Traveling, whether it is for fun or for work, adds a whole new layer of stress to trying to manage eating healthier. Even if you’re in a groove at home, being out of your routine, combined with the ongoing temptations of extra snacks, unknown restaurant selections and limited control over when you can actually eat, can throw even the most consistent dieter into a tail spin.
Prior to pivoting to being a nutritionist full time, I had a job where I traveled anywhere from two to five times a month. Whether they were day trips to Austin or long-haul flights to the Pacific Northwest, I was frequently on the go and had to develop and refine my approach to travel.
I would often pick one or two things in advance to really focus on as being my keys to success and prevent being derailed. Having it planned and identified helped me to not even think about it or use will power in the situation because in my head it was black and white and non-negotiable. For example, sometimes I would decide under no circumstances was I going to drink an alcoholic beverage or other times I would decide absolutely no snacks in the conference room. It just depended on where temptation would come from on the trip, but I had a number of other elements layered into my preparation as well.
- Pack snacks. This just like planning snacks at home. Know you’ll have weird stretches without easy access to food, so plan for it. Keep a few things in your carry on and the rest in your suitcase for the days you’ll be gone. I always plan for at least two things per day while traveling. Ideas include: RxBars, Quest and Think Thin bars. Chicken or turkey jerky. Canned tuna. Pre-measured, one-ounce bags of almonds. Single-serving packs of almond butter to add to a banana. For the first travel day, I sometimes also took sliced grilled chicken breasts, hard-boiled eggs or sliced bell peppers, carrots and celery for eating while on the go.
- Advocate for yourself. If you’re going to be served food in a conference room, make your needs known. I always asked whoever was ordering the food to make sure protein and vegetables or a salad were available. It’s easy for them to do if you tell them in advance, and chances are you aren’t the only person who would like that options. It will also actually help you stay alert and focused during the day itself, too, instead of having a pizza hangover in the middle of the afternoon.
- Do your homework. For eating out, Yelp, OpenTable and Google are incredible resources for finding restaurants to go to where you can find good choices that won’t blow your day and actually taste good. With a tiny bit of digging, it’s possible to find many more appealing options than fast food almost anywhere. Survey the menus and think about how and what you want to put together for your meal before your sitting down with colleagues and overly hungry. Finding a grocery store with prepared food is also an option, and often fun to explore the regional differences in stores. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are my first grab-and-go grocery store options. If meals out are pre-planned, look at the menu and decide what you’re going to order in advance in those scenarios as well to reduce in the moment stress and temptation.
- Fit in workouts. If it is humanly possible, and even if you think it isn’t, take workout clothes . Working out helps shake out the physical stress of being on a plane. A run is a great way to see a city you’re visiting when you wouldn’t otherwise have the chance. And if you like to crossfit, spin or yoga, drop into a new facility to get a new point of view on your routine. The MindBody app is great for helping you find places and schedules all in one fell swoop.
- Prepare your room. Many hotels will provide you a small fridge upon request for free, which you can stock with a nearby grocery run or delivery. Instacart, Shipt and Amazon Prime will all deliver to hotels and the front desk can receive your order without even having to be checked-in yet. This is one way to get some breakfast food and some additional snacks beyond what you packed in your suitcase.
All of these approaches can also be applied to vacation travel, but I’ll add the caveat that if you’re going on a special vacation with culinary experiences built into it, it isn’t unreasonable to slacken the approach somewhat. That shouldn’t equate to eating all the food, but it is OK to make it more of a maintenance week than a diet week, just make sure you decide what you’re plan is before you go into it rather than letting a menu pull you off course in the moment.