Now that summer is behind us, are you planning a fall get-away, or are you already looking forward to your holiday travel plans? If so, how are you going to tackle that healthy eating plan you’ve been trying so hard to master? Trying to eat healthy while traveling can be challenging. The good news is there are some simple, yet effective strategies that will help you continue to eat healthy while traveling. Doing this can help you maintain balance, reduce stress, and make you feel GREAT throughout your entire trip.
Before you leave, make a decision about which foods are a big “no-no” for you and which foods you’re willing to “slide” on. When you do that, you’ll spare yourself the stressful decision-making when the opportunity arises. Try to limit your “slides” to once a day as the combination of these can add up to digestive distress over your trip.
My “No-No” Foods:
My “Slide” Foods:
Try to find a hotel that offers a mini-fridge and microwave in the room. When you arrive at your destination, find a grocery store or fresh foods market close by. This will allow you to stock your fridge full of quick, healthy options.
If your hotel offers breakfast or a breakfast buffet, make smart choices. Watch out for the sweet rolls, pancakes, and bacon. Instead, stock up on hard-boiled eggs, oatmeal*, and fresh fruit. And, if your room has a mini-fridge, take a few extras for snacks during the day.
Before you dive into the oatmeal, check the nutrition label. A lot of the pre-packaged oatmeal packets are full of sugar, so make the best choice you can. Instead of using what they have at the hotel, plan ahead. You can always pack your own oats (regular or steel cut) in a zip-lock bag and dump them into a cup of hot water. Give it a few minutes to set up, and you’re all set. (Yes, I’ve actually done this many times.)
Food & Drink
You can easily take a variety of perishable and nonperishable items with you depending on the length of your trip and how much room you have to pack food. Make sure to pack your food in an airtight (and spill-proof) stainless steel or BPA-free plastic container that can pack tightly into the space you have available. And, don’t forget to stay hydrated with lots of water. This is especially important as you travel to different climates and/or altitudes.
At the Airport:
Water – You can buy bottled water at any of the stores in the terminal, but why not take your own? Make sure your water bottle is empty when you go through security. As soon as you get to your terminal, though, you can fill up your bottle at any fountain. Most airports have them all over the place. And, if you decide to make a protein or meal-replacement shake, you’ll be glad you have it with you.
Cooler Bags – If you take any perishable foods, you’ll want to take a small cooler bag. Depending on the airline your flying and the size of your cooler bag, you can use it as your carry-on or personal item on board. You’ll want to keep it close, so you can eat at the airport before you take off and on the plane when the munchies attack.
You’ll want to know a few things about getting through security with your cooler. You can take food through. It’s not a problem, and I’ve done it many times. Be mindful of your ice packs. If they are frozen solid, they should be fine. If, however, they have thawed out a bit and are now liquid on the inside, security will through them away. (It’s that 4 oz. liquid rule.) Another option is to forgo the ice packs altogether and take a few empty zip lock bags instead. Once you get through security, you can stop at the Starbucks in the terminal and ask for a couple glasses of ice. You can fill your zip lock baggies with ice and put them in your cooler then.
On the Road:
Water – While you might not want to drink a lot because it’ll cause you to visit more rest stops, drinking water while you’re on the road is super important. Take a large water bottle and try to keep it close to you in the car. If it’s easy to reach, you’re more likely to use it. When you run out, buy a gallon of water from the gas station and refill your bottle. It’s usually cheaper than buying individual bottles at each stop.
Coolers – Depending how long you’ll be gone, you’ll probably want to take a cooler with you. To keep your foods fresh, you’ll want to keep some sort of ice or ice packs on your food. Or, if you’re a frequent traveler, you might want to consider purchasing a cooler that plugs into both your car and wall electrical outlet. This turns the cooler into a “fridge on demand” when needed and doesn’t require ice packs at all.
- Raw veggies like carrots, celery, and broccoli
- Hard boiled eggs (pre-peeled)
- Babybel cheese – Individual serving size
- Greek yogurt – individual cups
- Pre-cooked chicken cut into strips
- Turkey sandwich made with Ezekial bread, deli turkey, and cheese
- Jerky like Epic Bars, Tanka Bars, or Grass Run Farms Beef Sticks
- Raw nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, etc.)
- Peanut butter or almond butter – Individual packets
- Tuna or salmon packets (in a pouch, not a can!)
- Meal replacement or protein powder – Individual packets
- Fruits like apples, bananas, or oranges (pre-peeled)
- Homemade protein granola bars (recipe included)
- Dark chocolate squares
Try to keep it easy and simple while you travel. If you’re like me, disposable products are the way to go when traveling. Depending on what food you take, remember things like plastic silver wear, paper towels, and zip lock bags. I do, however, recommend taking your own reusable water bottle.
And, don’t be shy about taking any other small conveniences that help you stay on track. If you have a vitamin or supplement routine, keep it up while you travel. Or, if you like to drink your favorite tea in the evening before bed, take some tea bags with you. Staying on a semi-normal routine will help more than you know.
While traveling, experiencing new, local cuisine can be the highlight of any trip. Luckily, you can enjoy the food at a majority of the restaurants you’ll visit by following a few “tricks” of the trade:
- If picking your own restaurant, search on Google, Yelp, or Trip Advisor for keywords like “healthy” or “grass-fed” along with “restaurant” and the name of the city you’re visiting. Then check out the menu online before going.
- When you arrive at the restaurant, tell the server what you are trying to do; for example, eat a low carb meal or eat lots of veggies. Let the server know that you would appreciate their help in making substitutions. Most of the time, they’ll make immediate recommendations and let the chef know your sensitivities.
- When ordering salads, simply ask to sub the dressing for a side of olive oil and vinegar. Ask them to hold the croutons or cheese.
- You can order any burger dish by simply asking them to hold the bun and leave any sauces on the side.
- Try to avoid the items fried in vegetable oils. Sub out the fries for other sides they offer like grilled vegetables or rice.
- You can order just about any entrée dish that includes meats like steak, fish, or chicken by asking them to double the veggies as your side instead of any high-carb or high-fat side item.
Don’t Worry. Be Happy.
While all of these tips can help you eat healthy food while traveling, the most important thing you can do throughout your trip is to NOT STRESS about food imperfection. In fact, one of the number one causes of digestive distress is stress. This means you could be eating the most nutritious, pristine diet there is, but if you’re stressed, you’re not only impairing the breakdown and absorption of your food, you’re also suppressing your immune system. This will increase your likelihood of experiencing a reaction to a gut pathogen or food toxin. That does not sound like fun on any type of a trip, so remember to relax a little bit too!
Stay happy, healthy, and N motion, AND REMEMBER…age is just a number!