Not sleeping in your own bed makes it much easier to get off the healthy eating track. Even a personal trainer and health coach friend told me it’s hard for her to keep her normal eating routine when she visits her Italian dad (for the record his homemade pizza is to die for). I know she’s not the only health professional that goes through this, so it’s time us mere mortals give ourselves a break when we’re on the road.
That being said, you have to be conscious of your food choices so you don’t feel bloated, sick, tired, or worse –feel guilty or regret what you’ve eaten. As my two-week visit in the U.S. ends today, I feel great about my overall eating choices and maintaining my overall health habits. I even had a few hometown classics that hit the spot big-time (Kansas City BBQ, for starters). That’s what it’s all about – eating to fuel yourself, but also enjoying yourself while on vacation.
Healthy eating while traveling wasn’t always this easy for me. I’ve had plenty of trips where I returned feeling like a bloated, unhealthy mess. Now, I’ve developed a system that works for me – and I’m sure you can benefit from it too. Below are my tips for keeping your healthy eating habits in check while still enjoying the local cuisine or some special treats (you’re on vacation after all!).
1. Start out strong
Before you travel, buy or make healthy snacks like nuts, nut butter sandwiches, protein bars, trail mix, pumpkin seeds, fruit, cut veggies, kale chips, and tuna packs that you can take with you and eat on the go. These are great for road trips and as substitutes for the often unhealthy and overpriced airplane and airport food. Plus, any extras you have you can eat throughout the trip and on the way back home.
2. Indulge, but make it (oh so) worth it
If you want that authentic pizza, award winning BBQ (yes, it was definitely worth it), decadent cupcake, or exotic cocktail then just do it. Don’t go crazy and do it every day, but trying new things or enjoying a classic favorite is so worth it – and makes for a fun vacation.
3. Eat a breakfast of champs
Eat a healthy, filling breakfast that includes protein and fiber. While most hotel breakfasts want you to eat the carb, sugar-laden muffins, bagels, and cakes, focus on the healthy choices they do offer (although sometimes scarce). My last hotel had apples, oranges, bananas, eggs, yogurt (watch out for high sugar in these bad boys), and oatmeal with fresh walnuts. If your hotel has a refrigerator or you’re staying with family or friends, you can always stock up on your personal favorites and make your own breakfast.
4. Be restaurant savvy
You will be eating out – it’s just a fact. Even if you are staying with family or friends, you’re still going to eat out at least a few times. Instead of throwing your hands up and saying who cares I’m out of town (hey, we’ve all done it), choose healthy options. Ignore the tempting smell of fried foods that are often stables of many restaurants and choose grilled foods instead, don’t fill up on the chips and bread (rule #1 of eating out, even at home), always ask for sauces on the side (including salad dressing), and skip dessert (unless it’s one of your “oh so worth it” indulgences). As long as you go in with a game plan to eat healthy and stick with it, you’ll be fine.
5. Keep movin’ everyday
Whether you’re in business meetings all day, enduring long airline flights, or hours in the car, make a point to get moving every day, even if that only includes some walking and stretching. If you’re at a hotel use their gym or walk around the neighborhood. If you’re staying with friends or your hotel doesn’t have a gym (or a good one), contact a local gym and ask about a free day pass or daily rates. I did this while visiting my sister and to my surprise, the gym gave me 2 free day passes. Not only did I have some fun workouts for free, I was able to try a new and super fun class called Nia. Keeping your body moving will help you feel like yourself and less inclined to overindulge for no reason.
6. Stock your backpack or purse with snack essentials
Make sure you always keep snacks and water (no sugary drinks) with you throughout the day (that’s what big purses are for ladies). It’s important to have snacks so you don’t feel an urge to stop at a fast food joint when hunger creeps up. If you run out of the snacks you packed from home, stop at a local grocery store. I do this all the time – I buy veggies, fruits, nuts, and gallons of water. I can chug the water at the hotel room morning and night and fill smaller bottles to take throughout the day. Keeping hydrated is so important while traveling and keeps unwanted hunger away too.
Eating healthy while traveling is possible if you make it a priority and are mindful of your choices. Of course, if you want to enjoy something you don’t typically eat at home, go for it – and have no regrets.
What are your favorite travel snacks? I’m always looking for new food to take on the road. Share in the comments below.
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