Travel can make eating right tough. At home you’re in total control from market, to fridge, and to plate.
When you’re on the road it’s a different story — stuck on airplanes, in cars, in hotel rooms, in meetings and conferences. Then it’s off to restaurants to eat. Maybe you just order room service. Whatever you choose, it’s safe to say your dining options just aren’t the same.
But the fix is easy. You can maintain your diet while miles from home. It just takes planning.
Pack home-cooked meals with you for eating at your usual times
That’s right. You just have to keep in mind the Boy Scout motto and be prepared. “When I go to endocrine conferences,” writes physician and author Scott Isaacs, “I bring my own healthy food in a brown bag because there is always a long line for food and I don’t want to miss the next talk.” Packing your own food works especially well if you’re taking a road trip. Use thermos-style lunch containers to keep foods warm, or use coolers to keep foods cold. And pack plenty of healthy snacks: carrots, cucumber slices, fruits, snack bars, nuts, hummus, kale chips, and other easy-to-eat foods.
Eating at your usual times will prevent you from overeating, eating too frequently, or messing up your digestion. Remember that meal times offer you a break from the hustle and bustle of travel. Use the time to downshift for a bit.
And no matter how busy your schedule, don’t skip breakfast. Breakfast helps prime your system and prepares you for a full day of activities or business meetings. If your hotel offers a complimentary breakfast, choose a high fiber and protein meal, like whole-grain toast with peanut butter, to give you sustained energy.
Drink plenty of fluids
Choose water over other beverages while you’re in transit. Herbal teas are fine, but avoid soda and alcoholic beverages. Avoiding alcohol is especially important for warding off jet lag, as well as “vacation constipation.” “By one estimate,” the Atlantic reports, “as many as 40 percent of people experience constipation while they’re away from home, due partially to their gut bacteria’s reaction to the change of setting.”
If your hotel room’s mini-bar tempts you, stock your hotel room with bottled water, fresh fruit, and healthy snacks like granola bars or fiber cookies. These snacks can help you beat hunger if you find yourself in endless business meetings or activities.
Avoid fast food and “feel bad” foods
The meal options at are often high in fat and calories. Wherever you decide to eat, focus on meals that feature healthy offerings, like fresh vegetables and lean proteins.
But let’s say that all you have are drive-thru options. If you have to eat fast food, skip combo meals. Just order a basic sandwich and a drink like water or iced tea. Load up on lettuce, tomatoes and veggies, but not on mayo and dressings; they have tons of calories.
“Feel bad” foods include simple carbohydrates or high-glycemic foods (fruit juices, sodas, refined grain products, or sugary snacks); anything deep fried; nonfat desserts and sweeteners, which are loaded with chemicals that your body can’t easily metabolize; and anything partially hydrogenated. These foods will leave you with low energy. And they’ll make you feel hungry again sooner.
If you find you have time, make lunch your biggest meal of the day. And keep it simple. Stick to grilled chicken over salad, fish, or a turkey sandwich. You should also skip heavy sides like French fries or potatoes. Instead, choose veggies whenever possible.
Flexibility is key
While all of these tips can help you eat healthy food while traveling, don’t stress about eating perfectly all the time. Slip-ups will happen. Just move on and hope for better options later.
One great food to make ahead for packing with you is this one for healthy, homemade granola:
EASY HEALTHY HOMEMADE GRANOLA
Prep Time: 10 min
Total Time: 20 min
Use raw, organic ingredients whenever possible. These measurements are flexible; don’t worry too much about being exact.
- 2 cups raw, whole rolled oats (aka old fashion oats), preferably organic
- 1/2 cup raw nuts, chopped
- 1/4 cup raw seeds (sunflower or pumpkin seeds are great)
- 1/2 cup unsweetened dried fruit, chopped (optional)
- 2-3 tablespoons grade-b maple syrup or raw honey (or a combo of both)
- 2 tbsp virgin coconut oil or other healthy cooking oil
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or almond extract
- 1 large pinch fine sea salt
Preheat the oven to 300º F. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and use your clean hands to mix well and toss to coat; it will be sticky and messy but that’s the fun part. The coconut oil might be liquid or solid depending on the temperature of the room you are in (it has a melting point of about 75º F.) Your hands will warm it up and melt it into the mixture if it’s solid, just be sure to mix it all through the other ingredients so there aren’t any chunks of oil left. Spread the mixture in a thin layer on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, until very lightly toasted. (To make this recipe completely raw-friendly, dehydrate the mixture 5-6 hours at 115º F in a food dehydrator instead.) Cool before serving or storing. This granola can be kept in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 2 weeks. I keep mine in a mason jar in the refrigerator at home and in a BPA-free plastic bag when traveling.