5 Ways I Practiced the Principles of Blood Sugar Balance While on Vacation in Cancun

By Sara McGlothlin

When it comes to my healthy habits, I try to maintain as much consistency as possible. On a micro level, this means walking the wellness walk during the week as much as the weekends. On a macro level, I try to uphold my holistic health values through the seasons, celebrations, holidays, and vacations. In fact it is a passion of mine to show you can stay “Healthified” during travel, an area of life that tends to trip people up when it comes to maintaining beneficial routines across nutrition, exercise, and sleep. 

That is not to say I don’t notice some differences between when I am in a regular routine at home versus when I’m thrown out of my element on vacation. But I believe the principles of blood sugar balance can still be practiced anywhere, and movement (i.e. walking) is easy in a new place as it allows you to see the sites. It doesn’t feel like you are exercising, but you are getting in those steps. 

This was the first time I traveled abroad while wearing my continuous glucose monitor. It proved very insightful. There may have been things I could have done better, but it was vacation after all, and I am a big believer in the 80/20 lifestyle. All in all, I am proud of those healthy habits I did practice, and came home not feeling like I needed a vacation after my vacation. Here are five ways I specifically practiced blood sugar balance on a recent vacation to Cancun, Mexico.

I packed healthy snacks and focused on what I ate first for the flights. 

Everyone knows by now that the food you find on flights (and at airports for that matter) is not very nutritious. Sometimes you can find something healthy, but I try to pack my own snacks for travel days. I always try to start the morning with a bulletproof coffee (even with a 4:30am departure!). The healthy fats found in this coffee concoction work to balance blood sugar while mitigating the cortisol spike you would get with black coffee (and who doesn’t need lower cortisol with an early morning flight?). I then had a serving of Gratisfied Cacao Granola Clusters on the first flight, and a Gratisfied Oat Bar on the second flight. Those three things helped tide me over until our lunch at the resort (see below). In fact, I pretty much can always make it door to door on any flight with a few Gratisfied products alone!

On the way back home, we were leaving from our hotel room, so I didn’t have the means to drink bulletproof coffee. I started the day with a blood sugar balancing breakfast consisting of coconut yogurt and Granola Clusters. That satiated me until lunch at the Cancun airport, and since my blood sugar was already balanced, I was able to make an informed choice. There was a food court of sorts, and one of the restaurants had a Caesar salad in the grab-and-go section; the adjoining restaurant was a burrito and taco establishment (we were in Mexico after all). I got the salad and then went next door and asked for a small serving of guacamole, which they gladly gave me. I left off the croutons and used the guacamole as a dressing. It turned into a simple grilled salad with healthy fat, fiber, and protein. 

I built all of my meals around the protein, fiber, and healthy fat trifecta. 

To piggyback off of my last point, every time I ate, I worked to build a plate consisting of healthy fat, fiber, and protein. Sometimes that means asking the waiter for accommodations; sometimes that means bypassing what the mind wants to support what the body needs; and it always means playing the whole tape to tap into how you want to feel after you are finished, rather than succumbing to immediate gratification. 

Given that I have a natural foods company centered around breakfast foods. Our Granola Clusters and bars tend to travel with me. But I always like to explore other options, such as nearby juice bars and other healthy eateries. With a toddler, we needed easy, so there were a few mornings we hit up the breakfast buffet. I was glad to see some high protein options like scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. I added both to my plate alongside some cottage cheese with raw nuts. This plate was filling, and always fueled our morning walk on the beach. There were also a couple of days we wanted to eat something quickly in our hotel room, so I would make coconut yogurt Clusters bowls for the both of us, and an Oat Bar for Mason. 

