Travel Nutrition Tips
There’s no way around it – eating well while travelling is HARD. You may have seen those accounts on Instagram and think that making all of your healthy meals and packing Tupperware containers is the only way to eat well away from home. Unless you are a body builder or figure competitor striving for extremely low body fat for a competition, those extreme travel strategies aren’t necessary. With that said, many food choices are out of your control when you are away from the comfortable routines you’ve established at home, but you can do your best to prepare for what you can control by packing things with you or grocery shopping when you get to your hotel or Airbnb. Here are some of my top tips for eating well while travelling.
Don’t skip meals and eat at home before you head to the airport, or hit the road. You can prep something the night before for a grab-and-go breakfast for early morning travel, but properly fueling before you leave the house is a great idea to keep you energized and satiated.
Eat balanced meals and snacks. That means pairing PROTEIN + HEALTHY FAT + FIBER as best you can. Protein can be the most challenging on the run. Beef jerky is a great portable option. And nuts, nut butter, and seeds double as a healthy fat. Typically, convenient foods you find at the airport, gas station, or restaurant are heavy on the carbs. So, the challenge becomes choosing high-fiber sources that will help stabilize your blood sugar. Non-starchy vegetables and fruit are ideal, and oranges, apples, baby carrots, snap peas, and celery sticks are the most travel friendly as they won’t be crushed in your bag.
Pack snacks with you! Solid foods and less than 3.4 oz of creamy dips and spreads (like peanut butter, hummus, yogurt) are TSA approved. Homemade snack bars (like these Strawberry Mango Collagen Bars), energy bites, beef jerky, trail mix, bars, nut butter, fruits and veggies are great to pack in your carry-on. The number of snacks you should pack depends on how long your travel day will be, but it’s a good idea to eat every 3-4 hours to stabilize your blood sugar, energy levels, and to prevent getting hangry. Nobody makes good decisions when they’re hangry. Trust me.
Hydration is key! You can pack an empty reusable water bottle to save money on bottled water at the airport or gas station. But, the pressurized cabin in an airplane is extremely dry due to the lack of humidity and can result in dehydration. Low humidity environments can also increase your risk of bacteria or viral infection (one reason why it’s common to catch a cold, or "bug" while travelling).
The unpleasant symptoms of dehydration:
Thirst (but not always!)
Loss of coordination
Poor cognition, difficult decision making
Elevated heart rate
When in doubt at the airport you can find some healthy options. Starbucks bento boxes are one of my go-to’s. And even though they are more expensive than the grocery you can find beef jerky, trail mix, nut butters, and snack bars (Lara Bars, Quest Bars, Epic Bars, KIND bars, RX bars, Think Thin bars, and Clif bars are some good options).
Scope out what’s around your hotel. If you can book a room with a kitchenette that’s ideal in order to do a little bit of cooking or meal prep, but if not you can always stock up on things to store in a mini fridge, or keep non-perishable items on hand. My most recent trip I was able to walk to a Whole Foods where I could hit up the salad bar for lunch, and to stock up on some breakfast and snack staples for the room. Fruit, Greek yogurt, Go Macro bars, Lara bars, and Perfect bars were some of the items I stocked up on. Back in the day when I traveled for swim meets I would buy all of the ingredients to make my own sandwich wrap for lunch. I would get a high fiber wrap (like Flatout), baby spinach, deli turkey, avocado, cucumber, and a lemon.
I love travelling to new cities and experiencing different cuisines. Food brings me so much joy and it’s important to me to have fun and not stress about all of my meals needing to be the healthiest. However, I know that if I indulge in sweets, fried foods, and booze the entire trip I will feel like crap – I’ve been there before and while it’s fun for a hot second, it completely ruins the trip if you feel extremely bloated, your stomach hurts, or you experience other unpleasant GI symptoms. I eat balanced meals as often as I can ( Protein + Healthy Fat + Fiber), but don’t deny myself a freshly baked croissant at a French Bakery, or the best voted Cuban Sandwich in Little Havana!
Eating well while travelling is very challenging. You may have a few too many margaritas, or glasses of wine. You might indulge in burgers and pizza. But, if you can balance that with catching up on your sleep, maybe a salad or two, fresh fruit, and a daily walk on the beach you can enjoy the best of both worlds! You may go too long without eating sometimes, or over eat to the point of being uncomfortably full- but that's life. Your eating doesn't have to be perfect, and for most of us travelling isn't our normal daily routine. Vacation doesn't last forever!
Remember, our consistent eating habits that we practice on a daily basis reflects our overall health – in the grand scheme of things one meal, one snack, or even one day of eating won’t sabotage anything. Vacation is not your normal routine, enjoy yourself, balance out your indulgent treats with food that makes you feel good and supports your health. And if travel IS your norm, and you spend the majority of your days on the road, then organization and preparation will be your keys to success.