Over the holidays this year, I traveled for pretty much three and a half weeks straight with only a day or two in between each trip.
And although I love to travel, every time I take a trip I quickly become aware of how much harder it is to maintain my healthy eating habits and keep up my regular workouts than it is when I’m in my normal routine at home.
In fact, traveling is one of the main reasons people give for not sticking to their normal healthy eating or fitness habits.
And while I’ll certainly admit it’s harder to eat healthy while you’re on the road, it’s not impossible. Here’s how to keep eating healthy even when you’re traveling, working a lot, or just don’t have access to your normal healthy foods:
Pack food to take with you
Whenever I travel, no matter where I’m going, I bring an embarrassing amount of food with me.
That picture at the beginning of this article? Those were just some of the food items I brought on my recent trip to Las Vegas for a blogging conference. In no particular order of importance, the items are:
- Protein bars (specifically, Quest bars—my favorite non-homemade protein bar)
- Greens powder like Athletic Greens or this one from Vibrant Health
- Almonds and pistachios for snacking
- Protein powder in chocolate and vanilla like this one
- Supplements (fish oil, amino acids and B vitamins)
- Pre-workout drink (Mandarin Orange Spark is my favorite)
- A few Emergen-C packets to ward off any cold symptoms I might get
So why the ridiculous amount of food?
My husband (and anyone else who happens to be around while I’m packing for a trip) inevitably makes fun of how much food I bring with me whenever I go somewhere for work or play.
But here’s why I don’t rely on getting everything once I’m there:
You usually don’t know exactly what’s going to be available once you get to your destination. Yes, there may be a grocery store nearby, but maybe you won’t have time to get to it, or maybe there used to be a store nearby and it closed, etc. Bringing a few things with you ensures you’ll at least have access to some good food while you’re away.
It’s more cost effective. Do you really want to go buy an entire bin of protein powder once you get where you’re going? Unless you’re going to be there for a few weeks, this usually doesn’t make sense.
Packing enough protein powder (or other food that you can’t buy individually) for the amount of time you’re going to be away not only saves you money, it’s just more convenient overall. Also, there are times you may not be able to purchase these types of foods even if you wanted to (I’ve found this to be true every time I’ve gone to Mexico as well as many places in Europe), so bringing it with you just ensures you always have the foods you want.
It gives you ready access snacks or breakfast when there’s nothing else (good) available. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve brought along protein powder, unsweetened oatmeal packets, or protein bars “just in case” and then ended up relying on those foods for my breakfast or snacks because either there just wasn’t anything else around or everything at my hotel, surrounding restaurants, etc. sucked.
Seriously, these items can be a food lifesaver.
Stock up on groceries if you can
I’m not sure how many of you guys have been to Las Vegas, but if you’ve gone, you probably know the food is absolutely terrible. Sure, you can pay a ton of money to get a gourmet meal at a fancy restaurant, but if your goal is to get a healthy meal at a reasonable cost, you’ll probably be out of luck.
I’ve experienced this in Vegas one too many times, so the last time I went, I made a point of taking a trip to Trader Joe’s and stocking up on food at the very beginning of my trip. Here’s a few of the things I got:
- Baby carrots
- Packs of broccoli and cauliflower
- Greek yogurt
- Good dark chocolate
- Pre-made salads (I didn’t use the dressing)
- Lemon (for water and salad dressing)
- Coconut water
If you don’t have access to a fridge, you obviously wouldn’t be able to get the refrigerated items, but, you get the idea.
These foods absolutely saved me on my trip and gave me access to good, healthy food when nothing else was available.
So next time you travel, try stocking up on veggies, fruit, nuts and good snacking items early on in your trip so you don’t have to resort to donuts and quesadillas when you’re inevitably famished and there’s nothing else around.
Be smart when you eat at restaurants
Whether you’re traveling for fun or for work, there’s no question that you’ll probably be eating out a lot. Not only is it unavoidable while traveling, eating out in new places is fun and gives you a chance to get to know the local culture.
And while I would not recommend being a total hermit in your hotel room and eating nothing but carrots and protein bars your entire trip, there are certainly a few things you can do to eat smarter while you’re out at restaurants:
Watch your portions. One of the main reasons restaurant eating can be such a disaster is that more often than not, the portions are huge. As in, two to three times more than you would eat if you were eating at home.
Be mindful of this, and don’t think that just because they gave you a lot of food that you have to eat it. Try and stick to portion sizes you would make for yourself at home, and you’ll be just fine.
Share whenever you can. One of the fun things about going out to eat is trying all the interesting foods on the menu. But if you order the bruschetta, the cheese plate, the salad and the pizza all for yourself? Guess what, you’re going to have a tough time not eating more than you should.
Sharing food still allows you to get a lot of different flavors but keeps your portion sizes much more reasonable.
Be careful of salads. Ordering a salad at a restaurant can seem like an uber healthy option, but unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Restaurant salads can be loaded with an insane amount of nuts (often, candied ones), cheese, and crazy-bad-for-you dressings.
The very worst thing you can do is to get a salad that doesn’t even fill you up but still clocks in between 600 and 800 calories (or more, seriously).
So if you’re going to order a salad, make sure to get the dressing on the side (and try to get balsamic vinegar and oil or lemon instead), push most of the cheese and nuts to the side, and get some sort of lean protein to make sure you get filled up. Even better, add avocado for lasting fullness.
Go ahead and indulge a little
If you’re anything like me, you’re a little food obsessed—and part of the fun of traveling is trying new all the new food and restaurant possibilities. So go ahead and indulge a little!
If you’re in Paris, get the croissant. If you’re in London, try the local fish and chips. In Mexico, you better eat tacos on a daily basis.
But here’s the thing to keep in mind: when you do indulge on your travels, make sure it’s worth it.
Don’t have a giant plate of average pasta or overcooked, soggy pizza or a crappy muffin for breakfast. Save your indulgences for the good stuff. Not only will you save yourself from a lot of crappy cheat meals, you’ll enjoy your splurges even more because they’ll be so worth it.
And remember—unless you travel the majority of the time, you don’t have to be 100% perfect while you’re away. Do the best you can to stick to the 80/20 rule, and trust that you’ll go back to eating normally when you get home and into your usual routine.
Bonus step: Keep working out
Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean you can’t work out. Here’s how to work out even if all you have is a hotel room.