|Healthy Travel on the Go|
Hands down, one of the most popular topics amongst my reader questions is related to healthy eating on-the-go. This can apply to busy moms, folks who are fixed to a desk most of the day, long-commuters and, of course, anyone traveling for business or pleasure.
Aside from being a mom, I have a fair amount of experience with all of the above. And all of it can be exhausting, no matter your specific context. It’s amazing, indeed, how spending an entire day on your tush in cars and on planes, or working in front of a screen, can take it out of you more than an intense workout! I don’t know why this is, exactly, but it has taught me the importance of making healthy choices when I’m busy and/or traveling.
This is both harder and easier than it sounds. Harder because healthy options are often skimpy on the road or in airports or conference rooms, if available at all. And when you do happen upon a decent bar or piece of fruit along the way, you can bet your bottom dollar it’s several more than at the average grocery store.
But it’s also easier than you might think! The truth is, it all comes down to a little extra work and preparedness on the front end. Here is my simple outline for how to return home from a busy day or busy trip feeling pretty darn good!
Be Thoughtful About Where you Book:
- I like to stay in places that have a kitchen, if at all possible. Even when I’m traveling for pleasure and plan to go out to eat, I prefer to make breakfast and have snacks at “home”. I like starting the day on a healthy foot, and I also like to enjoy snacks such as yogurt or hummus & veggies to save things like bars/fruit etc. for when I don’t have access to refrigeration. Lots of major hotel chains offer “Residences” that are mini-apartments! Or go the Airbnb route, my personal favorite, and make sure to request a place that has a kitchen. You can always email the host to find out exactly what they have. If you don’t have Residence hotel or Airbnb options, look for a hotel that has refrigeration. Many places will clear a mini-fridge if you request it in advance. Lastly, if that is unavailable, there are still plenty of healthy breakfast and snack options you can enjoy without any kitchen and fridge (see below).
- REMEMBER: if you are traveling in a car, you can invest in a cooler that will keep perishables chilled for a significant amount of time. THIS is my favorite, and it opens up a world of possibilities (I know this is pricy but I think it's worth the investment. It keeps food cold for SO long).
Do Your Research:
- Spend some time researching restaurants in the area where you will be, whether it’s a hotel or your office. I often just type into Google “healthy restaurants near X”, and then I spend some time noodling around on Yelp reviews. I look for places that have at least 20 reviews, most of which are four and five starts. Then I take a look at the menus to ensure there’s something decent I’d most likely enjoy. Feel free to call the restaurant ahead of time and ask if they can make substitutions such as dairy or gluten-free. In addition, you can ask what they cook their food in—butter and olive oil good, vegetable oils like soybean, sunflower, canola bad. Most places that typically use the latter are happy to sub for the former, if requested. Note: most of the time, appetizers and sides tend to be lighter and more veggie focused, so be creative about what you might order once there.
- Also take some time to research grocery stores and food co-ops or markets near your office or travel destination. See what is available at those places—again, don’t be afraid to call—and this can help determine what you need to bring and how much.
- If you are going to be gone for a while or just really want to up your healthy travel game, you can invest in a small portable blender for making smoothies. For this, you really need access to refrigeration.
Time the Amount of BYOF You’ll Need (Bring Your Own Food):
- Determine approximately how long you will be without access to healthy options. Much of this depends on your previous research based on what’s available at your destination (again this can include your office!). How many hours are you traveling and how many of your usual meal times and snacks does that cover? How many flights are you taking? I always try to built in at least 3 hours of delay, because unfortunately that is more common than not at airports these days. If you’re traveling in the car, get a sense of how many larger towns/cities you’ll pass through or near. It can be really easy to assume you’ll need less food than you usually eat because you’re sedentary much of the time, but remember—travel is TIRING, and sometimes I find myself truly hungrier than I might expect. If you are a generous soul, you might also want to account for any food you’ll end up sharing with those who are less prepared than you!
With Refrigeration (either brought in a car cooler or purchased upon arrival):
- Hard boiled eggs or raw eggs
- Hummus and veggies: carrots, celery, cucumber, bell peppers, snap peas, cherry tomatoes steamed & cooled cauliflower or broccoli florets
- Yogurt (I like Siggis Triple Cream vanilla the best)
- Delicate fruit like berries, pears, grapes and stone fruit
- Mason jars of overnight oats
- Mason jars of nut milk
- baby spinach for green smoothies
- lemon slices for water
- Homemade Muffins (if keeping longer than 2 days; otherwise fine without refrigeration)(THESE | THESE | & THESE are my favorites)
*Can obviously bring these when you have refrigeration as well!
