They say the older you are, the wiser you become. And I think that extends into all aspects of life…even travel. The more you do it, the more you learn about your body and what it needs while on the road, or in the air, to make you feel your best. Knowing a few healthy travel hacks, like packing “just-in-case” protein bars or powder, or remembering to pop your daily probiotic to keep the immune system running strong are just a couple things I do when my schedule is anything but predictable. With that said, I won’t ever pretend to think that eating 100% on plan (whatever that plan may be for you) is easy (and even more so when at the mercy of deciphering what to eat when out of the comfort of your own kitchen). What I do think is possible however, is setting an intention, controlling what you can control and planning ahead. Read on for more tips to take the stress out of what to pack/eat at each meal of the day.
I rarely eat out for breakfast, (save for weekends or special occasions) but really, it’s my favorite meal of the day! Not only are the options endless for what you can consume, (no matter your dietary restrictions) it’s the least expensive to prepare and the easiest to pack. Pro tip: Request a hotel room with a mini fridge and coffee maker, and pack a mini blender with you—three essentials that will allow you to prepare nearly any breakfast.
- Hard-boiled eggs and a handful of nuts. Do you know that you can make hard boiled eggs in your coffee maker? All you have to do is allow the hot water to drip slowly over the eggs until they are completely submerged. Leave the eggs in the glass pitcher for 10 to 12 minutes, pour out the hot water and then rinse with cool water. Pop them in the fridge to eat throughout the week. You can also find hard-boiled eggs in most grocery stores, coffee shops or even gas stations near your hotel.
- Boost up your breakfast with protein powder:
- Make a shake in your room: Mix a couple scoops of protein powder, 8-10 ounces of non-dairy milk, a packet of nut butter and some ice into the base of your mini portable blender the night before. In the morning, blend it up quickly and you’re on your way.
- Add it to oats: Pour hot water over plain instant oats and let sit for a few minutes. Add in a couple scoops of protein powder and stir well.
- Add it to coffee. Vanilla protein powder added to coffee is actually quite delicious. Just be sure to add it slowly and stir well to avoid clumping. If you prefer a mocha flavor, try chocolate, or our mint VeganMax for additional flair.
- Chia seed pudding. Mix 3-4 tablespoons of chia seeds with 8-ounces non-dairy milk and let sit in the fridge overnight. The seeds form a gel consistency that is similar in texture to tapioca pudding. Add a handful of berries, or eat alongside a banana with some nut butter.
- Greek yogurt plus berries and flaxseed. Look for unsweetened Greek yogurts, and go for the full fat variety. Keep these items in your mini fridge, stocked from the grocery store.
- Leftovers from the night before. Steak leftover from the night before? Serve that up with a couple of your hard boiled eggs. How about sweet potato? Add some banana, chia seeds and nut butter for amazingly awesome breakfast sweet potato boats.
This meal presents its own set of challenges. When your day is filled with back-to-back meetings, mandatory catered lunches, not to mention the “hanger” that likely ensued if you blew off your first meal of the day, it can be nearly impossible to have a meal that would earn a gold star from your nutrition coach. Overall however, use your hand as your guide and aim for about 2 fistfuls of veggies, a palm or two worth of protein and a couple of thumbs’ worth of healthy fats. And even if THAT is not doable, take this meal as your free pass and aim to hit your goals during your snack break and planned dinner. Some other tips?
- If it’s a boxed lunch, nix the bread and eat the filling of the sandwich. Pair with some fruit and nuts you have stashed in your bag or briefcase.
- Pasta buffet? Have a small portion (about the size of your fist) and double up on the protein that it’s served with.
- And if you do have the option of heading out of the office, go to a grocery store and load up on the salad/hot bar. Most mainstream grocery stores now have salad bars that would rival ANY restaurant salad. And often, you can get much more, for way less.
When traveling, whether it’s for work or for play, it’s likely that you’ll hit the restaurant scene for this meal. And if you haven’t already, dinnertime is the time to exercise some serious willpower. Temptation (whether from the company you keep) or stress and exhaustion from the day is hard to overcome if you don’t already have a plan in place. This is where planning ahead of time is key. Browse the menu before you go and make your selection before you even set foot in the restaurant. Another tip? Be the first to order so you won’t be persuaded into making a last minute switch because your co-worker ordered the sweet potato fries that sound INSANE. Other ideas?
- Salads. Simply remove the unwanted ingredients and ask for lemons mixed with olive oil for the dressing.
- Bunless burgers. Request a burger without the bun and pair with extra veggies as your side.
- Seek out vegetarian dishes but request a piece of fish, chicken or beef as a side.
I keep snacks with me not just for my benefit, but for those around me too. (No one likes a hungry Hanna.)
- Natural gum. I will be the first to admit that I am a bit of a gum addict—it helps to keep me awake, while also freshening my breath. But I also know that artificial sweeteners have been shown to kill good bacteria, spark appetite, and can even affect our blood sugars!
- Beef jerky.
- Hummus and veggie slices. Buy individual cups of hummus or guacamole at grocery stores and keep with you to snack on throughout the day. Need to keep it cold? Try an insulated cooler bag! They actually really do look cute and keep your food super cool too.
- Greens powder. This is not a replacement for veggies by any means, but is a great way to get an extra boost of antioxidants when travel keeps you from getting that 9-11 servings of fruits and veggies you should be getting.
- Nuts and seeds. Pre-made trail mixes are essentially just deconstructed candy bars. Filled with sugar-coated dried fruit, milk chocolate chunks and peanuts, you don’t get too much nutritional value for the calories consumed. I buy nuts from the bulk bin at my grocery store so I can customize my mix. I stock up on walnuts, pistachios, macadamia nuts and almonds, mix them together and store them in little Ziploc bags I can stash in my purse.
- Fruit. Bananas and apples come with their own natural packaging.
- Nut butter packets. Pair these with fruit or even rice cakes for a filling snack.
- Canned olives.
So there you have it. Staying on track while traveling may be easier said than done, but it is doable! Prepare to plan, and you will plan to prosper.
In health, Hanna Grinaker, Life Time - Corporate Registered Dietitian
This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.