Travel Well: tips & tricks for eating well on the road
Updated: Mar 10, 2019
For those of you that don't know, I travel for work pretty heavily for about 3-4 months out of the year. That means, I leave Sunday night or early Monday morning and I'm up in a hotel for the week, before heading home on Friday to repeat it all over again for the next few weeks. I've been traveling for work like this for about four years now, and while I very much love what I do, it can be hard to stay healthy when on the road. Your routine is off, you're not in your own bed, have no access to cooking, your schedule is all sorts of out of the norm, and it can be hard to maintain some type of sanity. That being said, after this much time I've developed some tricks to help me be my best (and healthiest) self while I travel.
Prepare yourself first
Its taken some time to learn what I need most. I also know that if I don't have the good options with me or near me, that I will likely go off the handle and eat everything I see - so that being said, I make a point to go to the grocery store (Whole Foods and Trader Joe's are my go-tos) either before I leave for a trip or as the first thing when I get there. When I'm gone for work, I like to make sure I have breakfast, snacks and lots of protein, fruits and veggies to hold me over. Sometimes I don't get the opportunity to have dinner, so in the least if I can load up on these items, I know that I won't order pizza or room service. It is worth time taking 30 minutes to get to the store and at least get your basics to save you when time gets tough and your belly gets hungry.
This is one that I actually find to be one of the easiest to do. Your hotel room is likely stocked with at least a refrigerator and a coffee pot and this is a great way to set you up for success. My go to is oatmeal. You can run the hot water through the coffee pot and let sit. I really love using Bob's Red Mill to go cups. I tend to go with the Classic (there are a bunch of flavors) - there is no added sugar and they're gluten free. It also has chia and flax in it - which is basically what I make at home. If for nothing else, it fills you up with good carbs and its a 3 minute option.
My favorite way to top it is with a banana and some nut butter. I keep bananas always in my hotel room - they are easy because they don't need to be refrigerated, and they're one of my favorite fruits. I'll then top with a nut butter. I love both Justin's and RX Bar brand. Nut butters are good fats, and I promise you that this breakfast will fill you for hours. Sometimes I'll just keep extra of these packets in my car or purse in the emergency case that I have no food and I'm starving. I also add in Vital Proteins Collegen - see below, I'll talk more about why I use that too.
Coffee Time & Snacks
In recent weeks I've started to cut back on coffee (for personal reasons mostly - I have been getting migraines) BUT that's not to say that there isn't good options out there. This is where I think most people slip up. Oh its just a coffee, but then you break down the nutritional value of that Venti caramel macchiato with whipped cream, and caramel drizzle and 3 extra shots, and all of a sudden your morning coffee has 500 calories and more than your days worth of sugar. When I'm having coffee, I stick to black. If I have a refrigerator available to me, I buy a small container of almond milk (Whole Foods sells them as a single serve) or will get So Delicious coffee creamer. One of my newer favorites thanks to my BFF Katie Gill of KG Wellness, is using Koia - a plant based protein drink. They taste AMAZING in coffee as a creamer, but at the same time you could drink it just as a protein shake (think another option for breakfast or lunch) All of the flavors are amazing and the cacao bean tastes like straight chocolate to me. They are packed with 18 grams of protein, sugar is less than 5 grams, and seriously, try this stuff out because they're so good.
Snack time I also think can be pretty easy. I load up on bananas, apples, baby carrots, pre-cut celery, snap peas. I bring a Tupperware with me so that I can bring a container in my purse. If you have a refrigerator, a tub of hummus will be a life saver. The protein will fill you up - and there has been many a time my dinner consists of veggies and hummus because I don't have time to get something.
Just like my love for RX peanut butter, I also love RX bars. They're ingredients are simple - so simple they are right on the front on package. While they may be calorie heavy, they are a great source of protein. I just had the Mango Pineapple today for the first time and I am totally in love. I always keep these on hand as well in my car or purse as a back up.
Another staple I love is Larabars - another item that is super simple in their ingredient list. And while they are not as filling, they definitely make a good snack.