- Individual Protein Powder Packets to mix with water (link below)
- Superfood Seed Containers (a mixture of equal parts chia, hemp and flax)
- Individual Nut Butter Packets (link below)
- Superfood Oatmeal Packets
- Dried Jackfruit and Dates (links below)
- Healthy Bread of Choice (links below)
- GG Scandinavian Crisp Bread Crackers (link below)
- Brown Rice Cakes (link below)
- Nuts and seeds (I like to bring roasted almonds and cashews)
- Dried Fruit (I like to bring dates and dried cranberries or raisins)
- Four Sigmatic Mushroom Elixir Mixes (link below)
- Tea bags (link below)
- Go Everly Natural Drink Mix Packets (link below)
- Bars: HERE is a link to all of my favorites
- Sturdy fruit like oranges, apples and bananas
- Homemade Energy Balls (PB&J, Carrot Cake, Maple Pecan Pie)
- Freeze-dried fruit (link below, strawberries and raspberries are my favorite)
- Homemade granola (HERE & HERE)
- My One-Bowl Homemade Cereal
- Dark chocolate (link below)
- Cinnamon and/or sea salt (I put them in THESE little containers)
- Organic Peanut Butter Powder (link below, I also put in above containers)
- Jam (favorited linked below; also put in above containers)
- Epic bars or bites or jerky (link below)
- Veggie Chips (link below)
Taking Meals on the Airplane:
- Aside from seafood, curry and roasted cruciferous veggies (broccoli, brussels sprouts), most real meals are completely acceptable to bring on the plane with you. I do not like using disposable containers, but I will bring them on long flights if I won’t have a way to clean them at my destination. You can prevent the Travel-Snack-Monster from rearing its ugly head by making sure to eat an actual meal when you start to get hungry. Don’t worry if the person sitting next to you think it’s weird or if someone is mildly perturbed by the smell of pesto or chicken thighs. They’ll be OK! Don’t forget to pack napkins and disposable utensils as well—or you can grab them from a kiosk before you board. I do suggest avoiding meals with peanuts, as it is such a common allergy. Besides that and the ultra-smellies mentioned at the beginning of the paragraph, you can bring anything you’d eat at room temperature at home!
LL’s Favorite Travel Breakfasts:
- Superfood Oatmeal Packet as Overnight Oats with layers of peanut butter and banana slices
- Superfood Oatmeal Packet as Hot Oats with Cashew Butter and fresh or freeze-dried strawberries
- Siggis Yogurt with fresh or freeze-dried raspberries, handful of granola and almond butter
- Three Crispbread Crackers with Artisana Walnut Butter, a sprinkle of my Superfood Seed Mix, Cinnamon and a few chopped dates
- Superfood PB&J or AB&J: 2 slices Dave’s Killer Bread, almond butter or peanut butter, strawberry jam, sprinkle of my Superseed mix, sprinkle of cinnamon
- two hard-boiled eggs sliced in half with a sprinkle of salt and a piece of fruit
- Homemade Granola with nut milk, a few spoonfuls of the Superseed Mix topped with dried cranberries or raisins and blueberries
- If cooking as available, scrambled eggs with sliced avocado, sea salt and a few crisp bread crackers to eat it with!
- 1 apple sliced and drizzle with lemon juice and cinnamon, dipped into a vanilla Siggis
- If blender available, Simple Smoothie: handful baby spinach, 1 banana, 1 individual protein powder pack, 1 scoop Superseed mix, scoop peanut butter powder and enough nut milk to reach desired consistency. Add ice if available.
The Mental Game: You are In Control
Whenever my dad goes to the Nashville airport, even if it is 9 am in the morning, he “treats” himself to Swett’s BBQ. He gets himself all psyched up for airport Swetts, as if Swetts isn’t available to him five minutes from his house ALL-THE-TIME”. As a result, my dad often starts his trips in a less than ideal place 1) because he’s already entered a “what happens on vacation stays on vacation” mindset and 2) he’s filled his belly with sodium, char, antibiotics and hormones and lord knows what else is in Swetts BBQ.
Truthfully though, I find the former far more insidious than the latter. Many of us fall victim to the notion that vacation means all bets are off when it comes to healthy eating. We tell ourselves we’ll get “back on the wagon” when we return home, and we’ll just “enjoy” whatever we “want” on our trip.
Do you see the red flags? ‘Cause this is problematic for multiple reasons. Firstly, this mental game assumes that we are capable of switching back and forth from moderation/a healthy mindset to utter indulgence at will. I don’t know about you, but I don’t find that to be a particularly fluid transition. More often than not, we have a very difficult time pulling ourselves out of vacation mode once home—we’re tired, we’re extra busy playing catch up, and if we were at a beach somewhere, we no longer have bikini motivation. You think four to seven days is too short of a time to establish a difficult-to-break unhealthy pattern? It’s not.
In addition, this viewpoint goes ahead and steals our power away to make healthy choices if we want them. It presupposes that we’ll WANT the junky food, and what we set our mind to, we usually accomplish! You’ve decided to go hog wild on the all-you-can-eat-buffet for the next week? I bet you’ll never even notice the a-la-carte menu that offers much fresher, more interesting and nutritious choices…choices you’d actually probably prefer.
Lastly, you’re worth more than that. Seriously. You are worth more than nachos for lunch every day and a few hotel front desk cookies every night. You’re worth so.much.more than McDonald’s fries and gas station Big Gulps of Diet Coke and Dunkin Donut holes. You’re worth the moon and back over those extra cocktails or glasses of wine. You’re worth more than SKIPPED meals and jittery coffee-fueled mornings. You are worth it to feel GOOD when you travel—to feel energetic, to experience efficient digestion and sound sleep, instead of constipation, bloating, restless nights and dehydrated mornings. You’re worth it not to make choices that can cause adrenal fatigue, cravings, imbalanced blood sugar, acne and much more, well after the choices have been made.
Take a hard look at the tales you’re telling yourself about how you plan to eat when traveling, or at the office. If you’re telling yourself that the overindulgence is worth it (instead of YOU), or that you might as well ‘go big or go home” or “this one more thing won’t make it worse”…ask yourself: Is that true? You know the answer! Every single choice is a new chance. You’re in control, and all you have is that next best choice. So make it! (and when you don’t, don’t worry about it—it’s already over, so move on).