I used to rack up a lot of frequent flyer miles, so I know first hand that healthy eating can be a major challenge when you’re traveling. But no matter what my day looks like, I almost never miss out on my minimum daily “5/3” - that’s 5 servings of produce (2 of fruit and 3 of veggies) and 3 servings of whole grains.
If I don’t fit them in, I really feel it - my energy level plummets, my hunger gets thrown off, I tend to get run down (and catch every germ flying around those stuffy airplanes) and I have a tougher time maintaining my weight. So, I created a 4-step, stay-on-track strategy that I put into action even before I pack my suitcase:
1) First, I look through my entire travel itinerary and think through each and every meal. If my options might not include much in the way of “the daily 5/3,” I bring what I need to fill in the gaps. For example, if I’m at a conference, it’s generally pretty easy to get fruit at breakfast, but I’ve been to many that serve cookies and pastries at breaks (one even had an ice cream sundae bar), with no fruit in sight. The same holds true for whole grains. Oatmeal or whole grain toast at breakfast is almost a given, but that may be the last whole grain offering for the day. That’s where step #2 comes in.
2) I always assemble a “back-up kit,” which includes containers of unsweetened, preservative free dried fruit (like dried figs, mulberries, etc.) or fresh fruit if possible (pre-washed grapes or tangerines), whole grain crackers, pre-popped popcorn (3 cups counts as a whole grain serving), nuts/seeds and dried veggies ( I LOVE dried veggies – I wish I had invented them!). When everyone else is munching on mid-afternoon cookies, I’ll dip into my own goodies.
3) I go online to check the “food radius” around my hotel, including grocery stores or food markets within walking distance.
4) Once I get to my destination, I stock my room with extras. On one recent trip, I knew that Trader Joe’s was about a 10 minute walk from my hotel. Before I even unpacked my bags, I strolled over and brought back a bounty, including fresh berries, grapes, baby carrots, grape tomatoes and 100% whole grain pretzels. That evening, I happily skipped the white pasta and dinner roll served at my work-related dinner, knowing I wouldn’t go to bed starving because I had good stuff waiting for me in my room.
These extra steps are extra work, but to me it’s absolutely worth it. If I fall short on my daily 5/3, I know that the little armies of nutrients my body needs won’t show up for work, and I don’t like feeling defenseless!
So what are your thoughts? Is eating healthfully on the road a major challenge for you? Please share your questions, thoughts and tips!