Most of us are planning at least one getaway for work or pleasure sometime soon. If you’re anything like me, you probably don’t feel great about the way you eat when you travel. It’s tough to make good choices when you’re out of your element. The key is to keep a type- or hand-written plan (or at least a print-out of a list of tips, like this blog entry) in your bag or back pocket when you travel. When you get hungry, pull it out and stick to it. Think of it as your personal traveling menu.
In general, try to avoid excess sugar. High carbohydrate meals may improve your mood for a short time, but lots of sugar can also make you sleepy and won’t help with your diet.
If you’re at a restaurant:
- Have an omelet filled with vegetables and a side of whole-wheat toast.
- Try a bowl of oatmeal with fruit — it’s surprisingly filling.
- If you need something sweet, eat half a muffin or a slice of toast with a small amount of jam.
Continental breakfast at the hotel:
- Have a bowl of whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk.
- Yogurt or hard-boiled eggs are good sources of protein.
- Avoid sweet muffins, sweet rolls, and sweetened cereal.
Convenience stores/gas stations:
- Look for a small box of whole grain breakfast cereal to eat with low-fat milk.
- Protein bars can make an okay breakfast substitute, but watch out for extra sugar and calories–read the labels.
- If necessary, a hot breakfast sandwich or small breakfast burrito is generally a better choice than donuts or sweet-rolls.
Fast food restaurants:
- Look at the nutrition facts on your computer or smart phone, or ask for a nutrition facts sheet. Most fast food breakfasts have lots of calories. A small breakfast burritos may be a smart option (but do your homework).
- Fruit and yogurt parfaits will give you some calcium and protein without too much saturated fat.
Visit a grocery store (rather than a gas station or fast food restaurant) and pick up some supplies for your car or hotel room:
- Even if they don’t sound exciting, you will avoid needless calories by at least have some carrots and other veggies on hand, so you have something to munch on.
- Low-fat string cheese is a great source of calcium and protein, and is generally a better choice than chips and crackers.
- You should pack sandwiches made with whole grain bread and peanut butter or lean meats.
- Nuts such as almonds, cashews, and walnuts contain polyunsaturated fats and are easy to take on a trip in either individual bags or larger containers.
- Wash your snacks down with diet soda or water.
Tip: get a disposable cooler with ice. Keep all your snacks in the cooler so that they stay fresh, and so you always know where to look when you need a quick snack you can feel good about.
Lunch and Dinner
Cooking your own dinner is usually the best option, but when you’re traveling, that’s often not possible. Fast-food is okay if you have the will power to order a salad, or go to a sandwich shop and stick to healthy ingredients.
- Start with a soup or a salad to fill you up before the calorie-packed main course arrives.
- Skip the main course altogether—“just the soup and salad please.”
- Share a meal. Restaurants serve enormous portions these days, and there is almost always enough to share. So save the calories and some cash! Plus, sharing removes the temptation to take leftovers back to the hotel or car.
- Look for baked or grilled chicken, tuna or salmon. They are almost always a better choice than most of the other things on the menu. If it says the chicken comes with bacon and mayo, order them on the side and eat only half. That way, you don’t have to feel deprived, but you can leave the meal feeling good about what you ate.
- Always order and eat your vegetables!! They take up space that you will otherwise fill with calorie-packed food, and your veggies are good for you!!
- Skip dessert, or choose some fruit. If you must order a sundae, share it with someone and don’t eat it all! Just get the taste you’re craving and put down the spoon! You can do it!!!
Fast food restaurants:
- If you’re at a sandwich restaurant where you can choose your ingredients, choose whole grain breads, lean meats, and lots of vegetables.
- Always choose grilled rather than “crispy” or fried chicken, including on your salad. Don’t just choose any salad—try to choose a healthy salad. At the very least, make it your goal to avoid ordering the least healthy salads on the menu!
At your Hotel:
- Avoid vending machines. If you must use them, try eating microwave popcorn or nuts, rather than chips and sweets.
- Order room service or take-out/delivery, and follow the advice from the restaurant section above.
Have a great trip!!