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How to Eat Healthy While Traveling

Tips from a Diet Coach, Runner and a Frequent Traveler

On a recent trip to North Carolina to pick up my daughter from camp, I was assaulted by all of the side-of-the-road food options: greasy pizza, pretzels covered with sugar or stuffed with ham and cheese, French fries, a “healthy” frozen yogurt spot, and I am not even going to mention the magazine shop filled with candy, chips and granola bars laden with sugar. In an environment like this, it’s hard to eat healthily while traveling! Right??? Wrong!!!

While it takes a bit more planning to eat healthily when you are in a car, on a plane or just away from home, it is actually very easy when you have the right systems in place. Plan your meals while you are traveling as carefully as you plan your workouts, and you won’t be sorry! Here are a few rules that I follow:

Rule #1: Pack healthy foods to bring with you
When you are training for a marathon or working out a lot, and suddenly find yourself on the road, it is essential that you plan ahead and pack lots of healthy, easy to grab snacks and a few other essentials. When you have healthy food on hand, you won’t be tempted to reach for unhealthy food at the airport, train station or on the road. (See below the┬ástaples I pack while traveling)

Rule #2: Time your meals
For example: don’t arrive at the airport starving! And, if you do, have a healthy meal on hand to eat immediately when you get there. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, and certainly do not pass by all of the yummy smelling vendors selling stuffed pretzels and other delectable items! (They actually blow the scent out of their booths to attract you, but don’t be tempted!)

Rule #3: Hydrate (with water)
Often when we think we are hungry, we are actually dehydrated. I know airports make drinking water a complete racket, but once you pass through security buy the biggest bottle of water you can find and proceed to drink it all. (Or travel with an empty sports bottle, and fill it up at a drinking fountain.) Sorry to your seat partner if you are not on the aisle, but oh well. You will arrive at your destination much more relaxed and refreshed.

Rule #4: Don’t drink alcohol on a plane, and don’t be tempted by salty peanuts
This goes hand-in-hand with the rule above. If you drink alcohol, you will get dehydrated and feel crummy when you land. Also, you are much more likely to reach for salty snacks. Below I will discuss a bit more of what I pack on the plane, but I adore nuts and make sure I am not deprived and always carry a bag full of raw walnuts or pecans to look forward to!

Rule #5: If it’s not a salad (without dressing), a steamed vegetable, crudite, brown rice, a veggie wrap, raw nuts, gum or water – do not buy it on the road!
’nuff said.

Here are my ‘traveling essentials’. I literally do not leave home without them:

  • Pre-packaged, plain, all veggie green salad (bring from home or buy on the road)
  • An avocado
  • A lemon (pre-cut into quarters to use for salad dressing)
  • A baggie with 3 oz olive oil (use as salad dressing)
  • Package of dulse flakes (sea vegetables high in iodine, iron and B12)
  • A baggie with a handful of plain nuts (to put on my salad or have as a snack)
  • A baggie of Sproutman’s Crunchy Sprouts (high in protein and live enzymes. I put these on my salad and/or much on them)
  • A Lara Bar (Cookie Dough is my favorite since I love chocolate)
  • Chocolate Covered Cherries or Bananas by Next Organics (for a real treat when on a long journey)
  • Dried papaya or mango (dried travels better than fresh!)
  • Baby carrots
  • Pure Synergy Green powder (for making a green smoothie in a pinch)
  • Whole grain pretzels or crackers with almond butter to dip them in (almond butter now comes in individual “travel packs” so look for it at your local health store!)

This is what I carry in my suitcase:

  • Sun Warrior Chocolate Protein Powder
  • Pure Synergy Greens Powder
  • Laughing Giraffe and Earthling Organics Raw Granola
  • More nuts (I love walnuts, pecans and pistachios)
  • Raw, unsweetened almond butter (You can pretty much get whole wheat toast anywhere nowadays! Spread with almond butter, slice a banana on top and drizzle some honey for a delicious breakfast!)
  • More Lara Bars or Raw Revolution Bars

How do I use what I’ve packed?

Arriving at airport
Breakfast: Usually, I find that I arrive at the airport around lunch time. But, if I do arrive around breakfast time, then I will either have a Lara Bar and buy some fresh orange juice at the airport or, if I am very organized, I will fill a to-go container with my granola and fresh berries then buy some soy milk on the other side of security to pour over it. I went online and bought a bunch of recyclable containers for this purpose, and you can also usually pick some up at Whole Foods if you are shopping there (usually they don’t mind if you grab a couple from the salad bar.)

Lunch: I usually bring a green salad (perhaps with some cherry tomatoes, shaved carrots or whatever I am in the mood for) in a container with me. If I have not had time to pack one, then I will buy a plain green salad at the airport. Usually, the pizza places or even the fast food shops have one. No chicken, cheese or bacon – thank you. And no dressing! Instead, I slice up my gorgeous avocado and sprinkle on a handful of my walnuts and sprouts if I have them. I also love dulse flakes, so will add some of them for a saltier, more complex taste. Then, I will dress the salad with lemon and olive oil. (If you will notice, most of the dressings sold contain either sugar or high fructose corn syrup, and are loaded with salt, so avoid them at all costs!) I also will buy 2 huge bottles of water before I board the flight.

organic chocolate covered bananaSnack: I might have the nuts, if I haven’t already. Or, I might snack on raw carrots or a Lara Bar. If I really need a pick me up and am craving the Toblerone bar in the gift shop, a handful of the chocolate covered┬ábananas or cherries satisfies the urge. Another option is to buy a bottle of soy milk and add some greens powder or chocolate protein powder and you have a healthy shake or “iced latte” of sorts.

Note: The snacks you pack to travel with will also come in handy once you have reached your destination! A few weeks ago, I was in London with my son, and the dried fruits, Lara Bars, raw nuts and other snacks I packed were so nice to have while we were waiting in long lines and out pounding the pavement doing the “tourist thing”. I brought Sun Warrior Protein Powder and Pure Synergy Greens Powder and talked the hotel into whipping up breakfast and post-run smoothies for me. I checked ahead of time and they had almond milk; so almond milk, a banana, some ice cubes and the protein and greens powders makes a delicious smoothie on the go! The remaining mornings, I had the rest of my Laughing Giraffe Granola.

Think you don’t have the time to pre-pack or pre-plan?
No excuses! It takes literally 5 minutes to throw together all of the above (once you have done the shopping). Keep these items on hand in your house for whenever you are on the go. It takes days to undo bad eating while traveling. Planning makes such an enormous difference to your health and energy level, so take as much time planning out your meals on the road as you do your workouts, and you will return from your vacation or business trip, not feeling depleted – but full of life and energy!

Written by

Katherine Pennington is a diet and lifestyle coach, writer, and founder of Be in Balance, which helps women and men lose weight, reduce stress and achieve more balance in their lives. Katherine is also an avid runner and marathoner and also advises athletes on how to fuel for maximum performance and health.

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2 Responses to "How to Eat Healthy While Traveling"

  1. Raffi says:

    I bring an empty sports bottle to airports and fill it up past security. That way I also know a water bottle will fit in whichever purse I am traveling with. I also throw fruit leathers into my purse all the time. Somehow I obtained a few Starbucks gift cards. Those are great for airport water bottles too. As long as you don’t allow yourself the cake-on-a-stick while you are there!

  2. All good ideas! The more we can plan ahead, the healthier our trip will be!

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