It’s been an unusual summer but taking a little time off is still crucial for well-being! In fact, the challenges of 2020 have made self-care and mental wellness through rest and relaxation more crucial than ever.
We’re halfway through the season already, but lots of employees are still preparing to take PTO and turn off the stress of the world. Here at Vivante, our GIThrive® Care Team regularly works with our members to manage gut conditions through lifestyle and nutrition recommendations. These days, they’re offering guidance for warm-weather nutrition challenges.
After all, even if you’re just hanging on your patio for a backyard dinner or taking a quick road trip to the lake, common food ‘traps’ are important to avoid. This is true for all of us, but especially crucial for people suffering from digestive conditions. Food is medicine—even on vacation.
In today’s blog, we share key summer nutrition advice from our GIThrive “food insiders”: our team of registered dietitians.
Erin Commons: Fresh Fruit and Food Safety 101
One of the wonderful things about summer is all of the fresh produce! It’s fun to enjoy seasonal treats like melon and berries. Many of our Members have IBS or IBS-like symptoms and may be tempted to over-partake in the bounty of fresh fruit…but, some may experience some GI symptoms as a result.
Fructose is the carbohydrate found in fruit, and due to the way it is digested, there is a dose response. This means larger portions of fruit may be malabsorbed. About 1/3 of the general population struggles with this dose response to fruit. Common symptoms when people eat too much fruit: nausea, bloating, gas, abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting.
Avoid this by eating fruit in careful servings. It can also help to include a mix of healthy proteins and fiber when you eat fruit. For example, have some nuts or grains with your berries, or enjoy with a serving of yogurt.
Some fruit is lower in fructose and may be easier to digest, including bananas. Not only are bananas low in fructose they’re also fiber-rich and contain inulin, a substance that stimulates the growth of good bacteria in the gut. To read more about the foods that help encourage healthy digestion, check out 5 Foods to Improve Your Digestion from John Hopkins Medicine.
My final food tip: be safe! Warmer temperatures raise risks for foodborne illness. This is timely news because we’re experiencing a salmonella outbreak in almost two dozen states. The danger zone is when food reaches temps between 40-140 degrees. If food sits out in these temperatures, bacteria can grow. About 1 in 6 people get food poisoning every year and the signs can be difficult to distinguish—especially in those who have a GI condition. When in doubt, stash it in the refrigerator or a cooler!
Kate Murray: Proper Fuel to Power Your Day
Breakfast on vacation often sets the tone for how the rest of the day will go. If you have a good breakfast with a nice bit of protein, then you’ll be less likely to crave unhealthy snacks or get “hangry” later in the day.
One of my frequent go-to habits is to grab a yogurt and piece of fruit to eat later as a snack from the hotel’s continental breakfast. Or, if I’m staying someplace longer and have a mini fridge in the hotel, I’ll go to the grocery and buy some yogurt or other higher protein snacks, some fruit, or a bag of baby carrots. While on a road trip, mini containers of guacamole/avocado or hummus are great if you have a cooler.
Carrying your water bottle with you makes a lot of sense. Being properly hydrated is essential for good digestion—especially for those with gastrointestinal issues. Many of us aren’t flying as much as normal right now, but if you do go to the airport, a refillable water bottle saves you a ton of money when you fill it up after you’re through security. Speaking of airports, I also try to eat before I leave the house, and take a pre-portioned bag of trail-mix with me so I’m not tempted to buy snacks on the flight.
Erin Gussler: Plan Ahead for Snack Attacks
Let’s be honest: one of the best parts of a road trip is stopping for snacks. One thing that I have found helpful in keeping my nutrition on-track is to pack my own road trip snacks. Even if I do bring some fun foods that I wouldn’t normally get, I control the ingredients and quality. For example, I got some gluten-free cookies for our last road trip. I also made sure to pack some nut butter to eat with my cookies.
This was a much better snack than what I would find in a gas station. This is especially true if you’re following a gluten-free diet; it can be almost impossible to find healthy options along the interstate! Because I knew I’d be tempted by cookies if I did make a pit stop at a rest stop, I thought ahead and brought my own cookies. That way, I still got a treat for the car trip. Plus it was a whole lot less expensive and helped me avoid impulse-buying junk food from the gas station.
Sometimes, I’ll also plan my route so that I know we’re nearer bigger cities around meal times, so I’m more likely to find a variety of dining options.
Megan McLean: Stay Hydrated; Check the Menu
I agree with Erin: pack your own snacks so you know you’ll have options that are safe for you and your dietary needs. Also, make sure you’re drinking enough to stay hydrated! A lot of “hunger” is actually your body’s response to being thirsty. In summer heat, it’s easy to become dehydrated.
When I go on a road trip, I bring a cooler with cold beverages like sparkling water or coconut water. That way, I can drink on a regular basis—plus I don’t end up being tempted by sugary drinks when we stop for gas.
When you’re eating at a restaurant or ordering takeout/delivery, I encourage you to ask for substitutions. If something is fried, ask if you can get it grilled instead. If it comes with a side of fries, can you get a baked potato or a side of veggies instead? It can help to look at the menu in advance and decide what options will work for you ahead of time so you aren’t scrambling in the moment.
This is a taste of the hands-on advice and support GIThrive provides to our members. If you’re curious how our program helps employees with digestive diseases manage their conditions and symptoms, click below.