Eating healthy while traveling can be a challenge. When you are home in your own environment, you can control what foods you keep on hand and how you prepare your meals.
Traveling does not have to be a setback for your nutritional goals. It’s important to enjoy your time and eat out with friends or family, but it doesn’t need to be a free for all. Finding this nutrition balance while traveling can be done if you are taking a road trip and even if you are flying.
The key to eating healthy during your travels is a little pre-planning and preparation.
Pre-Planning Nutrition For On the Road
When you are headed out on a road trip you have the most freedom to bring nutrition staples with you on your journey.
If you have room, plan on packing a small cooler to expand your snack options. Most gas stations are full of foods like cool ranch doritos and super sized candy bars. Those empty calories don’t keep you full and satisfied long, and they certainly don’t contain nutrients like fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Pick snacks to bring with you that contain protein, fiber, and healthy sources of fat and carbohydrates (not the kind coated in cheese dust).
Here are some snack ideas to pack for your road trip:
- Dried or dehydrated fruit (make sure it is no sugar added)
- Fresh fruit like apples, bananas, grapes and pears (pre-wash if needed)
- Jerky (low sodium and low sugar)
- Peanut butter
- Popcorn (not buttered)
- Protein bars (read the labels- not all protein bars are healthy)
- Unsalted nuts and seeds
- Whole grain crackers or pretzels
It is easy to mindlessly reach into a large bag of snacks. Even when eating healthy foods portion size still matters. You can buy pre-portioned bags of food, but it is usually more expensive. A budget friendly option is to portion out your own snacks into small ziploc bags.
If you have a cooler, here are some great snack ideas:
- Cheese cubes or sticks (reduced-fat)
- Guacamole (they make smaller containers for travel)
- Hummus (they also make smaller containers for travel)
- Pre-cut raw veggies
- Pre-cut or pre-peeled fruit like berries and clementines
- Turkey wraps in whole grain tortillas
- Yogurt (low-fat individual containers)
The goal for eating healthy on the road is to have lean sources of protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates while staying hydrated. Make sure to have a big water bottle, or even a few bottles, with you on the road. It can be tempting to drink sodas and other caffeinated drinks, but don’t go overboard on them. Tea is a solid choice for a healthier caffeine pick me up while traveling.
Pre-Planning Nutrition For On a Plane
Eating healthy when you are flying to your destination can be a bit more of a challenge, but with these airport hacks you can make it happen.
You can get food through airport security. All of those healthy snack options listed above that don’t need a cooler are fair game. One thing to keep in mind is that if it is a liquid or gel-like food, it needs to be 3.4 ounces or 100 mL or less. Foods such as peanut butter would need to be in an individual sizes container or pouch, but they sell these at most grocery stores next to the jars of peanut butter. Plastic forks and knives are technically allowed through airport security, but foods you can easily eat with your hands or a spoon are a safer bet.
Bring an empty water bottle with your through security. When you get to your concourse you can fill it with water and stay hydrated without spending an absurd amount of money for a bottle in the airport.
If you have a longer stay in the airport and it’s time for a meal, you can look at the airport website for all of your available options. The best thing to do is plan ahead so you aren’t ravished and running toward the smell of fried food. Most restaurants have the nutrition facts available and you can even find healthier fast food options like a grilled chicken sandwich, superfood salad, turkey wrap or chili with a side salad. The main thing is to steer clear of foods high in fat, sodium and sugar. This would be fried foods, desserts and that double bacon cheeseburger.
Pre-Planning Nutrition For On Location
You have arrived safely to your destination, with nutritious snacks in hand; now what?
Depending on how long you will be traveling for, its nice to try and book a place where you have a kitchen or even a small kitchenette. This allows you to cook some small healthy meals, and it also saves you a lot of money from eating out for every meal. You can make a healthy breakfast and lunch, and then dinner can be your time to explore the local food scene.
If you are traveling and staying in a hotel, always ask for a room with a fridge and microwave. You can put some healthy snacks in the fridge and bring home leftovers to reheat and enjoy.
Nutrition while you are traveling is all about balance. Don’t over-restrict yourself to the point where you don’t enjoy your time. Let your inner foodie enjoy, just balance it with some healthy food choices too.