Whether you're on a road trip, a business trip, or a family vacation, it can be tempting to stray from your usual healthy diet. Breakfast buffets, airport food, restaurant dining, disrupted sleep patterns, and not having the means to prepare your own food can all influence your eating choices while you're on the go. But, here's the good news: eating well and traveling can naturally co-exist! Being out of your normal routine can make it difficult to maintain your regular eating habits, but with proper planning, there are many ways to eat healthy while you're off exploring a new destination. Let's begin our journey of healthy eating while traveling!
What to pack: When preparing for your trip, make sure to pack some non-perishable healthy snacks. These make for easy additions to meals that are eaten out. For example, if you're staying at a place with a breakfast buffet, pack a stash of hemp hearts or chia seeds that you can easily sprinkle over oatmeal, Greek yogurt, toast, and salads to get an extra boost in fibre and protein. For mid-day snacks when you're out and about, bring small packets of all-natural almond butter or peanut butter to dip fruit and vegetables in.
At the airport: This is where many of us face challenges finding nourishing meals. Sometimes a convenience store may be your only option. Aim to get in some fruits and vegetables, and remember that you want to strive for better - not perfect. Opt for protein-rich foods such as plain yogurt, nuts, seeds, and hard-boiled eggs. Foods that are high in protein keep you full since they take longer to digest. Another way to stay healthy at the airport is to take advantage of the space, and get some steps in. Walking can help keep you energized, especially before sitting down for hours during your journey. Getting in some physical activity after a long flight will also rejuvenate you, improve blood flow and help you to feel great - ready for your next adventure!
On the flight: Keep nourishing snacks on hand when you are traveling, so you don't have to rely on inflight options, which aren't as nourishing, expensive, and sometimes just boring! Bringing some of your favourite healthy snacks can also be helpful during unexpected flight delays or cancellations, when food options can be scarce, leading you towards junk snacks in vending machines. Make use of your carry-on luggage and clean out your fridge before you leave for vacation – it’s a win-win! Foods that pass through security can include fruits and vegetables, sandwiches, meats, firm cheeses and nuts. (It might seem unbelievable, but it's true! Check with your local airport security to make sure you're within their stated limitations). Use up your fruit, make a sandwich with leftover chicken or quickly assemble a salad to take with you. Not only will you get a nourishing meal, but also save you the cost of those exorbitant sandwiches at the airport! If you are purchasing snacks on the flight, stick to the snack boxes that have an assortment of nuts, olives, hummus, cheeses and fruit, which will provide the protein and fibre balance to keep you full for longer.
During your flight, make sure to stay hydrated. Not drinking and retaining enough water can lead to fatigue, and may make you susceptible to headaches and nausea. Airplanes are especially known for draining you of all moisture, due to a combination of the cabin’s lack of humidity and its oxygen-thin air, which increases breathing rate. The Aerospace Medical Association recommends drinking 8 ounces of water for every 1 hour of flying. Hydrating snacks, like apples and cucumber slices (packed from home) are also great foods to help stay hydrated. You can also take your favourite herbal tea bags with you and ask for hot water during your journey. Check out our video on hydrating foods.
At your destination: Consider booking a room with a kitchenette, if possible. It may cost a bit more, but think of how much you will save in buying all your meals and snacks. If this is not an option, ask if your mini bar can be emptied so you can stock up on some nutritious snacks. Venture out to a local store to load up on fruits, vegetables, hummus, whole grain crackers, water and yogurt so you can assemble quick meals and snacks.
While eating out: Eating at restaurants is unavoidable while traveling, but there are ways to make smarter choices. Ask for increased portions of vegetables and garnishes in your meal. Make sure to balance proteins with carbohydrates. A good rule of thumb is to fill half your plate with vegetables, like a salad or roasted vegetables, one quarter with protein rich foods, like chicken, fish, soy or beans, and the remaining quarter with carbohydrate containing foods, like brown rice or sweet potatoes. (Check out our video on how you can manage portions and create a healthy, balanced plate).
Incorporate some of these easy tips into your journey to smoothen your transition into a new environment during travel. Before you travel, be honest with yourself and decide whether you will stick to your healthy habits or take a short break – both are reasonable choices. You might find more success if you stick to some loose health goals per day, such as adding vegetables at lunch or scheduling in exercise two days per week. And, remember to aim for better and not perfect when you are traveling. Safe travels and enjoy your journey!
About the Author:
Anar Allidina is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She has a passion for delicious food and good health. Her goal is to help busy people live healthier lives. She strongly believes that healthy eating does not have to be expensive, time consuming or boring. Anar is a clinical dietitian at the Medcan clinic in Toronto, and she has her private practice in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Outside of work, Anar is an avid runner and welcomes the challenge of creating healthy recipes for her three children.