Eat Healthy While Traveling | A How-To Guide to Clean Eating on the Road

Committing to a clean eating lifestyle can be challenging in and of itself. Factor in any travel plans that might derail our normal daily routine and we are quick to throw in the towel. It doesn’t have to be this way. Whether you travel for business, take frequent road trips or are flying to a new vacation destination, with a little preparation and creativity we will show you how to maintain healthy eating habits while traveling with a how-to guide to clean eating on the road. 

Some of you may be thinking, “Geez, those relaxing summer vacation months seem to be a thousand miles behind us.” But it’s hard to fathom that, holy cow, we are almost into November and the holiday season is right around the corner. With the holidays upon us, unhealthy eating temptations are everywhere we turn (more on this in our blog post next month!). It all begins the moment we begin that cross-country road trip to make it home for the holidays or that flight to Mexico to get us into the sun and away from the cold. Maybe you are just road tripping up to the mountains every weekend because, duh, ski season! Eat healthy while traveling -airport

No matter what your travel plans look like, there are ways to combat unhealthy eating habits but it’s going to take some planning, effort and discipline on your part! Think about it. You wouldn’t just get into your car and take a road trip without knowing your destination or directions to get there, would you? Similarly, if you want to remain dedicated to clean eating, figuring out ahead of time what you’ll eat during your journey is just as important.

Without a plan in place when we travel, we often go right for the bad stuff. Why? For one, airports are notorious for luring in travelers with their endless options of fast food, unhealthy pre-packaged meals, and  Starbucks coffee seemingly everywhere you look. On road trips, we’ve been in the car for hours and we are often so hungry and ill-prepared that those fast food signs we pass are just calling our name. Stay committed to your healthy diet while on the road and, trust us, you will look good, feel better and be all-around happier.

***Side note: If you are strictly traveling for vacation, we strongly encourage you to indulge in a good meal or decadent treat here and there. If you deprive yourself of these things altogether, you are more likely to end up giving in and perhaps even going on a binge. Just use the concept of moderation and know that “cheat days” are essential to progress and to avoiding burnout.

Below are my tips for keeping your travel plans filled with clean and healthy eating. It will get easier the more you implement it.

 

General Tips for Any Kind of Travel:

Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail….

Stay hydrated water

Probably the most important tip of all and one that I can not stress enough: plan in advance. How you plan will depend on various factors such as where you are going to be, how long you will be there, how you are getting there, etc. Anticipate the environment you are going to be in and bring what you need so you’re not stuck without any healthy options. Also, Google what will be available to you once you get to your destination (such as local health food stores) so that if you can not bring all of your food, you can prepare and plan out what you will need to purchase once you arrive.

Stay hydrated…

It is easy to forget to drink water when your normal routine gets disrupted and it is quite common to feel symptoms of mild dehydration when traveling, especially by air. Bring an empty water bottle with you to fill up after getting through security and to use throughout your trip. I always remember to bring water on the plane with me and in the off chance that I forget, I buy one after I get near my gate. On road trips we will bring one larger water cooler to fill up our individual water bottles to avoid stopping as often and to avoid having to buy a new water bottle each time we stop.

Continue with your Regular Workout Routine…

If you have the ability to do so, continue to workout as you normally would. This is especially important if you travel often for business because this needs to become a habit, even when you are out of town. Use the hotel’s gym or if weather permits, go for a run outside or do a bodyweight workout (see our post on bodyweight workout benefits and suggested exercises). If you are traveling for leisure, there are plenty of ways to exercise while having fun! Try renting a bike, kayak or stand up paddle board, check out new hiking trails, explore new cities by foot and keep yourself moving when possible.

 

When Traveling by Air:

Packing Smart Healthy Food Staples and Snacks…

Due to security regulations, flying takes away some of the flexibility in your packing options. Most solid foods are allowed through security, but if you’re packing liquids or sauces make sure you get travel sizes under 3.4 ounces. Bring items that do not need to be refrigerated (see suggested foods below) and that can be packed away in your checked luggage. Bringing healthy foods with might take a little extra thought and will depend on how much extra room you have in your luggage.

 

When Traveling On the Road:

On the road | eating healthy

Road travel has been increasing in popularity for a while now, even outpacing air travel in the last five years. Thanks to lower gas prices and picture-worthy social media posts for bringing to light the concept of “authentic” (and affordable) adventures, road travel has definitely spiked. Since you don’t have to worry about any security restrictions and likely have some more space to work with, this is a great opportunity to plan you meals and bring the healthy foods that you need.

Pack a Cooler…

Bringing a cooler will allow you to stock up for your road trip! This will give you the option to pre-cook your protein/meats seal them up in a Ziploc and stash them on ice in the cooler. You can also pack yogurts, protein balls, fresh fruit and anything else that may need to be on ice.

Keep Cooler or Snack Bag Close at Hand…

Some people may disagree with this because they think it will encourage mindless snacking but, hear me out. One thing I have experienced is that if I allow myself to become too hungry on a roadtrip, I’m quick to make a poor food choice once I see the first sign of fast food. When desperation sets in and food options are limited to fast food, it’s a challenge not to cave in when you add hunger to the mix. Just make sure that when you are “snacking” or curbing your hunger pangs, you are doing it with nutrient-rich snacks.

 

Once You Reach Your Destination:

Consider where you will stay beforehand…

Sometimes it makes more sense to book an Airbnb over a hotel because (aside from the fact that you will probably get a better deal) it will usually give you access to a kitchen and offer staple items such as salt/pepper/spices/oils (or anything left behind or offered to you to be used). If you need to stay in a hotel, make sure to book one with or request a microwave and refrigerator. This way you can purchase healthy perishable items and keep them fresh and heat up items, as needed. Simply put, it gives you many more options when it comes to food choice.

Guide to Clean Eating on the Road | Salad

Scope out what is nearby…

Figure out if there is a local health foods store, market or good grocery store nearby and pick up some local produce. If you have a fridge where you are staying, you can purchase perishable items. Pick up some pre-cooked chicken, salmon or tofu and add it to some leafy greens. Dress with lemon and a little olive oil. Store any un-used items and leftovers in the fridge.

If you are staying in a hotel…

Especially if you do not have a fridge, you should be able to order a la carte items off of the hotel menu. Some great options include salads (hold the dressing), egg white veggie omelet, berries/fruit cup or plain grilled chicken breast.

 

Food For Thought

 Here are some ideas of healthy and easily packable snacks…

  • Marcona almonds or other raw or dry-roasted nuts
  • Tuna packets
  • Avocados
  • Fruits; i.e. bananas, apples, grapes, etc.
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Almond butter packets (Quick, portable and pre-measured )Clean Eating on the Road | Fresh Fruit
  • Dry oats (pre-portioned in plastic baggies)
  • Protein bars
  • Beef or turkey jerky
  • Fresh vegetables’ i.e. baby carrots or mini bell peppers
  • Protein powder (bring enough for 1-2 servings a day and don’t forget a measuring scoop)

*** If you are feeling overly ambitious, or if you travel often enough, consider bringing an individual-sized blender in order to be able to start your day with a nutrient dense smoothie.

So there you have it! Proof that clean, healthy eating is entirely possible while on the road and out of town! Now, remember not to be too hard on yourself. It’s all about balance and the aim to eat healthy at least 80% of the time. When you are out of your typical daily routine, there will be times when things are simply out of your control, so you must be able to adapt accordingly. Just know you have lots of options and try to stay as well-prepared as possible!


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