How many times have you heard it said or said it yourself: I was doing so well but then I had to go out of town…
Travel and vacations have long been the dieter’s nemesis and eating well on the road definitely comes with its share of challenges. There are so many temptations, often there are limited options for those looking to eat healthy, sometimes you’re just too busy to find a healthy option or you’re at someone else’s whim for food. These are difficulties we can all sympathize with. I think it’s safe to say that pretty much nobody eats perfectly when they are away from home, but there are lots of ways to keep you mostly on track. So here are my tips for keeping to your healthy habits when you’re on the road.
- Bring as many snacks with you as you can.
When you’re sitting in the car for hours or traveling via plane, chances are you are not going to find a healthy snack readily available for you, so it’s important to plan ahead and pack your own snacks. Some of my favorite health snacks to bring with me are cut up carrots, sugar snap peas, celery sticks, apples and other more durable fruits, whole grain crackers, Cabot sharp cheddar snacks, Justin’s peanut butter packets, and beef jerky. These are all snacks that are easy to eat on the go and they keep fairly well without being refrigerated.
2. Bring a water bottle.
This will help keep you hydrated and help keep you away from sugary drinks that are often much cheaper than bottled water. Having water with you to sip on will also keep you from eating out of boredom or when you’re actually thirsty. A tip for traveling by plane: bring an empty water bottle with you to get through security. Once you’re through security, you can fill it up at a water bubbler before you board the plane.
3. Look for key healthful items when dining out.
Eating well when dining out can be a challenge because often items that seem healthy have been prepared in an unhealthy way, like drowned in salad dressing or deep fried or covered in a sugary sauce. Some key menu items to look for when dining out include: whole grains, lean proteins like chicken or fish (broiled, not fried), and fresh vegetables. You can also modify your orders to omit the bun or request your vegetables steamed. You can also order any sauces on the side or substitute olive oil and vinegar for salad dressing. Your health is an important investment and, if it’s a priority, you shouldn’t feel guilty about requesting small modifications to your orders.
4. Make the most out of the continental breakfast.
Ah, the continental breakfast, the cheapest way for a hotel to say they gave you more than just a roof over your head so that extra $50/night was totally worth it (did I mention I am super cynical?). Continental breakfasts, in addition to being universally underwhelming, are notorious for providing some of the least effective foods for starting your day. Empty carbs are often abundant at continental breakfasts and all they do is spike your blood sugar only to allow it to plummet later along with your energy. They also don’t stay with you very long. My advice when it comes to the continental breakfast is try to find a whole grain option mixed in with the carbohydrates and go with that. Also, at many of these breakfasts, they put out a bowl of fruit, so take advantage of that and maybe throw a piece in your bag for later, too (helping you get your money’s worth there). If it’s a nicer continental breakfast and they offer eggs, take advantage of the protein but be mindful that scrambled eggs may have been prepared with cream rather than milk. Finally, avoid white breads, pastries, and fruit juices. They will not keep your satisfied and they will not fuel your body for very long.
5. Offer to prepare dinner.
If you’re staying with family or friends, offering to cook dinner for everyone one night is a great way to keep to your eating habits while also thanking them for their hospitality. You get to plan the menu and could even pick up some extra snacks for yourself for the remainder of the stay.
6. Fit in movement wherever you can.
Traveling often means hours on end spent sitting as you make your way to your destination so it’s important to try to offset that with movement whenever you can get it. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, take a walk around the airport while you’re waiting for your flight, go for a walk after dinner, take advantage of the gym or pool if your hotel offers them. If you’re into strength training, resistance bands are small and easy to travel with and you can get a whole body workout in with those in your hotel room.
7. Be gentle with yourself.
This is probably the most important tip on this page. Sometimes you have to be OK with good enough. Being healthy doesn’t mean being perfect all the time. What matters is that you make the healthful choice most of the time. It’s about balance. You have to indulge occasionally and sometimes you’re just not going to be able to stick with your health plan. In those situations, it is very important that you not beat yourself up about it. Beating yourself up is how you get into unhealthy patterns of guilt and even self-hatred. Pursuing a healthy lifestyle should be done out of love for yourself. It shouldn’t be used to punish yourself for eating that slice of cake. If you can’t stick to your healthy routine as much as you’d like to or if you decided to just go all out and indulge the whole trip, the best thing that you can do for yourself is say “I ate those things and I enjoyed them and that’s OK, but now I’m going to go back to eating healthy again.”