How To Eat And Maintain Stable Blood Sugar While Traveling

Many of us are hoping to break out of our bubbles and hit the road again! But, when we're away from home, there are delicious temptations everywhere. We'll discuss how to make healthy choices on-the-go that will support your blood sugar levels.

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Before You Leave Home 

Preparation and planning are your two secret weapons to ensure your travel plans are enjoyable and worry-free. Booking your accommodations and a fun itinerary is essential, but so is prioritizing your health. 

Start developing your nutrition plan early, ideally before you start to get overwhelmed by all the other details of your trip. Keep track of your thoughts through journaling, making to-do lists, or even using voice notes on your phone — anything that helps you organize a strategy for controlling blood sugar levels outside your regular routine.

The Week Before 

Prepare homemade snacks and stock up on any non-perishables you will use for the trip. If you are low on containers, now’s the time to stock up. Having the right-sized food storage options makes packing low-glycemic snacks so much easier and less complicated. 

Include as much regular physical activity as possible. Your blood sugar fluctuates every day, and movement is a vital part of your care plan to keep levels within a healthy range. While you are traveling, the opportunities to be active might be limited, and you will miss the days you could freely get up and exercise! 

Regular exercise also has the added benefits of reducing stress, which may help some people if they are feeling anxious planning and preparing for their trip.  

The Hours Before 

Add the following to your checklist to help make sure you have everything you need before you hit the road: 

  • Did you fill up your water bottle and then also remember to bring it to the car? 
  • Are your snacks packed and easily accessible during the trip? 

Feeling ready and excited? Good! You are prepared to maintain stable blood sugar, and you are setting yourself up for a great time!

While You’re Traveling 

You will likely make stops on your trip and dine out for some of your meals.

Choosing Healthy Alternatives 

Choosing healthy alternatives while traveling can be as simple as choosing baked or grilled options instead of fried food (grilled chicken on a salad instead of a fried chicken sandwich, for example). You may also swap out fried side dishes (like onion rings) for baked vegetables or a salad; both are health-forward options more aligned with blood glucose stability and weight-loss goals. 

Also, try to pick foods that are as unprocessed as possible. A build-your-own pita can be a great option because you have full control over the ingredients. Ask for half the sauce (or sauce on the side) when building your pita because pre-made dressings and dips tend to be high in refined sugars. 

Vegetarian Is Not Always the Best Choice 

Sometimes people think vegetarian options on the menu will be the healthiest choice, but this is not necessarily the case. After all, french fries are vegetarian, and we know they are ultra-processed! 
For optimal blood sugar control, the goal is to eat balanced meals throughout the day. Pair your protein (vegetarian or non-vegetarian) with fiber-rich vegetables, high-quality starch or carbs, and healthy fats to create a blood-sugar-friendly meal that won’t derail any progress you’ve made on your weight-loss journey.  

Bring High-Fiber & High-Protein Snacks 

High-fiber foods have a low glycemic index, which is important for blood sugar control. High-fiber foods include fresh cut-up vegetable sticks, whole fruits, or a bean salad. 

Snacking on high-protein foods will also slow down the digestion of your meals, and will have minimal impact on your blood sugar. Popular examples of high-protein snacks include unflavored Greek yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, or unflavored tuna tins. 

Stay Hydrated

Keeping a full water bottle close will ensure you stay hydrated throughout your travels. Choosing water is recommended over pop and fruit juices because they are high in refined sugars which can spike your blood glucose. Need more motivation to stay away from sugary drinks? Studies have shown that cutting out sugar-sweetened beverages is significantly associated with weight loss, even more than reducing what you eat1.

If plain water is unappealing, try using a diffuser to increase the flavor factor without relying on refined sweetening agents. You can add fresh-cut fruit to your diffuser or experiment with refreshing mint leaves and basil. Sugar-free sparkling water is another great choice that comes in a wide range of flavors.

Stretch and Move Your Body 

You might be surprised how quickly you can feel restless from sitting in a car or a plane. If your feet start to bounce and you constantly shift in your seat, it’s time to get up and move your body. 

Another option is to wake up early and get your movement in first thing in the morning. You may even inspire your fellow travelers because movement is good for everybody, not just people trying to manage their blood sugar or lose weight. 