One of my more recent favorites for when I want something salty and savory like chips are these chickpea snacks by Biena. I stick for the sea salt flavor because they are the least amount of ingredients, and they are crunchy and salty just like a potato chip with way less the calories and way more protein. Chickpeas are super amazing, so if you don't eat them when you're home, you should definitely eat these as you travel.
When you're looking at your snacks - the fewer ingredients the better. Pay attention to the calories, and what its made out of. How much sugar and sodium are in there? What kinds of fats? All else fails, if you can grab a fruit or veggie, odds are good that that's better than some random bar with 47 ingredients you find at the gas station.
Lunch & Dinner
This is where you're going to have to be flexible. A lot of times I don't have time for dinner or lunch on the road - that's the honest truth. That being said, sometimes, you're not going to have an amazing option, and you're going to need to roll with it. When I can, I opt for a great salad or roasted veggies and a protein. I spend free time looking up local places that have great reviews to find somewhere where I know I can find something I eat. Take the time to look up vegan restaurants - even if you aren't vegan, odds are good if there's a good vegan restaurant, there are options that you can find for your diet. I have to say this is the one area that I am constantly working to improve. Sometimes you're out with a big group of people and you don't get to choose. One of my favorite tricks is to get an appetizer and a side salad as my meal. It will automatically mean my portion size is smaller than an entree, and I can get some greens in as well as something yummy. When I do have time to grab something quick (not a sit down dinner) I run to Whole Foods or Trader Joe's and grab a pre-made salad, something from the food buffet section at Whole Foods, or sushi (depending on where I am in the country!) They have great to go options that I can stock up in my fridge for when I know I won't have time to get dinner later.
Supplements & Remedies
Sometimes the hardest part about being on the road is that I'm out of my norm - sleep, schedule, workouts, and eating are all off. I am a creature of habit and I love that routine. When I travel, I try to keep as much of that routine with me. As I mentioned before I love using Vital Proteins Collegen Peptides. I use this while I'm at home. Aside from added protein, it helps keep your digestive track in check, keeps those joints and bones strong, and also helps with your skin and nails. While I normally just bring a small Tupperware with me from my stash at home, but they also have travel size packs. You can mix this into any hot or cold item (although I prefer it in hot) and I definitely see a big difference when I am not taking it.
I also want to boost my immune system when I'm out of my normal situation and I love elderberry for that. They have gummies, chews, cough drops and powder mixes. I recently got these gummies (mostly because it was buy 1 get 1 free!) but they taste great and help ward off getting sick. When you travel like I do, you don't have the option for a sick day, and I these everyday while I travel.
The last supplement I don't live without when traveling is a liver aid. The liver detoxifies the body, so when you eat out of your norm, it needs to pump harder to make sure that it can clean you out. Another time from KG Wellness, I always carry these with me in my purse. If there is one of those nights where I can't eat great, I take two of these before bed and it helps immensely with bloating and digestive issues when your belly aches. Its not for the everyday, more so for when you slip on your diet.
Other helpful hints and final thoughts
If you've made it this far through this post - BLESS YOU! I'm aware that its a long post, but there are so many tricks I've learned on the road through the past few years. If there are two things you take away from this its that you need to be flexible and also be prepared. I keep my favorite tea in my purse, I bring my own glass straw and utensil pack with me, I keep a small lunch box in my car for leftovers if I cant get straight to a hotel. I also make a point to get to the gym as often as I can while on the road. For me, I know that when I work out, I will eat better. I also try to make sure that I eat before I go somewhere so I'll be less tempted (and less hungry) to eat whats provided.
The last big thing: don't beat yourself up for having an off day. Do I have those days that I only have an option for a breakfast sandwich on a bagel (or that I WANT it)? Yes absolutely. There's also something to be said about being able to eat locally and enjoy where you are - and I certainly do. I just like to make a point to eat most of my meals and snacks in a healthier manner so that I can indulge when I really am excited about it. So if you get that cheeseburger, just plan to eat better tomorrow, and enjoy every bite of it, because you deserve at least that.