Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus.See all posts »
On the Road Again
I’ve been racking up a lot of frequent flyer miles lately. I leave tonight for the Big Apple and will travel to Philly later this week. Healthy eating can be a challenge when traveling, but no matter what my day looks like, I rarely (I’m talking almost never) miss my minimum 5/3 a day (that’s at least 5 servings of produce - 2 of fruit and 3 of veggies, and no less than 3 servings of whole grains). If I don’t get ‘em in, I really feel it, and traveling is tiring enough. I also tend to not sleep well in hotels, so eating healthfully is critical to keeping my energy up, and my immune system revved.
My stay healthy strategy involves some concrete planning, but I think it’s more than worth it. Here’s my 4-step approach:
1) I look through my entire travel itinerary and think through each and every meal.
2) If I’ll be flying, driving, or in a meeting during normal meal times, I always pack my “stash.” For example, before I left for Dallas, I filled several zip top baggies with nuts, dried fruit, and dried veggies (I LOVE dried veggies – I wish I would have invented them!). I also packed energy bars made with whole grains, dry whole grain O-shaped cereal (easy to eat with my hands), and “sippy” boxes of soy milk (you can also buy low fat cow’s milk versions of these, including organic brands). On super busy days, I sneak in bites whenever I can, and my rule of thumb is to never let over 5 hours go by without eating something (or at least drinking something nutrient rich).
3) Next, I check the “food radius” around my hotel for the meals I’ll need to eat in restaurants. In Dallas, I found out that there were no restaurants within walking distance of my hotel, and I didn’t have a car. That meant my meal choices were limited to a) eating at the hotel, b) taking cabs to nearby restaurants or c) relying on items I brought. So, I went online to take a closer look at my in-hotel options (I’ve been stuck in hotels before with room service menus that didn’t include a single fruit or veggie, and I’d rather eat healthy snacks than an unhealthy meal). I didn’t find the hotel menus online, so I called and asked the clerk to fax them to me. Before I left Florida, I was covered – I knew exactly what I would order for dinner each night.
4) Finally, I stock up on healthy in-air and hotel room munchies. On this trip, my in-flight snack options included chips, trail mix (the kind with fried bananas and sugar coated raisins), or a giant cookie - none of which I’d eat. I was so grateful I’d brought fresh fruit and a pre-popped mini bag of light trans fat free popcorn. I usually order hot tea for an antioxidant boost, or ask for hot water and add my own tea bag. For longer flights, I’ve even brought packets of unsweetened instant oatmeal on board and asked the flight attendant for hot water (or made it in my hotel room with my microwave or coffee maker). And of course, my stash always includes dark chocolate in case I need a treat (much healthier and more satisfying than vending machine candy bars).
This may seem like a lot of work, but to me, it’s absolutely worth the time. I’m a very organized traveler so I just see this as an extension of packing! After all, as I tell my clients, the cells that make up our structure (which are constantly being stressed, repaired, and regenerated) are knitted from the nutrients we eat. That means even a few days of falling short on fruits, veggies and whole grains would leave me weaker. Missing out on my 5/3 is like armies of nutrients not showing up for work inside my body, and I definitely don’t like feeling defenseless! So what are your thoughts? How do you take care of yourself while traveling?
photo courtesy of Geek Philosopher