One of the best parts of travelling anywhere is exploring a new culture through its cuisine however, experiencing local delights can be tricky if you’re travelling with diabetes. Eating out every day, consuming unfamiliar ingredients and not watching out your sugar levels can make your diabetes care routine on holiday a challenging experience but it’s possible, with the right preparation.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Ganesh Kadhe, Associate Director of Nutrition Medical and Scientific Affairs at Abbott, suggested some tips that can help you enjoy your travel while managing your diabetes, so that you can count on more fun and less worry:
1. Research common ingredients
Travelling with diabetes — whether within India or abroad — can be taxing if you’re not adequately armed with information. Before your trip, research the traditional dishes available in the country or region you’re going to, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the cuisine. Consider consulting a registered dietitian, diabetes educator or your doctor for advice on what types of foods to choose in the country you’re visiting. While you’re there, be sure to speak with your doctor about any adjustments you should make to your diabetes care routine while you’re away from home and you should ensure you strictly follow your medication schedule and avoid self-medication.
2. Prepare for local customs
Different countries have different customs, so where you go may dictate when you eat. For example, in South India, dinner time is fairly early, around 7:30 pm but in Spain, people tend to eat dinner late, around 9 or 10 pm. That may spell trouble if you’re travelling with diabetes. Make sure you’re prepared to eat at regular intervals by packing smart and always having a few snacks or supplements available to help keep your blood sugar normal and avoid hypoglycemia.
3. Practice portions at home
If you’re travelling to a country with a carbohydrate-heavy diet, consider measuring your food for a few weeks before you go. This will allow you to eyeball your portions more accurately and better estimate how many carbohydrates you’re eating. Try sizing your portions in comparison to common objects you’ll have with you, such as your cell phone, to help you measure while travelling. Correcting unhealthy dietary habits has emerged as a valuable tool to prevent the development and progression of type 2 diabetes. Your intake may fluctuate due to palatability, social and cultural factors while you travel. Here you can look at incorporating scientifically formulated nutritional supplements which can help manage your blood glucose levels and provide steady energy to you as you plan your itinerary for the day. It will help to fill the gap and avoid unwanted hypoglycemia, lethargy and mood swings. It has complex carbohydrates that help prevent blood glucose fluctuation and therefore, eliminate resulting weakness which may occur when you travel.
4. Ask questions
If you’re faced with a food, you’re not familiar with, don’t assume its ingredients. The dish may use sauces or spices that are high in sugar or fat without seeming so. Asking questions can help clarify some concerns but asking is difficult if you don’t speak the language. Consider learning a few food-related phrases before you go, such as “No sugar, please” or “No sauce” or “More vegetables.” If you’re able to alert the restaurant that you have diabetes, the staff may be able to guide you toward healthier options.
5. Follow the Plate Method as you monitor your glucose levels
Wherever you’re travelling, the plate method is a great way to make sure you stick to your meal plan. First, fill half your plate with vegetables; they can be cooked or raw, but they shouldn’t be deep-fried or contain added sugar. Then, divide the other half of your plate into two sections. One section is for a serving of protein, usually about the size of a cell phone or a deck of playing cards. The other section is for your high-carbohydrate food, such as rice, pasta or bread. The plate method helps you control your carbohydrates and calories while still allowing you to taste a bit of everything. An imbalance in macronutrient intake has also been linked to insulin resistance.
Travelling while managing diabetes may seem like a daunting task but with a good plan, a little research and maybe a few words in a new language, you can fulfil all your travel dreams and experience your destination’s culture through all that it has to offer – even the local cuisine! Be sure to always check with your doctor about your medicine and the lifestyle regime to be followed during your travel period