When you’re on the road and out of your routine, it can be even more challenging to pick wholesome foods to eat. Whether you’re visiting family or heading to a foreign destination, it’s possible to eat healthy every step of the way. Check out these tips for eating well while traveling, and take a look at our recommended snack choices before packing your bags.
Part of enjoying your trip is experiencing the cuisine and various treats offered. Though focusing on healthy food choices the majority of the time will help you to feel your best. Before heading out, hit the web to research dining options at your final destination. Find out what restaurants and grocery stores will be near you; look at your daily travel plans to determine when you will be eating your meals. This information will help you narrow down what to pack food-wise and where to eat once you arrive. If you want to get far ahead of the game, look at the menu and pre-log your meal into MyFitnessPal so that you know exactly what to order when you get to the restaurant.
FOCUS ON PORTION CONTROL
Traveling often means eating out. Whether it’s at the airport, on the road or in a new town, be aware of larger portions. Restaurants are notorious for serving a meal that’s two or three times the size you should eat.
Consider the MyPlate method where your plate consists of four food groups- fruits, veggies, protein, and whole grains. These foods are nutrient dense and have either fiber, protein, or a combination of both which will help trigger fullness signals in your stomach to help you feel satiated. Consuming enough water throughout the day can also help prevent you from over-consuming. Or try other tips such as splitting a meal with a coworker or filling a to-go container with half your meal when eating out
STICK TO YOUR ROUTINE
If you’re the type to eat three square meals and an afternoon snack every day, do your best to maintain this routine. When food is constantly made available (like at family gatherings or at a conference), it can be tempting to graze and overeat throughout the day. If you’re on a work trip or have a major sightseeing agenda, it gets tougher to find the time to eat so you risk skipping meals and snacks. Aim to follow the general meal pattern that works for you to prevent bloating or overconsumption.
DRINK MORE WATER
Add a reusable water bottle to your packing list. Staying hydrated will not only make travel more enjoyable, but it will also curb any cravings you may have due to dehydration. Drink a glass of water before every meal and carry your water bottle with you wherever you go. Many airports now have chilled water bottle refill stations, or you can always find a water fountain to fill up before getting on the plane. Traveling to different climates and altitudes, and even the compression on planes, can dehydrate you faster, so make hydration a top priority.
LIMIT YOUR INDULGENCES
Vacation is a time to relax and pamper yourself, but this doesn’t have to mean indulging every chance you get! Work on limiting those sweet treats and calorie-laden dishes so that you don’t end up putting on a few pounds during your trip. If there is a small treat from a local bakery that you’d love to taste, go for it. But take the time to really enjoy every bite. Don’t miss the opportunity to try new foods and enjoy some delicious treats! But know what works for you. Try to focus on the foods that make you feel full and balanced- often adding protein, fiber, and healthy fats can help you to feel satisfied.
1. FRESH PRODUCE
Pack apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, clementines, celery sticks, edamame and carrot sticks. They fit easily into plastic bags and can go a few hours without refrigeration.
2. SINGLE-SERVING PEANUT OR ALMOND BUTTER PACKETS
Pair these with fresh fruit slices, or spread them onto whole-grain toast.
Mozzarella cheese sticks, cubed cheddar cheese and mini cheese wheels are the perfect portion sizes, and are easily shareable.
4. HARD-BOILED EGGS
Grab these at your hotel’s breakfast rather than a waffle or muffin. Many convenience stores carry premade hard-boiled eggs, which are perfect for any time of the day.
5. FRUIT & NUT BARS
Aim to choose a bar that contains 5 grams of sugar or less. Or make your own. Use rolled oats, dried fruit and seeds to make an easily packed snack.
6. PROTEIN SHAKE
There are numerous ready-to-drink protein shakes at convenience stores. Or bring along your own protein powder to mix with water or stir into oatmeal.
7. PLAIN OATMEAL PACKETS
This quick and easy breakfast (or snack) pairs perfectly with dried fruit, berries or nut butters, and is easy to make in a hotel room.
8. CANNED TUNA
Travel can make it harder to get all of the power-packed lean protein you need. Canned tuna or pouches pack easily and ensure that you will always have a reliable source of protein. Heads up: Make sure you buy packages that can be opened without a can opener.
Raw, unsalted or lightly salted almonds, cashews, walnuts, peanuts or (enter favorite nut here) travel great and are easy to snack on. The trio of fiber, protein and healthy fats found in nuts makes them a nutritious snack that fights hunger.
10. DIY TRAIL MIX
Get creative, and build your own favorite trail mix combo. Mix unsweetened dried fruit, nuts, whole-grain cereal and seeds, and pack them in little snack baggies for convenient eats on the go. Add spices like turmeric, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and smoked paprika to punch it up a notch.
11. PRE-POPPED POPCORN
Individual bags of microwave popcorn provide healthy whole grains, are low in calories and are chock-full of antioxidants like polyphenols. Best of all, you can even dress up your popcorn with nuts or dark chocolate, if you prefer.
12. DRIED FRUIT
Dried fruits are packed with potassium and fiber, but watch out for sources of added sugar. Raisins, tart cherries, prunes, dates and apricots are great choices—just make sure they are unsweetened. Watch your portions: A serving of dried fruit is about a ¼ cup.
13. SINGLE-SERVING HUMMUS CUPS
Although these have to be refrigerated, they pair perfectly with carrot sticks, celery and edamame. Store them in a cooler, or pick some up from a local grocery and store them in the hotel mini fridge for a convenient snack.
14. UNSWEETENED APPLESAUCE
Individual containers of applesauce are easy to pack and provide a tasty alternative to traditional apple slices. You can also get them in squeeze tubes for easy eating on the go. Go for unsweetened applesauce to limit excess sugar.
Turkey, beef, chicken and venison jerky can be an excellent snack that’s low in calories and high in protein. Make sure to look out for added sugar sources; aim for jerkies that are less than 3 grams of sugar per serving.
With a little strategy, eating healthy on the road is absolutely possible. Next time you pack your bags to head out of town, pack healthy snacks, too!
Originally published July 2015, updated December 2022
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