'll reap the benefits of the fiber found in fresh produce.

"By filling up with fiber, you'll keep your weight under control," says Mandel.

Drinking plenty of bottled water will also help fill you up and keep you from feeling fatigued, says Mandel.

And don't forget to exercise, she adds.

"Speed up your metabolism," she advises. Walk, jump rope, use water bottles as weights, or do push-ups and sit-ups. ... These are all exercises you can do wherever you go."

Airports can be particularly dangerous for weight-conscious travelers, says Jyl Steinback, the author of 10 cookbooks for healthy eating.

"Finding healthy food inside an airport terminal can be quite a challenge," says Steinback. "Healthy choices are available, but often not as readily accessible as the pizzas, hot dogs, and other fast food items."

The best strategy is to travel with your own snacks, she says. But if you get caught in the airport without a stash of snacks on hand, create your own healthy meal. Buy a bagel, but skip the butter or cream cheese, and add a little jelly instead. Look for fresh fruit, low-fat or fat-free yogurt, salads (but watch the fatty dressings), and bottled water, skim milk, or small bottles of juice.