When it came to lunch, I can eat fish tacos and guacamole every day while in Mexico, and I basically did just that. Eating poolside also makes me eat more mindfully, and I realized I never wanted three full tacos. I would normally savor one, and then eat most of the remaining grilled fish with the guacamole (I thrive off of healthy fat and protein!). There was one day when I was craving more vegetables, so opted for the grilled fish of the day with roasted veggies. The good thing about tropical locations is that there is almost always fresh fish and vegetables on the menu! I also enjoyed some chips and salsa, but I always practice my pleasure parabola philosophy with chips because they are easy to overeat!

Dinner was a different story, and like most people, I find it to be my most indulgent meal while on vacation. Protein always makes an appearance, but I always love flavorful small plates to start. The first dinner out, I overdid it on the appetizers, and ate my entree anyway. I walked away overly full, and experienced the largest blood sugar spike I have had in a while. I love wearing a continuous glucose monitor because it almost turns my personal nutrition into an objective science experiment. In other words, I never beat myself up after these experiences, and rather use it as information to make better choices in the future. A 15 to 20 minute walk after dinner will help bring any blood sugar spike back down. Some food for thought! 

Going forward I started each subsequent dinner with some greens. According to Glucose Goddess on Instagram, starting your meal with a fiber-filled vegetable plate will work to mitigate any blood sugar spike from that meal (even if you eat a carb-based entree afterwards).

I moved every day. 

Movement – especially walking – works to lower your blood sugar. This is because you are utilizing your muscles, and your muscles need glucose, thereby soaking up the glucose that is in your bloodstream for fuel. Walking after meals is something I find even easier to do on vacation, because a lot of time, we are without a car. We tried to walk on the beach every morning after breakfast. A post-dinner walk is also very beneficial, and each evening there was at least 10 minutes of walking to get back to our hotel (that is all you need to reap the benefits!). Additionally, we stayed at the Westin, and the hotel chain is known for accommodating healthy lifestyles. For example there were two fitness facilities and workout classes held every day. I very much enjoyed watching the midday water aerobics class. In another life, I probably would have participated, but we were there with our toddler, so I couldn’t get away. Besides, chasing him around the kiddie pool is exercise enough (hello biceps!). 

I still prioritized sleep

It has been years since I have lived a lifestyle where I am staying up late on vacation. The main reason I take vacation is to feel more rested, so I still prioritize sleep. Sleep is when many of your major bodily functions are getting back into balance, blood sugar included. It is a state of repair and regeneration. Specific blood sugar hormones such as insulin, leptin, and glucagon are getting into homeostasis. Without good sleep, blood sugar could be thrown off the next day, increasing cravings and decreasing satiety after meals. Getting good sleep on vacation is something you can do to ensure better blood sugar balance throughout your day. 

I kept cocktails at happy hour and turned to more blood sugar balancing choices.

Even on vacation, I am not someone who can drink all day and still be expected to function in the evening (or in general). When I look around at the other vacationers, I must be in the minority, because many people are drinking well before noon. Maybe they are without children, or they can just handle their alcohol better than I can, but I always keep my cocktails within the window of happy hour. Furthermore, the drinks many people turn to in tropical locales are on the sugary side. Sugar will just make your dehydration – and hormonal imbalance – worse. I prefer a couple of skinny margaritas in the afternoon (soda water + tequila + lots of lime juice), and maybe a fun cocktail or glass of wine with dinner.

One night I thought I was ordering a lighter concoction, and it turned out to be anything but (photo below), and the subsequent blood sugar spike told me it likely contained a lot of sugar. You live and you learn.

This is why I always stick to tequila and soda water, or a glass of wine. From a blood sugar perspective, alcohol actually has the effect of lowering your blood sugar, not raising it as people suspect. However, this means that blood sugar can get too low, and your body then increases carbohydrate cravings in order to get blood sugar back up quickly. Unfortunately, this will send you on a blood sugar mismanaged roller coaster, so it is always best to pair drinking alcohol with protein and healthy fat, forgoing food carbs alongside the alcohol.

Do you find it hard to maintain balance on vacation? Learning the principles of blood sugar balance – the why factor of eating real food – can be motivating to maintaining more consistency when travel. Learn more below!