QUESTION: Can I eat healthy while traveling?

Traveling is a time to explore new places and create memories with friends and family. Being on the road can present potential pitfalls for people looking to stick to their healthy eating goals. Avoiding unhealthy foods is tough enough as it is, and with the hectic agendas travel brings it might seem impossible to stay on track. However, nutrition is incredibly important for anyone dealing with cancer and this focus shouldn’t change when you’re traveling.

Here are five tips to help you keep healthy as you plan trips to visit family, take a fun vacation or treat yourself to a getaway.

Think ahead. Food is allowed on all forms of transportation. Use this to your advantage by packing simple to-go meals such as instant oatmeal and nuts. Bringing along nutritious foods will help you resist the temptation to buy impulse foods at the airport or convenience stores. Cover your food group bases: protein, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and complex carbs. Pack them with you to have on hand throughout the day to help fight fatigue and keep you on track to your health goals.

Hydration is key. A lot of walking, being thousands of miles in the sky for long periods or being in the sun can be a perfect trap to be at risk for dehydration. If you’re going to be walking around exploring a new town or amusement park,  water should be your best friend. Dehydration can lead to headaches, fatigue, muscle cramps and reduced concentration. Consider adding your favorite fruit to your water to enhance the flavor or sparkling water to also get your hydration fix. If you’re prone to upset stomachs or nausea, bring along some herbal teas, such as chamomile or ginger, to add to your water.

Stay mindful at restaurants. If you’re visiting an unfamiliar restaurant, look for key words such as baked, grilled broiled or braised. Watch portion sizes because restaurant portions are often three to four times the size of the recommended healthy portion. Ask for sauces and dressings on the side as these usually contain extra fat, salt and sugar.

Start your day right with breakfast. Whatever you do, don’t skip breakfast! It’s the most important meal of the day for a reason: It gives you the energy to start your day off on the right foot. If you don’t want to eat out for breakfast because you know you will be eating out for lunch and dinner, make your own breakfast with some foods you can pack ahead of time, such as a peanut butter sandwich with whole wheat bread. Or check to see if the hotel has a free continental breakfast. Opt for oatmeal, fresh fruit, yogurt or hard-boiled eggs.

Remember to relax. One of the most important things you can do while traveling is sleep. If you’re crossing time zones, carrying luggage or walking all day, your body needs to be able to rest. The physical exertion can be harsh on the body so make sure you’re squeezing in time to listen to your body. If you need to rest after a long walk, sleep for an hour before your next activity.

Remember vacation is about having fun, so it’s perfectly OK to enjoy that special meal or treat you’ve had your eye on. Don’t be hard on yourself -- everything in moderation!

* * *

Join us for our Fighting Cancer with Your Fork Class on Jan. 9 at 10 a.m. at the Mission Hope Cancer Center Conference Room. Healthier eating in the new year will be discussed.

* * *

Have a question for Your Cancer Answers, a weekly column produced by Marian Regional Medical Center, Cancer Program? Email it to mariancancercare@dignityhealth.org.

As a registered dietitian with Marian Regional Medical Center, Kelly Tomita works with cancer patients at the Mission Hope Cancer Center to provide appropriate nutritional counseling, information and recommendations at no charge for cancer patients. For more information, call 219-4673.

Outbrain