How to Eat Healthy While Traveling: RD Food Picks, Hacks, & Tips

    
Emmie Satrazemis, RD, CSSD
Emmie Satrazemis, RD, CSSD

Sometimes trying to eat healthily or stick to a diet might feel impossible, especially when you travel. If you don’t believe me just walk into any airport in the U.S. or try to find anything besides fast food for lunch on a road trip. Everywhere you look, it can seem convenient, junk food devoid of nutrition makes up the bulk of your eating options. 

But have no fear, healthy eating on the move does not have to be hard. You can find the needle in the haystack or use some tried and true dietitian hacks to keep your macros and calories in check during your next trip!

Stay on top of your nutrition with this free meal prep toolkit for weight loss. Learn how to balance your macros with healthy foods using this simple step by step guide. 

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How to Eat Healthy on Vacation or a Work Trip

Ultimately, any food can fit into a healthy diet. As long as you stick to the bigger picture and your overall diet is on point, a few slip-ups or unhealthy options every now and then will not destroy your progress. Especially if you are still focusing on the right calorie and macro balance for your fitness goals. 

If you are trying to lose weight, calorie control reigns supreme, so your focus should be on finding options that help you maintain a calorie deficit. 

If you’re looking to support your fitness or your goal is to gain muscle, your focus should be on balance and daily macros. So any food that helps you hit your macros is going to help keep you on track.

If your goal is better nutrition, focus on finding more nutrient-dense foods - especially whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and lean proteins. 

Best Healthy Foods While Traveling

Here are some common healthy food finds you can get from most convenience stores, gas stations, and grab-n-go stops. 

Low-Calorie Finds

Low-calorie snack foods are awesome for mindless munching without the guilt.  Look for: 

  • Air-popped popcorn or rice cakes
  • Baked chips
  • Whole or dried fruit
  • Baked seaweed sheets

Check out these 40 low-calorie snacks to calm any craving

High Protein Snacks

Protein-rich foods can help keep hunger at bay. Just make sure you check the label for clean ingredients and good nutrition. Options include:

  • String cheese or Babybel cheese
  • Protein Bars
  • Beef and Turkey Jerky 

Here are more high protein snack options to grab. 

Healthy Fats

Nuts and seeds make a great snack option. However, keep an eye on portions and avoid flavors and seasonings that have a lot of added sugar. Grab your favorite version of the following:

  • Almonds
  • Peanuts
  • Sunflower seeds

Here are even more healthy fats to look for

15 Tips to Stick to Your Diet While Traveling 

Looking for some easy ways to stay on top of your health during your next trip? Here are the top tried and true diet advice I use while traveling for business for pleasure. 

1. Eat Before You Leave Home

It is much easier to make healthy decisions when you’re not starving. If it’s an option, make sure you grab a healthy meal or breakfast before you even step out the door. This way, you know you’ve got one nutritious option under your belt. 

2. Pack Lots of Healthy Snacks

Find your favorite snack staples and go overkill with how much you bring. Having a protein bar, peanut butter sandwich, fruit, on hand can be a true lifesaver when nothing else seems to fit the bill.    

3. Read Nutrition Labels

If you’re not checking the nutrition info on your options, you’re flying blind. Almost all packaged food comes with a label, and most popular restaurants have nutrition info available upon request or online. Look for foods that fit your calorie goals and all supply some key nutrients like fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. 

4. Track Your Calories 

Stop guessing at whether or not you’re staying on track and count your calories and macros using a phone app. This is the easiest way to ensure you are consistent with your meal plan by checking your average weekly calorie intake. And as an added bonus, food tracking apps also provide nutrition information for just about anything, even if it doesn’t have a label. 

5. Find Large Food and Restaurant Chain Staples

The benefit of large food chains is that you can find them everywhere, even abroad. And if you know what to look for in advance, it can save you some time and some calories. Yes, no matter what you think, it is possible to find somewhat decent choices from chain restaurants - even fast food joints! Check their websites for menus and nutrition info in advance or stick to favorite brands you’re already familiar with. Personally, I swear by Starbucks sous vide egg white bites as a high protein snack or quick breakfast when traveling. 

6. Locate the Nearest Grocery Store or Farmers Market

Even better than take-out, look for a local market to grab a variety of health foods or ingredients to prep something easy. Most stores will even have a hot food bar for a quick meal that you can take away. 

7. Eat Protein and Veggies at Every Meal

The fastest way to a balanced plate is to stack it with lean proteins and non-starchy veggies - leaving less room for everything else. Eating plenty of protein is thought to reduce hunger, and may even help manage cravings. Additionally, vegetables are high in nutrition and very low in calories, making them one of the best healthy foods you can find.

8. Skip the Added Sauces, and Toppings

Added toppings and dipping sauces can also mean added calories you don’t need. Keep your options lean by avoiding fried foods and meals covered in heavy sauces. Just skipping the cheese and mayo on a grilled chicken sandwich can shave off 200 calories or more. Then, swapping the fries for a side salad saves you an additional 300 or so! 

9. Portion Out Everything

If eating out a restaurant, ask your server to box up half your meal to go before you even start eating. Or if you’re grabbing a family-sized bag of snacks, bring zip-lock bags or meal prep containers to divide it up into healthy servings before you even dig in. 

10. Don’t Drink Your Calories

Drink plenty of water and less of everything else, especially alcohol. Saying yes to the free soda on the flight or grabbing a giant fountain drink with your meal can add a ton of sugar and calories to your day. Not to mention both work trips and holidays can often be full of booze-filled events and dinners, racking up many calories quickly. Keep caloric drinks to a minimum and stay hydrated with plain water, sparkling waters, or sugar-free choices. 

11. Keep a Fridge or Cooler on Hand 

Ask your hotel in advance for a mini-fridge or pack your own cooler with reusable ice packs to bring your own food on the road, or stock up at a grocery store. 

12. Stick to a Schedule

Jet lag can do a number on your appetite and your healthy habits. Whether there is a time zone change or not, aim to stick to an eating routine that will keep you feeling energized and on track.  This sometimes requires skipping meals or adjusting your eating windows to a new pattern to have your meal timing make sense. 

13. Get Plenty of Sleep

Traveling and sleep deprivation often go hand in hand, and lack of sleep often means a lack of willpower, increased appetite, and less overall energy. Get plenty of rest when you can and aim to get your sleep schedule as much on point as your diet. 

14. Burn Calories Any Way You Can

To outweigh some of the excess intakes, increase your calorie burn by getting plenty of movement. Go sightseeing, find a gym or fitness center, or pack some exercise bands with you for an easy bodyweight workout.

15. Bring Meal Prep With You

Whether you are en route via plane or car, a good meal prep bag loaded with ready-made meals is your best bet to maintaining your diet. This allows you to have full control over all of your options and ensures you’re never stuck without healthy grub on the go. 

You can even opt for a meal prep delivery service that does all the planning and cooking for you, making eating healthy while traveling a breeze. Plus, the meals are vacuumed sealed, making them easy to pack, and they last for up to 14 days when kept at temperature. 

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