Packing lists: not exactly the most exciting part of the holidays, but they can make your life a lot more pleasant. Here are 7 things to put on yours if you're traveling to a non-Paleo house for the holidays.
1. Digestive enzymes.
Some people stay strictly Paleo over the holidays; other people decide that the indulgence is worth it. Both are perfectly fine, but if you're in the second group, bring along some digestive enzymes just in case the unusual influx of junk food upsets your stomach. Probiotics can also be very helpful for some people.
2. Portable exercise.
A 20-minute workout is energizing and it can be a nice way to get a little alone time if you need it. Bring something you can do in a garage or a truck stop. A jumprope is almost perfect because it takes up very little space, and you can do it inside with bare feet (read: no need to lug around running shoes and all kinds of winter running gear). Some other ideas:
- Resistance bands
- An ab wheel
- If you're driving, dumbbells or kettlebells (dubious for flying – they might not play nicely with the TSA)
- Running shoes and cold-weather gear (if you don't mind running in the snow)
Magnesium is an all-natural chill pill and muscle relaxant, which can get more and more necessary as the holiday season gets busier and busier. A lot of people find it helps them get to sleep or just wind down in the evening.
It's also good for constipation if the holiday food is doing a number on your digestive system. (The flip side of that: don't start with a huge dose at once, or you might get the opposite problem).
No, nobody wants to be the Diet Maniac who eats their own pre-portioned holiday dinner out of a Tupperware while the rest of the family celebrates the meal like normal people. That's not what this is about.
The point of bringing your own snacks is that you can choose when to indulge and when not to indulge, because you have Paleo-friendly options to fall back on in a pinch. If you want cookies, they'll be there to eat. But if you don't want cookies, you won't be stuck eating them as a last resort because you're starving and angry and about to blow up at everyone if you don't get something in your stomach right now.
Travel-friendly snack ideas:
- Paleo-friendly snack or meal replacement bars (there's a handy comparison table for different brands in our members' area!)
- Mini Ziploc baggies full of nuts or trail mix (they sell really little ones for kids' lunchboxes that work great for snacks)
- Plantain chips
- Beef jerky or snack sticks
If you don't eat them during the visit, they'll keep for the trip back, or for the post-holiday, everything-starting-up-again rush.
5. Sleep Support.
Nothing can help you make good food decisions better than a really solid night of sleep, but holiday travel and visiting can make that hard. Crossing time zones, strange hotel rooms, unfamiliar sleeping arrangements at other people's houses, staying up late for the celebrations – none of it is exactly conducive to a really refreshing rest.
Magnesium was already mentioned above (#3 on the list) but here are some other suggestions:
- An eye mask (for napping on flights and in cars, or sleeping in rooms where you can't shut out all the light)
- A sun-spectrum light (for waking up in the morning)
- Melatonin (if it works for you; some people find it doesn't help at all)
- One of those U-shaped pillows for napping on planes and in cars.
6. Fancy Tea (or Coffee).
If you're not planning on drinking anything alcoholic, or any type of store-bought hot chocolate full of junk, a fancy seasonal tea is an easy way to join in a circle of people drinking something festive around a Christmas tree. It doesn't even have to be "I don't drink;" it can just be "I don't sleep well after drinking, so I'm going to try this new tea instead; would you like some?"
Bringing something relaxing and herbal can also be a huge boon for all kinds of airport-induced stress, and most coffee shops will give you hot water for free if you ask.
7. Puzzle Games.
Fun research tidbit: playing Tetris actually helps people reduce sugar cravings. Basically, it's just a distraction – your brain gets busy with the game instead and it breaks up the "I want this/I shouldn't" tug of war.
The effect isn't specific to Tetris; any kind of absorbing and interactive game would work the same way. Stick a few on your phone and remember that you can always retreat to the bathroom for a few minutes of craving-busting playtime if necessary. The study above only had people play for a few minutes, and it still worked just fine.