If you travel, whether for business or pleasure, you’re probably familiar with this scenario…
It’s day four of a quick work trip and you’re overcome with guilt for ditching your usual healthy eating habits. Let us help you right now: it is not the end of the world if you “messed up” your plan and this added stress will probably cause your body more harm than enjoying yourself for a few days would. That being said, time away from home and your regular routine should not discourage you from staying on track.
Here are our top five healthy travel hacks to take with you on your next getaway!
1. Set nutrition intentions for your trip.
Before you take off, it is important to determine what your nutrition strategy is while on the road. It is much easier to stick to a plan when you’ve made a pact with yourself ahead of time. Determine what you struggle with (i.e. drinking enough water, eating too many sweets, not getting enough vegetables, overeating) and set some goals. Each trip will get easier as you stay consistent with your healthy habits.
It might be helpful to keep a food journal with you when you travel if you struggle with consistency. Writing down your snacks and meals can help you be more mindful with your choices and keep you accountable to your goals.
2. Pack balanced snacks.
It is very easy to make poor nutrition choices when you aren’t prepared. Taking a few minutes to pack healthy options will help you avoid settling for overpriced airport or gas station snacks. Our best snack advice is to pair two food groups for more nutrients and satisfaction (i.e. protein + carb).
TSA allows you to bring almost any snack (no liquids) into the airport—you can even pack a full meal in Tupperware and it’ll fly through security! Some great snacks for the plane include fruit + nut butter, instant oatmeal packs + almonds (ask for hot water in-flight), homemade trail mix and dry roasted edamame.
If it’s a road trip, we recommend packing a cooler so that you can bring more options and avoid the fast-food trap. This will also give you a bit more freedom with protein choices: string cheese, hummus, Greek yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, tuna salad and pre-cooked chicken breast are all great to have handy. Including protein in your meals and snacks will hold you over longer, making it less likely to find yourself finishing an entire bag of chips. Other smart snacks to bring along include veggie sticks, fruit, avocados, pretzels, whole grain crackers and popcorn. Don’t forget to keep the car stocked with water! We tend to skimp on hydration when we are away from home, and this is often one of the reasons we feel fatigued after trips.
3. Don’t eat out of boredom.
Travel might create more downtime than you are used to in your regular schedule. It is helpful to be aware of your eating habits in order to avoid mindless snacking. The best way to do this is to be intuitive with your body’s signs of hunger. Could you possibly just be thirsty? Or bored? Or eating because the clock says its lunch-time? It becomes much easier to control how much and how often we eat when it is dictated by our body’s hunger. Find new ways to spend your time that don’t involve food—read a book, watch a movie, go for a walk, use the hotel fitness center, call a friend, play a board game with family.
4. Choose wisely at restaurants.
When your packed cooler runs out of good eats, how do you navigate the scary world of restaurant menus? For starters, you definitely do not need to skip to the salad section every time. Scan the menu for balanced meals containing lean protein, lots of veggies and a source of complex carbohydrates. These carbs include whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, whole-grain pastas), legumes (beans and lentils) and starchy vegetables (sweet potatoes and corn). If you aren’t able to find anything that fits this criterion, there are simple tricks to health-ify meals even if you don’t see it as an option.
Some of our favorite swaps include:
• Baked or grilled protein for fried protein (ideally chicken or fish)
• Veggies or fruit for French fries as your side dish
• Whole grain bread/bun for white bread/bun
• Brown rice or quinoa for white rice
• Sweet potatoes for white potatoes
• Oil and vinegar for creamy salad dressings
• Sub avocado for cheese and mayonnaise
• Sauces and dressings on the side
• Add more veggies 🙂
We strongly encourage that you become comfortable asking for substitutions or alterations if you do not already. This keeps you in control of what you eat and makes sure you aren’t regretful as you leave the restaurant. If you are at a restaurant where swaps just aren’t possible, don’t sweat it—it’s just one meal!!
5. Enjoy food with friends and family.
As much as we love advocating healthy choices, we know that food is a social joy. Work trips can be stressful, and vacations are meant for relaxing. No matter the reason for travel, food is always the commonplace for bonding, and we would never want a strict diet to get in the way. Try the cultural food, eat your grandma’s pie, go out for drinks with coworkers. This life is about balance, and we hope these tips show that there are simple ways to create more of it when life takes you elsewhere.
Nutrition for the win!