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Enjoy Trip and Come Back Without Excess Baggage


Whether your travels take you out of Orange County for business or pleasure, they can mean an interruption in your exercise routines and greater temptation to indulge in sinfully rich foods.

Don't resign yourself to weight gain or cancel your trip, though. It's possible to keep fit when traveling, say area nutrition and fitness experts.

Kay Smith, 57, a travel agent in Newport Beach, says she travels about 40 days out of the year and manages to stay in great shape.

"I just got back from a two-week cruise and only gained half a pound while I was gone," she says.

Eat well and exercise while you're away and not only will you ward off unwanted pounds, you'll also keep your energy level up and recover from jet lag more quickly, says Lisa Gibson, a registered dietitian and Irvine-based nutrition consultant who teaches various nutrition classes.

To stay in shape, but still enjoy your vacation or business trip, keep the following in mind:

Control jet lag before it controls you. You can minimize the effects of jet lag by watching what you eat, Gibson says. Food is one thing that affects our biological clock, which regulates when we're awake and asleep. To realign your biological clock to the new time zone as quickly as possible, some experts suggest eating a special diet the day you travel and the day after you arrive, she says.

The diet requires that you eat primarily high-protein foods early in the day and high complex carbohydrates for dinner. "Protein will stimulate Adrenalin and make you more alert during the day, and complex carbohydrates will make you sleepy at night," Gibson says. "You should also have caffeine early in the day to keep you alert and none later in the day."

It is important that the high-protein foods you eat are also low in fat, because fat is hard to digest and will tend to make you feel sluggish, she says.

Good high-protein choices include poached or boiled eggs, grilled fish, chicken or turkey, low-fat yogurt and low-fat milk. Complex carbohydrates to eat later in the day include pasta with tomato sauce and no meat, vegetables, potatoes, rice, breads without a lot of fat and fruit.

This diet is not healthy in the long run and should not be followed for extended periods of time, warns Gibson. The second day of your trip, return to a normal, low-fat diet.

Watch what you eat when you're in the air. Airlines now offer diet choices, which makes it easy to eat healthy foods when flying, Gibson says. "The major airlines have a variety of special meals such as low-calorie, low-fat, low-sodium, low-cholesterol, seafood plates, vegetarian and diabetic . . . . These can be ordered in advance and will help you stick to your diet plan," she says.

If you don't order a special meal, Gibson says, cut fat by removing chicken skin, avoiding sauces and margarine and using salad dressing sparingly.

Avoid succumbing to high fat snacks offered on the plane, such as peanuts, by taking snacks when traveling, suggests Gibson. Good, easy-to-carry choices include dried fruit, low-fat crackers, graham crackers, fig bars and dry high-fiber, low-fat cereal.

While flying, avoid alcohol and caffeine-containing beverages, Gibson says. "Because the air in the cabin is dry, flying is very dehydrating," she says. "Don't make matters worse by drinking caffeine and alcohol, which will further dehydrate you. Stick to water."

Once you land, don't stop drinking water--it will help combat jet lag.

Beware of the vacation mentality. Many people gain weight on vacation and lose important fitness gains because they get into the mind-set that anything goes, Gibson says.

"While one of the pleasures of traveling is experiencing and enjoying foods from other locations, you don't want to get carried away, especially if you travel on a regular basis. Treat yourself in limited amounts, not every time you sit down to eat. This includes not overdoing it with alcohol. Also go light on sweets, which are high in fat and sugar; they will give you a sugar high and then make you tired."

Smith treats herself, but in moderation, when she travels. "I enjoy some new foods and have a few drinks, but I don't overdo it," she says. "If you eat or drink to excess, you're not only going to gain weight, you'll also feel bad."

When sampling different foods, Gibson suggests trying healthier specialties that a country or state has to offer. "If you're visiting Hawaii, for example, eat some of their fresh fruit and fish," she says.

Exercise when traveling. Even though you may be leaving your gym behind, it's really easy to work out when traveling, says exercise physiologist Leon Skeie, who is director of sports medicine and exercise science at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa and owner of Leon Skeie's Health Club for Women in Newport Beach.

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