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How to Eat Healthy When On the Road

Jan 29, 2015

When you hit the road for a personal or business trip, you often can run into major roadblocks in eating healthy and staying the course when it comes to nutrition. Before your next trip, pack the following tips with you so that you can successfully navigate your nutrition options whether you’re flying, road tripping or traveling for business meetings.

Start with a Strategy to Stay the Course

Contrary to what you might imagine, most people have the tendency to not eat enough while traveling. When you don’t eat enough, you leave yourself hungry and in a vulnerable position to make bad food choices like eating a brownie instead of a turkey sandwich. To help keep yourself out of a junk food jam, it’s always important to have a game plan before you go on your trip.

“It’s easy to get off track, off your diet and off your normal lifestyle when you travel,” explains Billy Beyer, personal trainer and studio owner at Fitness Together Basking Ridge. “But if you plan ahead by doing things like packing a few snacks before you go, you set yourself up for better decisions while you’re traveling. You reduce those cravings and you’re more likely to make healthier decisions when you’re in an airport, hotel or wherever you may be.”

In addition to preparing for healthy nutrition, it's also important to remember that moderation is key when you’re traveling. Beyer says that it’s actually OK to indulge a bit when you’re on vacation, but to limit your indulgences so you don’t go overboard. For instance, if you choose to splurge by having a few drinks at a party, only have a few bites of dessert instead of eating an entire piece of cake.

“The main concept to always keep in mind is moderation,” advises Beyer. “You can always enjoy yourself if you use moderation. But nothing is good if you don’t moderate it.”

Be Prepared by Packing the Essentials

Most major airports today offer healthier options than vending machine snacks and sodas. Many feature market areas near the waiting area with pre-made turkey or roast beef wraps, as well as water and protein bars.

Depending on your options, Beyer’s number one rule of thumb is to look for whole foods rather than processed foods when choosing airport fare. But an even better approach is to pack your own food while you travel. Using a cooler as a traveling companion in your car or as a carry-on when flying can ensure that you know exactly what you’re eating and how healthy it is.

Besides the regular snacks of almonds, nuts, protein bars and fruit, Beyer also suggests packing plastic containers with a few meals of chicken, sweet potatoes and vegetables to get you through your trip with healthy and tasty traveling food options.

Navigate a Restaurant Menu like a Professional

Whether you’re traveling for business or vacation, you tend to eat many more meals at restaurants than you normally do at home. Restaurant eating can pack on extra hidden calories and enticing menus can encourage you to splurge more than you probably should.

To keep on track with proper nutrition while eating out, Beyer suggests focusing on the entrée portion of the menu and identifying what ingredients are used in each dish. Choose the best elements of protein, complex carbohydrates and vegetables from a couple of different entrees to create a meal that not only satisfies your appetite, but is good for your waistline.

“You can mix and match throughout the menu to get the meal you exactly want,” advises Beyer. “One entrée may have sweet potato, but another one may not. You can say that you want chicken from one entree and sweet potato from another entrée with grilled vegetables on the side. Everyone does it these days so waiters and kitchens should be able to accommodate. Don’t be nervous to ask for what you want when you’re eating at a restaurant.”

The biggest hidden calorie offenders on any menu, though, that Beyer always suggests staying away from are items such as tuna salad, chicken salad and Caesar salad. Even though you may think that these types of foods are healthy because of their salad label, in actuality they can end up being worse for you than something that is classified as high in calories and fat. It’s best just to stay away from meat salads and Caesar salads because they typically are made with calorie- and fat-laden mayonnaise and dressings.

Avoid Getting Derailed from Healthy Habits during Business Meetings

Business meetings can be one of the hardest situations to stay true to a healthy diet because most of the time companies are bringing food into the meeting for you. This food may be the only nutrition options you have for the entire day, especially if you’re working through the lunch hour.

Instead of throwing in the towel to eating healthy, you can still manage to make some good choices if you’re creative and not afraid to think outside the box. For instance, if creamer is your only option for coffee, stick with black coffee during the meeting. If caterers bring in sandwiches for lunch, you can take the bread off and only eat the meat and vegetables. Or, if you think about it ahead of time, request some healthy food choices for the meals that will brought in before the meeting starts. The more specific your request, the better results you will have.

“These are really hard situations to be in, but try your best to stick with fruits or vegetables and eat as healthy as you can,” advises Beyer. “It goes back to having a game plan, eating a healthy breakfast and bringing a healthy snack with you if you can.”

A busy travel schedule in the spring and summer months doesn’t necessarily have to sabotage your healthy eating habits. Take what you know and practice about proper nutrition during your daily routine and apply it to your travel plans to make eating healthy smooth sailing from the time you take off on vacation to when you return revived and refreshed.

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