15 August 2013 Calorie Budgeting While Traveling in Europe

Americans love to travel to Europe and summer is a prime time to visit. After much planning and anticipation last month, I set out on a 2 week vacation in Turkey. One of my favorite aspects of exploring a new culture is the opportunity to sample different foods. Yet as a Dietitian, I am acutely aware that vacations can wreak havoc on your weight management plan.

Eating in Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul is where East meets West. The food blends several cuisines including Central Asian, Balkan and Middle Eastern. Traditional meals are meat/fish centered, a basket of white bread awaits you at every table and there are rich desserts to tempt you. Please read on to 'gain' a few tips for each meal to ensure that you return home with a flavor of the culture, memories and not those extra pounds.

Breakfast: Turkish breakfast is a lavish spread of food. Yet there are healthy and lean options to be found.

  • Load your plate with homemade yogurt and a dollop of honey. Top it off with fresh fruits such as watermelon, apricots and green plums. Choose fresh fruits over dried fruits as they are lower in calories.
  • Hard boiled eggs are filling and provide a complete protein to give you staying power for walking through the Grand Bazar.
  • If you are more inclined towards a savory breakfast-gravitate towards the spread of olives and white cheese (similar to feta), fresh arugula and deli meats. Try combining these with whole grain bread and you've got a hearty sandwich for your first meal of the day.

Snacks: While enjoying the sites in Istanbul, healthy street snacks are available.

  • Misir: freshly boiled or grilled corn on the cob. Skip the generous salt shaker, and you are good to go. One portion is about 100 calories, 18g cho and 4g protein, 0 fat.
  • Kestane: roasted chestnuts are another option. Split a bag with your traveling companion and you each will have consumed: 245 calories, 53 g carbs, and virtually no fat or protein.

Lunch/Dinner: Take a break from sightseeing and have a meal at one of the numerous quaint outdoor cafes. Look for these lower calorie foods on the menu.

  • Tavuk Kebab: Grilled chicken served inside a large pita or on a bed of rice pilaf. One cup of rice pilaf is about 220 calories, whereas a large pita may contain up to 400 calories.
  • Som Baligi: Make sure to order your salmon grilled, not fried. A generous 6 oz. grilled portion contains about 350 calories.
Politely skipping the bread basket is another way to ensure you do not over spend your calorie budget. This will allow you some flexibility to sample a traditional Turkish dessert.

Dessert: The Turkish cuisine is not complete without dessert.

  • Baklava is a traditional Turkish dessert. It is made of phyllo dough, nuts, butter and sugar. A 2 inch portion is about 245 calories. Before this trip, I had never tasted baklava this good!
  • If you are looking for a lighter dessert, try a piece of Turkish delight or Lokum.
These finger foods are a combination of fruit and nuts such as pistachio. They are held together in a gummy bear type mixture. One piece is about 120 calories.

Keeping track while away: The modern age of travel with free Wi-Fi in cafes and hotels makes it easy to track your calorie intake while away from home. After a long day of adventurous eating, return to your room and log your intake on www.mynetdiary.com. If you can't locate a certain food in the database, choosing a close equivalent is your best bet.

Finally, weight gain doesn't happen if you overeat at one meal. Gaining weight on vacation tends to happen as a result of overindulging day after day. Don't be hard on yourself if you have a high calorie day. Get back on track as soon as you can, after all you are only human!

Joanna Kriehn, MS RD


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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.


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