Ever since I had my gastric sleeve operation in January, I’ve had to learn how to do things a little differently. This is especially true for eating on the move. Whether I’m taking the commuter train to my in-laws’ house or heading out of town for a long weekend, I try to plan ahead so that I have everything I need. Here are five tips that can help when you’re traveling. As long as I remember to do these five things, I find traveling while sleeved to be pretty stress-free.
Take healthy snacks with you
Sure, it’s nice to splurge a little when you’re on vacation but when you’re en route, the last thing you want is to deal with stomach issues caused by making the wrong food choices. Plan ahead. You already know what your new stomach can tolerate. Pack some healthy snacks in small zip-loc bags or mini plastic containers so you never have to worry about that moment when hunger pangs strike. My favourite travel snacks?
- pistachios or almonds
- yoghurt and fruit
- popcorn cakes (I usually eat a Swedish brand, but Skinnypop’s popcorn cakes are tasty and available in the US)
- KIND protein bars–my favourite is crunchy peanut butter
- crisp bread with cheese, veggies or spread
The most important thing is to have something at hand. You know you’ll need to eat every 3 hours. It may take a while for food service to start on your flight. Why let yourself get hangry (who wants to be hungry and angry? Not me!) when it’s so easy to avoid?
Don’t forget your medicine and vitamins
How many times have you forgotten to pack your medicine or vitamins? My advice? Get yourself a travel pill case and fill it with everything you need. I have one that has the days of the week on it. I picked it up at my local pharmacy. You can also find them at Target or Walmart.
They come in all different shapes and sizes. Some are more stylish than others. Mine is pretty basic. I was mostly concerned with having one that could hold a month’s worth of medicine and vitamins since I was heading to the US on vacation. But you can find them in weekly sizes too.
I’m sure this sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how easy it is to become dehydrated from not drinking enough water. It’s especially easy to do this when you’re already stressed about the long queues at the airport or train station. Sleeve patients need to drink 64 to 96 ounces of water per day, so let’s make sure we stay hydrated.
- Once you’ve gone through the security check, buy a bottle or two of spring water or bring your own empty bottle and fill it at a water fountain.
- Remember to avoid sugary and carbonated drinks.
- Coffee and tea count towards your fluid intake.
Opt for the special dietary meals on flights whenever possible
When I flew to the US in July, I made sure to order a low-sugar meal on British Airways at the same time as I booked my ticket. The special dietary meal was included in the price of my ticket and had to be ordered up to 24 hours in advance. Most airlines offer the same service on flights where meal are served, so make sure you request a special meal if you’re having problems digesting gluten, need a diabetic meal or prefer a vegetarian/vegan meal. DO NOT make the mistake of waiting until you’re on your flight to request a special meal. These meals need to be pre-ordered.
Forgot to pre-order your meal? If you’re leaving from a major airline, you should be able to find restaurants in the terminals once you’ve gone through security. When I’ve flown from Stockholm to Philadelphia via London-Heathrow and forgotten to pre-order a special meal, I’ve picked up lactose-free and/or gluten-free meals to take on my flights from Wagamama, Gordon Ramsay Plane Food and other restaurants in Terminal 5. I’ve also been able to get delicious and healthy options that worked with my sleeve from Healthy Gourmet and La Tapenade at Philadelphia International Airport.
Use your bariatric patient special diet request card at restaurants
I can’t guarantee that every restaurant will honour it, but most of the time I’ve been able to get a smaller portion (and sometimes even a price reduction) by showing my bariatric patient special diet request card which I received from the hospital where my surgery was performed. This card explains that I am a bariatric surgery patient and that it is recommended that I have smaller portions due to the reduced size of my stomach. I’ve used it while traveling here in Europe and in the US and most times it’s been accepted. Some restaurants will allow you to order from the children’s menu if you show them the card, but most times the children’s menu doesn’t have healthy enough options on it.
If a restaurant refuses to honour your card and you’re staying somewhere where you’ll have access to a refrigerator, ask them to put half of your meal in a takeaway container. I did this while I was in the US on occasions where I either forgot the card at my mother’s house or I forgot to show it when placing my order.
If you don’t have a bariatric patient special diet request card, ask your nutritionist or doctor to provide you with one. It definitely comes in handy.
What about you? Are you a seasoned pro at travelling with your new stomach? What are some of your favourite tips and tricks for staying on track while traveling?