Author: Christal Sczebel, RHN
This is truly one of my favourite times of year as the winter fades away and Summer is just around the corner! The sun is shining, birds are chirping, and I’m gearing up for the Summer trips to come!
If you’re anything like me, you’re often on-the-go, traveling, and squeezing every little inch out of the warm weather. If there is a small downside to all of this bouncing around, it’s the challenge of eating healthy while travelling. Restaurants, plane-rides, road-trips, airports, hotel rooms or tents, unfamiliar destinations… what, where, and how do you eat to feel great and stay on track with your goals?!
I want to highlight some great ways to keep nutrition in check while enjoying all the great aspects of travel by planning before you leave, for travel days, and while you are at your destination.
I also want to note that I think it’s important to understand that travel shouldn’t and doesn’t have to cause stress or anxiety when it comes to the eating. At one point it did for me because I was too restrictive with my diet and that really took away from the enjoyment of my trip. Now, I remind myself that a trip, even a couple weeks, is a relatively short period of time out of my normal way of eating and it won’t have a huge impact on my overall health goals if I keep a mindset of enjoying myself while being mindful. I may come home with some water retention but also a lot of great memories! This is a more balanced mindset versus the two more extreme mindsets of “I Can’t, shouldn’t, and won’t have.” when it comes to eating anything that doesn’t resemble your normal at home meals or “Wahoooooo!!! Bring on the margaritas, fried foods, buffets, and all-you-can-eats!! I’m on vacation!!!”.
Healthy Travel Tips: Eat Well. Have Fun
BEFORE YOU GO:
As you are planning out the details of your trip, you can also plan some nutrition aspects as well. Here are tips for what you can do before you go:
Book accommodations with the essentials. Make sure you have access to a microwave, mini fridge, and electric kettle. Or, one step further would be to book accommodations with a kitchenette or even a full kitchen as that makes eating similarly to how you do at home much easier. I’m a big fan of VRBO and HomeAway, both online vacation rental sites. When you have access to a fridge you can easily store healthy snacks, or quick and easy breakfast options such as yogurt, hard boiled eggs, and fruit. An electric kettle makes it easy to prepare some instant oatmeal in the morning if the continental breakfast looks more like a display of fruit loops and white bread.
Research your surroundings. Once you know where you are staying you can google nearby healthy options to purchase food. Whether it’s a grocery store, farmers market, or healthy cafe, you’ll know about it and can stop by to stock up and enjoy the local offerings. I love doing this when I travel as I find many destinations often have neat organic cafes, juice bars, natural grocery stores, and farmers markets to visit!
Compile a simple grocery list. If you are staying in a vacation rental, jot a little grocery list down so you can pick up some of the foods you are used to eating at home. While it’s definitely nice to enjoy variety and the local cuisine when on a trip (you should!), straying too far from the foods your body is used to may leave you feeling like a bloated mess, and that really doesn’t lend to enjoyable travel. So having a healthy balance of meals you are used to combined with some indulgent or “out of the norm” meals can keep you feeling stable energy-wise and digestive-wise.
Pack an Essential Nutrition Travel Kit. Before you leave, pack a little travel kit so that on the day of travel you have some available healthy snacks and essentials with you. It’s always good to have an emergency stash, just in case! Here’s what you might include in it:
- Plain Instant Oatmeal Packets - You can pretty much get boiled H20 anywhere, even on a plane!
- Ground Flaxseed or Chia Seeds in a ziplock bag - One of my digestive hero’s as things tend to slow down for me when I travel, so these seeds keeps things running smoothly if you get my drift!
- Probiotics - Another digestive hero! Simply pack along a few capsules in a ziplock bag and aim to keep them in a cool, dry place or bring a bottle and place them in the fridge where you are staying.
- Protein Powder - A perfect dose of protein when I need it that just needs to be mixed with water, or even yogurt, it also doesn’t need to be refrigerated. You can pack protein powder in checked baggage with no problems at all, and I’ve also taken baggies of protein powder in my carry-on baggage with no issues.
- Dried Unsweetened Fruit such as peaches, pears, apple rings, and apricots – A perfect naturally sweetened pick-me-up for when you are feeling that travel fatigue.
- Dry-Roasted Nuts – Another great way to get in some protein and healthy fats!
- Fresh Fruit – Healthy, clean, good travel food!
- Salads, sandwiches, wraps, etc. – Dependant on your method of travel and how long you’ll be in transit, you can make some easily portable meals such as a whole grain sandwich or wrap, or salad that can be left unrefrigerated for a period of time (less than 3 hours) to snack on when hunger strikes.
- A Spork – The perfect hybrid plastic travel utensil!
During the Day(s) of Travel:
On the day of travel I recommend sticking with your normal routine no matter what time you depart on your trip. If it’s in the morning, make sure to get up with enough time to have a good solid breakfast, and if it’s a late departure eat as you would normally on any other day. The less you throw your body out of routine, the better you’ll feel!
Whether flying, driving, or busing, scout out options at the airport or rest stops that will be suitable to stock up on. Airports and rest-stops tend to have portable salads, fruit, snack bars, hummus and crackers, etc. that can be taken on the plane or in the vehicle (or you can pull from your Essential Nutrition Travel Kit I discussed in the previous point).
Make an effort to also stay well hydrated on travel day. It’s easy to forget to drink water so make sure you always have a bottle or two with you!
While it can be more challenging to maintain an eating routine, try to be mindful of the time and eat something from your Essential Nutrition Travel Kit every few hours to keep your blood sugars stable, tummy satisfied, and energy level up!
At Your Destination:
Aaaah, you’ve made it!
When you arrive at your destination, scout out a nearby grocery store and grab some essentials if you haven’t been able to bring them with you. Having some easy options to put in the mini fridge or cooler to have for breakfast, lunches, and snacks is helpful, and then you can plan to enjoy dinners out if you prefer.
With travel often comes more dining out than normal, so knowing how to navigate a menu and maintain the balance so you still enjoy yourself is important.
Depending on how often you’ll be dining out you can decide if the meal will be more or less mindful. If you are going to a restaurant for every meal, do your best to keep 70% of those meals as healthier choices to enjoy such as a salad with grilled protein, a grilled meat or fish entree with vegetables or salad on the side, a rice bowl with lots of vegetables and easy-on-the-sauce, yogurt with berries, or whole grain toast with poached eggs and fruit. Then, for some of the meals (about 30%) enjoy the more indulgent options that might peak your interest! If your trip consists of you making most of your own meals and dining out on occasion, have a more indulgent meal when dining out to enjoy something you might not usually have at home!
As mentioned in the previous point, make a mindful effort to stay hydrated on your trip. Grab a portable water bottle to carry with you everywhere you go - sightseeing, tours, longing around, etc! Staying hydrated will keep your food cravings at bay, prevent water retention, and keep your digestive system running smoothly!
I hope you have learnt some useful tools to help you navigate your travels this Summer! Be sure to check out the daily meal plan where I show you an example of a portable day that is healthy, delicious, and convenient and watch the video where I’ll delve further into this topic!