9 Simple Rules To Eating Healthy While Traveling
There’s nothing more annoying than the realization that your hard-earned health and fitness has gone completely out the window. This can happen all too often if you’re a frequent traveler – in fact, sometimes it can seem as though every step you take forward is swiftly annulled by two huge leaps backward.
Eating healthy while on the go is tough. In fact, it’s probably one of the most commonly cited reasons for dietary and exercise failure. But unless you only travel once or twice a year (in which case I say you should relax and indulge!) then it’s worth learning what it takes to stay in control of your eating plan and within reach of those smaller belt-holes.
Wouldn’t you say?
Here’s what you need to do:
1. Know your options
If you’re not sure what sort of food will be on offer on your trip, then take the time to find out. Ask ahead as to whether your meetings/events are catered – and try to find out what will be served. Never assume that it will be ‘real’ food. You might come across as difficult or anal, but this is where you need to decide what’s important to you – the way people perceive you, or command of your health and waistline. If you know you’re eating at a certain restaurant, call ahead or jump online to see what sort of food is served. The first rule of battle is to know your enemy. Fail to do your research and I guarantee you’re doomed to fail.
2. Be prepared, and have a plan
It pays to be prepared regardless of how good the food on your trip will supposedly be. Who knows when you’re going to be stranded or served up some inedible floury mess. If you know you’re going to have to source your own food, or suspect that the food on offer won’t be up to par, then take the time to research other options. Always hit the ‘net before your trip and find out where the closest supermarket is, as well as what sort of restaurants and cafes are in the area. This really doesn’t take much effort, and it saves you relying on mini bar food or the easy temptation of the corner store. If you know you absolutely can’t avoid a ‘bad’ meal, then make an extra effort to eat really well the night before and earlier in the day. Take-away during travel is always an easy choice, but usually not the best one.
3. Snack smart
Mid-afternoon muffins or candy bars are (I don’t have to tell you) a sure-fire way to post-trip regrets. Worse, they tend to create a cyclic need for more of the same. Play it safe by staying off the sugar rollercoaster in the first place by making the choice to snack smart. This will require some prior planning. Depending on the length/location of your trip, you may be able to pre-pack some snacks from home. Alternatively you’ll need to make time to hit that supermarket you found online, and remember to keep your briefcase/backpack stocked. Smart snacks include raw nuts and seeds, home-made trail mix (add a few goji or cranberries and some dark chocolate to the nuts), fresh berries, beef or turkey jerky, peanut or other nut butters (just carry the jar with you), fresh fruit, or half a quality protein shake – pre-pack small plastic bags with the powder and carry a shaker to mix on the go.
4. Hydrate regularly
Simple, cheap, and obvious. But probably one of the most easily forgotten aspects of healthy living – and I’m not just talking when you’re on the road. However, travel often makes you forgetful and even the most avid water-drinker can go through near an entire day without knocking back more than bad coffee. First things first – as soon as you wake up you MUST drink 2 glasses of tepid water. This will spark digestion, boost your metabolism, and ready your belly for breaky. Next – do NOT, I repeat do NOT, leave for the day without grabbing a bottle of water to carry with you. Don’t kid yourself that you’ll pick one up later; it’s not worth taking the risk that you may not have the chance. Once you’re on the go, position the water somewhere you’ll see it – a cup holder in the car, or in front of you on the table. As soon as it’s empty, get a re-fill. You’ll find that when you start the day with water on your mind it will be much easier to continue the habit right through.
5. Know when to say no, and when to indulge
You don’t have to be a spoilsport all the time. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying an indulgent dinner or lunch as part of your trip, particularly if you’re entertaining clients or meeting old friends. Nobody wants to have their own meal ruined by watching someone else pick at plain chicken and salad. But the truth is that these sort of eating incidences are very unlikely to be required of you 3 times a day, every day. Decide in advance that you’re going to be super strict for each meal eaten on your own or during a meeting. If you’re travelling for pleasure, aim to eat healthy throughout the day and let your hair down at night. By learning when to say no you’ll avoid the guilt-trip of a rich dinner out. What’s more, you won’t have to say no to dessert!
6. Choose your alcohol wisely
The greatest problem with excess or unusual alcohol consumption is the lack of eating discretion that can follow. Assuming you’re not going to binge drink every night (and if you are, then this probably isn’t the article for you), let’s decide that it’s okay to enjoy a glass or two. I wouldn’t call that excessive, and if it’s only for a week or two at most, it’s certainly not going to cause any long-term problems. However – the decision of what to drink is one that should be made carefully. Spirits plus soft drink times 2 each night might not be the best choice. Daily beer consumption is also a big no-no when it comes to your health and your waistline. But a glass or two of wine or champagne not only keeps you social but has the added benefit of stocking you chock-full of antioxidants. In fact, I often prescribe wine as part of the BioSignature hormone correction program I offer.
7. Eat a good breakfast (fill up in advance)
No matter how late the night before was, breakfast is always a must. Particularly given the possible eating uncertainties of the day ahead. By breaking the fast you will fan your metabolism, boost your energy and mental focus, decrease the likelihood of cravings or poor eating habits later on in the day, and assist your body in detoxifying any bad food choices you have had to make. You just can’t miss this daily foundation. If you’re lucky enough to be staying in a decent hotel you should have a pretty good selection on hand. If not, you’ll need to hit a cafe (again, be sure to have one in mind before getting up). Either way, avoid the temptation of cakes, muffins, croissants, and even fruits. Load up on eggs (poached or omelette as opposed to fake-egg scramble, which is full of oxidized cholesterol), beans rather than bread, vegies such as spinach or mushrooms, and perhaps some full-fat yogurt to finish you off. For more ideas on an ideal breaky, see my Ideal Breakfast article. It’s a step-by-step guide to laying the right food foundation.
8. Choose the lesser of evils
Sometimes you just can’t choose healthy food. Maybe your flight got in late and you ran out of options. Perhaps your meeting or event ran overtime and your good plans flew out the window. Or maybe you just forgot to be organized and now you’re stuck. If you don’t have a choice then something is always better than nothing, but at least ensure it’s the better of several bad somethings. When in doubt, always go for foods that contain some form of animal protein. If it’s surrounded by or served with processed starchy carbs, leave most of that on the plate. If sandwiches are all you can access, take several and then leave most of the bread – fill up on fillings instead. Choose chocolate over sugar-only candies, cordial over soft drink, tea over coffee, protein or fat over carbs. Make smart choices where you can and accept it when you can’t – but be all the more prepared for next time.
9. Focus on each day as it comes
There’s no point in trying to pre-plan your entire trip (assuming it’s more than a day or two). Unless you’re going to live on jerky and nuts, at some point you’re going to have to find food on the go. I find that the best way to ensure a healthy diet while traveling is to take each day as it comes. I don’t mean on the day – plan ahead by a day in advance. Have your snacks in place, be aware of where and roughly what you’ll be eating for your main meals, and even pre-purchase the next day’s water bottle. And if you do end up having to write off a day then try not to worry about it. It is what it is. But the good news is that tomorrow’s a new day – and one that you still have the power to win.
Life is Now. Press Play.
*What do you do to eat well while on the go? Please share any tips or tricks that have worked for you in the comments section below! In fact, if you’re a regular reader and haven’t been active in the BodyIncredible community then now is the time – I want your involvement, your feedback, and your questions! So why not make this the day to leave a comment before you go – if you’re reading from RSS or email you’ll have to enter the blog to do this. You can do that by clicking on the title of this piece. ‘Post a comment’ is at the article end, right under the ’share this’ and ‘related posts’ options.
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