Guide to Holidays with Low-Carb Living

Rachel Lett

Head of Nutrition & Content

It’s that time of year and holidays are in full swing! Low-carb living is delicious and fuels a healthy body and mind, so you’re probably keen to pack your lifestyle when you travel.

This might feel daunting or challenging at first, but it doesn’t have to be. There are simple tricks and tips to help you along the way, which I will discuss in this article.

On the other hand, if you want to loosen the reigns and eat more carbohydrates whilst on holiday, that’s completely fine, too.

This is not an all or nothing approach, but a lifestyle and there is more to a holiday than just the food. It’s a great opportunity to reduce stress, which is equally important for health and wellbeing.

Plan ahead before your trip

Accommodation

Get the most out of your accommodation and look into all your options. If you intend to book half or full board accommodation, research menus and reviews to see what food is available. Places that use fresh, wholefood ingredients will normally be able to cater for your needs. However, if you’re unsure, you can always contact them and ask.

Alternatively, self catering will give you the flexibility to cook and eat, as you wish. This is also a great opportunity to experiment with local, fresh ingredients that are difficult to source at home.

Snacks & Staples

Pack some low-carb snacks for ‘just in cases’. Non perishables like nuts, seeds (chia seeds for chia pudding), pork crackling, beef jerky and nut butter travel well. If bulletproof coffee is part of your routine, you can also pack some coconut or MCT oil.

Options whilst travelling can be limited, so it’s worth bringing along a picnic or snacks for the journey. This will keep hunger at bay and ward off temptation. With that said, you’ll most likely be able to source incredible food like cheese, cured meat and nuts, while you’re abroad, so no need to bring everything but the kitchen sink!

Get Familiar With Local Cuisine

Navigating your way through a menu with unfamiliar items that are in a different language can be daunting and overwhelming. To help with this, you can research and familiarise yourself with the local cuisine — read up on local specialities or ingredients that fit your diet.

While you’re there

Eating out

Eat out with confidence, and don’t be afraid to tell the restaurant you have a dietary requirement. This is worth mentioning when booking or upon arrival. They often appreciate the effort you’ve made to let them know so that they can give you the best option from the food available.

Places like Spain and Italy are great for eating low-carb as they often serve protein, vegetables and carbs separately. You can pick and mix accordingly, and you’ll probably find eating out easier than home turf, despite the language barrier.

Some menus are less transparent than others, so don’t hesitate to enquire further about a particular dish —what are the ingredients, how is it cooked etc. Most importantly, don’t feel embarrassed about having a dietary requirement. If in doubt about anything, just ask. You never know, your dining experience might inspire the restaurant with a new meal or combination of foods!

Here are some subtle tricks and tips to easily reduce the carb load when eating out :

  • Ask for no bread, or keep it out of arms reach if possible
  • Ask for more vegetables, salad or avocado instead of starchy food
  • Use olive oil and vinegar for your salad
  • Ask for butter with your meal (melt over vegetables, meat and fish)
  • For dessert, have berries and cream, or opt for the cheese board (make sure you ask without the crackers, grapes and chutney, and you may even get more cheese instead! You could also ask if they have any nuts to accompany.)
  • Pick a selection of starters or small plates for your main meal— an array of tapas is sure to get some heads turning with envy!
  • Pick and mix from the menu, i.e. salmon from one dish, and creamed spinach from another.
  • Stick to water—sparkling water with ice and lemon feels refreshing like a G&T. Or, choose low-carb alcohol from our guide.

Relax and Take in The Scenery

Stress management is a key factor in health and wellbeing. For diabetes alone, stress will cause blood sugars to rise. Make the most of you holiday and embrace it as an opportunity to destress.

Explore your new surroundings, go for a walk, practice meditation, turn off your phone, and switch off. Take in the landscape and notice things like, the air, nature and people. These simple acts are grounding and meditative, and can help calm the nervous system.

Spending more time outdoors will also give your vitamin D levels a top-up! A healthy dose of vitamin D will help support immunity, brain health, the nervous system, cardiovascular health and regulate insulin levels. This is especially important for anyone working indoors, or living in the northern hemisphere, where light exposure is limited.

Unfortunately, time and patience are usually in short supply during stressful periods. Ironically, we need both of these things to practice stress management. Hopefully during your holiday you will be feeling relaxed, and have more time on your hands. This is an ideal time for you to develop and practice stress reducing techniques to help deal with the daily stress when you return home.

I’m personally going to be trying cold therapy on my next trip away—a morning dip in the sea, followed by a cold shower.

As stress dissolves, and happiness evolves, you’ll probably find that healthy eating will naturally follow suit. It’s cruel, but eating well is the most challenging during times of stress and depression — a cocktail of hormones, time pressure and emotional comfort makes us reach for a take away or tub of ice-cream. Inversely, stress reduction and eating well are complimentary— they feed off each other, so use your holiday to improve both!

Number One, Enjoy Your Holiday

It’s important to recognise that food is social, evocative and circumstantial. You’ll be less likely to crack open a bottle of Rosé on a rainy, cold winter night. A balmy evening, by the beach in the South of France is a different story!

Enjoy your holiday and don’t punish yourself for eating or drinking things you normally wouldn’t. Your holiday should be restful and void of anxiety around food. Don’t stress about weight gain as this will most likely be water weight, which can easily be resolved.

Remember that this is a lifestyle change. You’re not on or off a diet, and can resume your normal eating patterns when you return home. You may even find that reintroducing old eating habits make you feel unwell, so naturally you want to continue eating low-carb.

This commonly occurs after some time on low-carb, where “I can’t have” turns into “I don’t want”.

The most important thing is to do what makes you feel well, happy and relaxed. Following the Span plan, you have learned new, healthy habits that will stick to you, both during and after your holiday.

Enjoy your break for all it has to offer, and take it as it comes— don’t stress or put expectations on yourself to eat a certain way. In any case, remember we’re just a message away if you’re having difficulty resuming normal eating patterns after your holiday, so don’t hesitate to drop us a line!

Like what you’re hearing?

Stay tuned for more guides, to help you with your health journey.

If you’re interested in joining Span, download our mobile app on www.span.health or contact us at team@span.health to learn more.

Take care,
Rachel

I’m sure you’re curious about the science behind all this 🔬 Here are some recent medical publications about this topic:

https://spectrum.diabetesjournals.org/content/18/2/121.ful
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https://www.bmj.com/content/361/bmj.k2234
https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fendo.2019.00348/full?utm_source=F-NTF&utm_medium=EMLX&utm_campaign=PRD_FEOPS_20170000_ARTICLE&fbclid=IwAR18vRBLOhlR0hjEJ0HLlNdYXHE6SWkMug6BZNTT9jrhM51ABvz0aWZPklY
https://drc.bmj.com/content/5/1/e000354

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