Practice Mindful Eating

A great practice to adopt into your lifestyle regime is mindful eating. This method encourages you to pay attention to the flavor and sensations while eating. It forces you to slow down and enjoy every bite, which is a great practice, as most of us tend to eat too fast. Further, studies have linked fast eating to a greater risk of developing insulin resistance2 and metabolic syndrome3, both of which are associated with weight gain.

If you are on the road and choose to enjoy a food that is rich, take a minute to slow down and just enjoy the food. Mindful eating is a sustainable approach to eating on a diet plan. If for some reason you do experience a spike in your blood glucose, follow the simple steps in this article to bring you back into the normal range. 

Easy Travel Snacks 

Here are some snacks that are travel and blood sugar friendly: 

  • A variety of nuts, including your favorite nut butter. Roast your favorite nuts at home to add major flavor 
  • Unflavored oatmeal packages. Bulk up the fiber by adding seeds, cinnamon, and fruits
  • Low GI fruits including oranges and apples 
  • A low sugar protein bar for emergencies 
  • Walnut and flax carrot cookies created with blood sugar control in mind 

If you want to see more low GI snack options check out this Signos post. 

At Your Destination 

Try to make the most of your meals at “home” if possible. You will have more control over the ingredients and you will also save a lot of money. If you only have a microwave at your disposal, bring back restaurant leftovers and warm them up for a second meal later on.  

If your accommodations do not have a mini fridge, maybe bring a small cooler, and refresh the ice throughout your stay. Having essentials on hand (like milk) can improve your enjoyment of the trip and make you feel confident that you are eating and drinking foods that align with your blood sugar goals.  

Take time to research area restaurants by looking at their online menus before heading out. Choose appealing places that have suitable options for your health goals. 

Looking ahead at menus can also be beneficial for planning your day. If you know you will be heading to a carb-focused restaurant in the evening, like Italian food, you may choose to have lower-carb meals throughout the day. 

Limit Alcohol Intake 

Many alcoholic drinks are notorious for being high in (empty) calories and sugar, especially fruity mixed cocktails. If you choose to drink alcohol, try to pair the beverage with your meal to buffer the glycemic response. Alcohol also has the potential to sabotage your meal planning because it lowers inhibitions4.

Planning ahead and preparing yourself is the best strategy to help you keep up with your nutrition and weight loss goals while on the road. Just because you are away from home does not mean you have to compromise your health, but it also doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to the point where you can’t enjoy your vacation. 

Remember to relax and try not to focus exclusively on your blood sugar numbers. The Signos CGM pairs with an AI-driven app for real-time glucose monitoring and personalized recommendations for eating and exercise. It's like having a flexible roadmap to your health goals, wherever you travel! Learn more about Signos benefits, plan options, and pricing.

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References

  1. Chen, L., Appel, L. J., Loria, C., Lin, P. H., Champagne, C. M., Elmer, P. J., Ard, J. D., Mitchell, D., Batch, B. C., Svetkey, L. P., & Caballero, B. (2009). Reduction in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with weight loss: the PREMIER trial. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 89(5), 1299–1306. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2008.27240
  2. Otsuka, R., Tamakoshi, K., Yatsuya, H., Wada, K., Matsushita, K., OuYang, P., Hotta, Y., Takefuji, S., Mitsuhashi, H., Sugiura, K., Sasaki, S., Kral, J. G., & Toyoshima, H. (2008). Eating fast leads to insulin resistance: findings in middle-aged Japanese men and women. Preventive medicine, 46(2), 154–159. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2007.07.031
  3. Zhu, B., Haruyama, Y., Muto, T., & Yamazaki, T. (2015). Association between eating speed and metabolic syndrome in a three-year population-based cohort study. Journal of epidemiology, 25(4), 332–336. https://doi.org/10.2188/jea.JE20140131
  4. Field, M., Wiers, R. W., Christiansen, P., Fillmore, M. T., & Verster, J. C. (2010). Acute alcohol effects on inhibitory control and implicit cognition: implications for loss of control over drinking. Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research, 34(8), 1346–1352. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1530-0277.2010.01218.x

About the Author

Julia Zakrzewski Headshot
Julia Zakrzewski is a Registered Dietitian and nutrition writer. She has a background in primary care, clinical nutrition, and nutrition education. She has been practicing dietetics for four years.
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Please note: The Signos team is committed to sharing insightful and actionable health articles that are backed by scientific research, supported by expert reviews, and vetted by experienced health editors. The Signos blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Read more about our editorial process and content philosophy here.

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