Modern life is travel-intensive. We spend inordinate amounts of time “on the road”. And whether it’s for business or pleasure, traveling frequently can make it tough to keep up our healthy eating habits. But whether you’re stuck in a car for long cross-country drives or on a plane for international flights, there are a few things you can do to “keep to your diet” so that you (and your family, if they’re traveling with you) can stay healthy.
Tip 1: Bring your own healthy food and snacks with you. Pack an “on the road emergency kit” of fresh fruits and snackable veggies – carrot sticks, celery, hard-boiled eggs and healthy protein snacks like nuts. In almost all cases, the foods in your “bring-along bag” are going to be healthier and fresher than the foods you find in airport fast-food kiosks or roadside rest stops.
If your journey requires you to be on the road for multiple days, restock your supplies on the way. You can find health food stores and markets in the towns you visit, where you can again find healthier and fresher foods than you are likely to find elsewhere. One important safety tip, however – if you are traveling in less-developed countries, with high incidences of water- and food-borne disease, be wary of fresh foods and veggies. It is often wiser in these areas to avoid salads and eat only cooked vegetables, and to eat them while they’re still hot and freshly prepared, not after they have been “on display” for an indeterminate amount of time.
Tip 2: Don’t forget water. Travel – especially air travel – tends to dehydrate the body, and to stay healthy you need to drink even more water than usual. So stock up on bottled water before you leave, and replenish your supplies at each stop. If you care about the environment and are traveling by car, consider bringing large gallon jugs of water and using them to replenish smaller drinking bottles as you go.
Tip 3: When you eat out, be selective about where. You don’t have to settle for fast food. If you’re traveling by car, many of the towns you pass will have restaurants or health food stores where you can get more satisfying and nourishing foods. There are even apps you can get for your smartphone (like VegOut or GoodFoodNearYou) that can help you find such places. If you’re traveling by air, ask around or rely on travel guidebooks to find better restaurants in the area you’re visiting—you’ll eat better (and more healthily), and you’ll meet more interesting people than you’re likely to find in your hotel’s restaurant or snack bar.
Tip 4: Be equally selective about what you order at these restaurants. Even if you’re stuck with fast food, there are healthier alternatives to the fat- and sugar-laden burgers and fried foods that most people eat on the road. Your best bet for fast food may be sandwich shops like Quiznos or Subway, in which you can pick from a wide variety of ingredients and have them served on bread that’s not just white bread. At breakfast, have an omelet, a bowl of oatmeal or whole-grain cereal rather than sweet rolls or donuts. At lunches and dinners, if you’re trying to lose weight or keep it off and the serving sizes are too large for you, consider ordering a child’s portion or sharing with a fellow traveler. Don’t go for the “supersize” option! And remember, there is never any need to order a “main course” if you don’t feel like one. You can order a hearty soup or salad and stick with that. In general, it’s a good idea to look for foods that are prepared in healthier ways—chicken and fish, for instance, are usually healthier when they’re baked than when they’re fried.
Tip 5: Avoid the unhealthy temptations. If you’re traveling for business, you may be stuck in meeting rooms full of sweets and donuts, but you don’t have to eat them. Similarly, if there are rows and rows of free sugary soft drinks provided for you, you can always choose coffee or tea, or just drink bottled water. If the whole group goes out for drinks after the meetings, again you don’t have to match your colleagues pint for pint and shot for shot; you can order a glass of wine or a light beer and sip it. These simple exercises in “no thank you” can save you hundreds of calories a day, and help you travel healthier.