Managing Diabetes on a Food-Focused Vacation

Vacation has the potential to throw a wrench in your weight loss efforts, but with some advanced planning, extra baggage (i.e. unwanted weight gain) can be avoided.

Some vacations are more foods focused than others; a cruise, for example, in some ways seems like the food Olympics! Food on a cruise ship is typically available 24 hours a day and in unlimited quantities. It is no big surprise that you (or someone else for that matter) may come home from a cruise with a little more than a sun tan.

How to plan vacation and stay on track

If you are planning a vacation in the near future (in particular a cruise), consider the following tips to help keep you on track:

Plan ahead:

  • Dinning
    • What are your dining options? Consider how you will manage the buffet and specialty restaurants prior to leaving for vacation.
    • Try viewing the menu prior to your dinner reservation. Checking out the menu earlier in the day will allow you to make a healthier selection in advance and give you the opportunity to speak with the chef or maître d’ about making menu modifications (before the dinner rush arrives).
  • Dieting
    • Avoid restrictive diets (in particular diets that promise quick/rapid weight loss) prior to your trip. Restrictive eating can lead to overeating/binge eating that may be even worse while you are on vacation.
  • Practice your carb counting skills while you are still at home
  • Pack extra clothes for physical activity
  • Pack extra supplies

Dining: Tips for handling the cruise ship buffet:

  • Scan the buffet before loading up your plate
  • Start with a salad and top it with low carb options such as broccoli, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and celery
  • Eat from a smaller plate
  • Is there a place outside of the buffet to eat?
    • If the buffet is out of sight, you may be less inclined to go back for seconds.
  • Allow yourself a small treat (reduced carb options: pie-minus the crust, sugar free Jell-O, small scoop of frozen yogurt-topped with crushed nuts)

Dieting: Tips on how to stay on track

  • First of all, the positive changes you have worked so hard at making should not be considered a diet but rather a lifestyle change. For that reason, give yourself a break here and there (i.e. give yourself permission to have a special treat and forgive yourself if you have a day when you get off track!)
  • Keep a photo journal
    • Don’t worry about keeping a written food log; instead take pictures of the meals you have eaten (a before and after picture may help keep you honest!)
  • Things that may be worth skipping:
    • Fancy umbrella drinks (i.e. pina colada, margarita, Long Island iced tea and Mai Tai)
    • Fried foods
  • Bring some of your own trusted non-perishable snacks
    • Nuts, seeds, and dried fruits are all great snack items to have on hand that won’t take up too much space or weigh down your suit case.

    Carb Counting: Tips for carb counting success:

    • Get in the habit of carb counting before your vacation. Being in good practice with measuring food and becoming familiar with the carbs in your favorite foods will make estimating carb amounts easier.
    • Since you will likely not have measuring cups or measuring spoons, use your hand for reference:
      • ½ fist= ½ cup
      • 1 fist= 1 cup
    • Bring along a small pocket reference to help you with carb counting such as: CalorieKing

    Physical activity: tip to help get your moving:

    • Make use of the fitness room, walking track, and aerobics classes (such classes are often offered for free or at a low cost)
    • Swim
    • Walk on the beach at port stops
    • Go on an active excursion:
      • Snorkeling
      • Kayaking
      • Guided hike

    Packing extras supplies: tips to help keep you safe and prepared:

    • Bring back ups with you (insulin, oral medications, test strips, etc.) and make sure all of your back up supplies are packed in your carry-on bag.
    • Bring a cooler bag for medication. Remember, temperature extremes may result in your medication not working as well.
    • Keep juice or glucose tablets on hand for treatment of low blood sugars.
    • Keep a water bottle with you at all times. Staying hydrated is important.
This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Type2Diabetes.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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