Don’t use vacation or work travel as an excuse to eat poorly. With a little planning and healthy diet tips, you can plan healthy snacks and meal options when you are not at home. Skip the junk food and you’ll feel more energetic and less bloated, and you won’t feel any regret. Smart dietary decisions can also help you avoid gaining extra pounds while you’re away.
At Elkins Park Family Medicine, we put together these 10 tips for eating healthy while traveling.
1. Carry healthy snacks with you
Be prepared. You can’t be guaranteed access to healthy, or affordable, snacks when you’re on the road or stuck at the airport. Pack a stash of nuts, trail mix, whole fruit, or sunflower seeds. Packets of peanut or almond butter, whole-grain crackers, and single packs of hummus are other tasty, healthy options.
2. Make a grocery stop
When you’re driving, fast food is not your only option. Stop at a grocery store for healthy sandwich fixings, fresh fruit, and snacks like nuts and string cheese. If you can’t find a market, order healthy options at restaurants. Grilled chicken sandwiches, salads with dressing on the side, and baked potatoes are fast food offerings that won’t ruin a healthy diet.
3. Eyeball restaurants before you’re on the road
Do some research before you’re on the road. Check out what restaurants are in your driving path, at the airports you’ll visit, and at your destination. You can peruse menus and plan meals in advance, instead of making rash, sometimes unhealthy, decisions about your meals at the moment.
4. Instant oatmeal
Stash packets of instant oatmeal in your suitcase for a quick breakfast or snack option. If your hotel room has a coffee maker, all you need to do is heat up water and pour it over the dried oats. Pack a baggie of raisins or other dried fruit and unsalted nuts to top it with.
5. Go continental at breakfast
Many hotels offer a free breakfast that consists of bagels, fruit, cereal, yogurt, and sometimes pancakes or waffles. Skip the refined white carbohydrate options and grab whole-grain cereal — such as bran or oatmeal — with a piece of fruit and a hard-boiled egg, if offered.
6. Don’t skip
During travel, meals may be erratic — especially when you’re trying to arrive at your destination. Avoid skipping meals or “saving up” for a special event later in the day. Eat small, healthy snacks, such as half a turkey sandwich, a handful of nuts, or a container of yogurt at regular intervals to keep you from feeling famished and making poor nutrition choices later or overeating.
7. Stick to one plate at buffets
If your travel takes you to a buffet — such as on a cruise — don’t keep going back for more. Take a plate and serve yourself generous portions of vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins. Add a small taste of anything that constitutes a treat — such as fried items, macaroni & cheese, or dessert — but don’t keep going back to sample more and more.
8. Find other entertainment
When you’re in the car or on a plane, you have lots of options to entertain yourself that don’t involve food. Bring crossword puzzles and travel games or download all those movies you’ve been meaning to watch.
9. Drink up
Stay hydrated. If you’re on a road trip or at work meetings, you might avoid water because you don’t want to make frequent pit stops. But if you’re thirsty, you may confuse the thirst for hunger and overeat. Plane travel is naturally dehydrating, so always bring an empty water bottle that you can fill after passing security.
10. Splurge strategically
If you’re on a special vacation or in an area known for a famous delicacy, don’t deprive yourself. Treat yourself when it’s an item that’s truly special — like pizza in Rome or ice cream in a homestyle creamery. Leave the gummy bears, soda, and chips on the shelf when you’re driving to your location — you can get those anytime.