If you’ve been reading my blog for any period of time, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I travel for work fairly frequently. I’ve shared that I don’t let work travel interrupt or prevent me from training and making progress towards my fitness goals. This also means that I don’t let work travel completely derail my nutrition. Over the years, I’ve had friends and colleagues ask for advice on how to eat healthy while traveling. And today, I want to share some of that advice.
For anyone who currently feels frustrated, or believes that they won’t be able to make health a priority because of their work travel, I want to offer some encouragement. I’ve been traveling for work for the past three years, and I can definitively say it’s possible. Most of the time, it’s not even tricky. It just takes a little knowledge and preparation, and I hope I can help with some of it.
Now, I will say, if you have a working situation that only requires travel 2-4x a year, and you’re traveling to places you might not otherwise have the opportunity to visit, stop reading. If you are traveling infrequently, nothing that you eat for a few days will have any long-term impacts (this rule does not apply to drinking; that is a different story, sorry). In this case, my recommendation is to enjoy your trip, check out some amazing local restaurants, and live. your. life.
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If, on the other hand, you are traveling multiple times per month, what you eat and how you train while you travel can have substantial impacts. There’s no real reason to you need to have deep dish pizza every single time you go to Chicago, if you go twice a month. It’s no longer a special occasion. See the difference?
So, for those who travel regularly, and have decided that work travel is not going to mean accepting high cholesterol as an inevitability, here’s my thoughts.
How To Eat Healthy While Traveling
First things first, mindset is EVERYTHING.
If you are packing your bags, bemoaning how this work trip is going to force you to eat any kind of way, that’s exactly what is going to happen. If however, you decide that you are intelligent enough to figure out HOW to make it work, it will. And I’m here to tell you, you are definitely smart enough to incorporate any or all of these tips.
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Do a Little Planning
Once you’ve made that decision, don’t be afraid to do a little prep work before your trip. Now, I’m not saying that you need to buy the divided Tupperware, and portion control your life away. But I am saying maybe do some planning and a little prepping, if you’re so inclined. For example, I love Kodiak Cake pancakes, and I know they make pre-made waffles that are great, but honestly I like mixing a few things into my pancakes. And I’m a pancake girl. So, before a trip, I make a few pancakes before leaving, and then toss them in the freezer when I get to my hotel.
I also tend to do a quick grocery run at the beginning of a longer trip. I stock up on snacks that are easy to carry with me like single serve Greek yogurt, fruit, cheese sticks, RX Nut Butter, and Larabars. As a side note, apple sauce pouches (yes the kind for kids) make a great pre-workout snack. You’re welcome.
Having some staples on hand means that I don’t go HAM on whatever baked goods are always lying around corporate meeting places. Not to say I don’t grab the occasional cookie from time to time, but when I do, it’s because I want a cookie, not because I’m starving and didn’t bring a snack. I know I can fall into the trap of forgetting all of the healthy options I can pick up during a quick Target trip, so I created this Travel Grocery List. Feel free to Pin or screen shot a copy if you’re so inclined.
Eating Out Intelligently
When you’re going out to eat, conventional wisdom can go a long way. Focus on lean protein and veggies, and you’ll be just fine. By focusing on the more nutrient-dense options, you’ll reduce the mindless consumption of table bread or mashed potatoes. Again, not to say you have to completely abstain from what you really want, but a little can go a long way with take-out food.
I’m not someone who can limit themselves to salads, so I like to have fajita’s, kabobs, or pho when I travel. These all give me a good amount of protein and some veggies, with a little something like rice and beans on the side. I also tend to choose or recommend restaurants where I know there are some whole-food based options on the menu when I can.
I’m also not embarrassed to admit that I want to eat a certain way with my coworkers. Do people call me picky to my face, and probably uptight behind my back? Sure. But I’m the one training for a marathon, and quite honestly I just don’t want to feel like crap every time I’m not away from home. So I don’t really care what other people have to say, and I don’t dance around the fact that I want to eat real food. I think the more open you are about this, the easier it is to stick to.
Are these tips novel or ingenious secrets that only a select few know? No. This is why I say that eating healthy while traveling isn’t impossible or difficult. Does it mean eating consciously and sometimes accepting criticism and possibly judgement? Yea. But I’d rather feel great and train well.
If there’s something you’ve found that helps you stay on track while traveling, please share in the comments. I’m always open to new tips and advice!