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7 Tips To Eat Healthy While Traveling

Maybe it’s a much needed vacation getaway, or just another one of those business trips, maintaining healthy eating habits while traveling can be a big challenge. Avoiding unhealthy foods is tough enough as it is, but it can seem impossible if you are rushing to a long flight and will be spending the next few days running in and out of meetings.

Well, fear no more! I have 7 tips to help you eat healthy while traveling and keep you going strong.

1. Pack It In Advance

At the moment, food is still allowed in all forms of transportation (plane, bus, train, boat) so use it to your advantage by packing easy to-go meals and snacks to keep in your carry on. If you are traveling through the airport, all foods must be wrapped, packed, or contained. Also, the no liquid over 3.5 ounces rule applies here so leave dressings, sauces, or creamy substances at home if they are greater than said amount.

Here are 7 healthy travel snack examples:

1) Dried fruit and nut mix – Mix your favorite combo and throw them into the perfectly portioned snack bags. Some of my favorites are pistachios (shelled) and dried cranberries OR raisins and almonds. For a lower calorie, crunchier option, add a high fiber cereal (> 6gm of fiber, 2) Nut butter sandwich – Choose your favorite and slap it between 2 slices of 100% whole wheat or whole grain bread. I love Justin’s Nut Butter travel packs as an option too!.

3) Fruit – Make it easy by throwing a portable fruit in your bag. Apples and bananas are great go-tos for this.

4) Turkey sandwich – Try a low-sodium turkey breast (nitrate/nitrite-free is also a great choice) on 100% whole wheat or whole grain bread with your favorite mustard. Hint: adding mustard in between turkey slices will prevent soggy bread.

5) Veggies slices – If you don’t have the time to cut them, buy them pre-cut and throw them into a sandwich bag. Here’s an article on the best healthy snacks for the office that can also make a great travel snacks.

6) A health food bar – Choose ones that are made from whole and minimally processed ingredients and at least 8 grams of protein. Also, watch the sugar in these bars. Try to aim for less than 12 grams of sugar per bar. Some of my favorites include KindBar Protein Plus, Think Thin, NuGo Bar, Oskri Bar, Clif Mojo, The Good Bar, Luna, Luna Protein, and Simply Bar.

7) Protein powders – These are great if you have a re-usable water bottle. Throw powder in with water or skim milk and you’ve got a great treat. Tera’s Whey and Vega offer great to-go packs!

If you are traveling by car, bring a cooler. This will expand your options tremendously!

2. Buy It On Your Way

If you weren’t able to pack in advance, which is ideal, you CAN make the right choice when purchasing food at the airport, train station, gas station, or bus station. A few items that are available at most terminals and stations are:

  • Turkey or chicken sandwich
  • Nonfat or lowfat yogurt and fruit
  • Nuts mixed in nonfat or lowfat yogurt
  • Salads (with dressing on the side)
  • Trail mixes (without added sugary candies and chocolate)
  • Water (don’t go for sugar beverages, just don’t!)

    3. Look Around

    Most of us rush to the station or terminal to sit and wait. Instead of going to the first vendor, use that time to look around at your options (and get some exercise). There has been a huge trend toward offering healthier options in almost all travel areas including airport terminals, bus stations, rest stops, and train stations. I know it isn’t perfect everywhere, but if you pack what you can, you can make it work!

    4. Call Ahead

    If you are on a flight that will be serving meals, call the airline ahead of time. Most airlines will accommodate your health needs by offering meals that are lowfat, vegetarian, gluten-free, low sodium, etc. Or, opt out of airplane food all together by packing your own meal.

    5. Stay Mindful

    Who wants indigestion, an upset stomach, or low energy when traveling? Eating unhealthy foods while traveling may be easy, but it won’t make traveling fun. Keep this in mind when perusing your options.

    4. Stay Hydrated

    It is important to stay hydrated while traveling, which is especially important on long flights. We feel most comfortable when humidity is around 50% – meaning the air is 50% saturated with water. Air in an airline cabin can fall to as low as 1% on long flights.

    Dehydration can lead to headaches, muscle cramps, fatigue, and reduced concentration. Water and herbal teas are great ways to keep you going. If you are prone to upset stomachs or nausea, bring along a few herbal tea bags such as ginger or chamomile.

    7. Smart Restaurant Choices

    These can make or break a diet. Think about the same things you would if you were home:

  • Take a look at the menu online or ahead of time, if available.
  • Choose meat and fish items that are steamed, broiled, baked, grilled, poached or roasted.
  • Choose vegetables that have been steamed over sautéed or fried.
  • Ask for dressing accompaniments on the side such as dressing, sour cream, cheese, and mayonnaise.
  • Limit alcohol – I would suggest not doing this while you are in travel, especially if you are driving. If you have other modes and must partake, go for a glass of wine; lite beer; or a small a liquor with club soda, water, or on the rocks.

    Healthy Airport Restaurant Chart

    If the airplane is your mode of travel, here is a top 10 list of the latest rankings from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine:

    To read the complete report, visit wwwPCRM.org/AirportFood.

    I hope you now have more confidence to eat healthy while traveling. Safe travels and don’t forget your exercise gear!


    • mary says:

      It is definitely a challenge to find healthy food while traveling and a perfect excuse to indulge. I must admit, I always end up feeling sluggish and run down when eating poorly during my trips. Your tips make sense and I will put your suggestions to work the next time I travel. Thanks.

    • Carolyn says:

      LOVE this post!!!! As an expert traveler I must say...

      - Number 1 is ESSENTIAL. So many airports have nothing decent- you know this if you've ever been stuck at LGA's American Airlines terminal.
      - To add to Number 1, clementines are also really great b/c they peel so you don't have to worry about washing them.
      - Adore Justin's Nutbutter... can eat it right out of the package, so delicious.
      - When stuck at the airport/gas station, etc. think "What in here came from the ground or earth? Instead of a factory/box...
      - Do NOT be afraid to be "that" customer... ASK for extra spinach, salad, etc. or substitutions to make your meal healthy. (Tomorrow they won't remember you, but you ill remember the meal that has made you feel awful)
      - Leave the mini-bar at the hotel LOCKED. If you don't know the cookies are in there, you won't want them... =)

    • J P says:

      Great post! I travel on business constantly, and these are exactly the tips I use to try to stay fit when on a busy business schedule. I'd also like to add an addtional tip #8 - Squeeze in any type of activity. It doens't have to be your normal workout, but just get up and move occasionally. Walk up and down the terminal, take a walk around your hotel, etc. Any activity is better than no activity during a trip. It's a great way to destress, clear your head, and avoid other behaviors (like too much eating or drinking) that prevent you from getting healthy.

    • Larry Port says:

      Great post! I'm sick of falling off the wagon during business trips. Here's something that also might help peeps:

      GateGuru - this is an app that rates and reviews restaurants at airports. This was you don't have to do research on advance. Use it on the way their or when you land for your layover. I use it to figure out if I'm going to eat before or after security - but the health angle is another good one!


      • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

        @Larry - VERY cool. Thanks for sharing!

    • Seb says:

      The product chocolate almond butter seems like the healthy version of nutella!!

      Since nutella has artificial flavors, disgusting.

      I am going to such this to my brother!

    • Seb says:

      Also the healthy version of reese's p.b. cups or are those still bad to eat?
      one of my fav. candies which I haven't had in forever which is a good thing!

    • Bhuboy says:

      Really like this post, I linked to it from my latest article. Thanks for this!

      • Kristin says:

        Glad you enjoyed the article, and thanks for sharing it on your blog!

        -Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor