Travel can be a hectic and stressful experience: carting luggage through crowded airports, waiting in lines, getting extra friendly pat-downs from overly zealous security guards…or sitting in the car for hours on end, drowning in boredom while you try not to exhaust your supply of travel snacks within the first hour on the road. I myself am not a huge fan of travel (I LOVE traveling and exploring new places, just not the process of getting there), unless it’s an exciting and non-typical vehicle, like a boat, helicopter, catamaran, zip line, hot air balloon, space shuttle…you get the drift.
One of the trickiest parts of travel is maintaining some semblance of a healthy diet along the way. When you make the decision to eat to nourish and fuel your body, doing so outside of your normal environment or personal kitchen can be tricky. The choice is always yours when it comes to the food you want to enjoy and how you want your body to feel, regardless of the circumstances. The key is that it’s never about restriction or depravity. The biggest thing you can do to maintain that while traveling is to set yourself up for success and plan ahead.
An important piece to start with is deciding in advance what special treats or types of foods you are going to allow during your travels, and which you aren’t. Making this decision ahead of time will prevent you from the surprise factor and temptation of certain foods that maybe don’t fit in with your healthy paradigm. Only you can decide what this should look like and what you feel most comfortable allowing yourself, but if you make these decisions ahead of time, you’ll be a lot less apt to feel out of control in the moment.
Below I’ve mapped out some of my top tips for how to plan in advance, manage healthy “day of” travel foods, what to do when you arrive at your destination, and how to enjoy yourself during your time away.
DAY OF TRAVEL:
Plan ahead and bring plenty of healthy snack-type travel-friendly options to make your day of travel smooth sailing. There are enough unknowns and unexpected surprises that can happen when you travel: don’t let food be one of them. Travel + hangry don’t jive well (really, does hangry play nice with anyone?) Make sure you’ve got your bases covered on the food front. You can also check out this post for healthy foodstuffs that I keep in my purse at all times.
Here are some of my favorite travel-friendly, whole food snacks that still pack a powerful nutrient punch:
RxBars (maple sea salt, PB, and mint chocolate are my faves)
sliced apple (drizzled with some lemon to prevent browning)
nut butter pack
quality chocolate bar or chocolate chips (quality = minimal ingredients, no added soy, higher percentage like 75%)
OR I “snack” together with a meal with an Epic bar for good protein, some fat like a nut butter/apple, sliced veggies, and call it good!
If you’re driving, food options increase with the ability to pack a cooler. You can plan some simple throw-together meals and other perishables and keep them cool on the go. If you’re flying, you can actually travel with a good amount of food as well. Smaller coolers that fit within standard carry-on limits are allowed, and even ice packs as long as they’re still frozen when you go through security. There’s no reason not to plan ahead!
UPON ARRIVAL/DURING YOUR STAY:
Lodging: If possible, choose lodging that offers a kitchen. Many hotels have offerings with small kitchens, and Airbnb is a spectacular resource for great lodging with many options. Having access to a kitchen will give you so much more control over your food situation, not to mention save you money on eating out. To be fair, vacation is often a time of indulgence and eating out, and that’s ok too. But having some quality meals that you’ve prepared yourself will ensure you’re able to feel your best and make solid choices for yourself.
Staying with Family/Friends: If you’re staying with family or friends, stand your ground on what you have chosen to eat/not eat. It’s often difficult around others when we decide to make different food choices for our own health. Many times those around us feel threatened or guilty about their own choices in the face of someone eating differently. Ultimately, your decisions are yours and are based on you and your needs, nobody else’s. Just communicate clearly on why you’ve decided to make these choices for yourself (but really, you aren’t obligated to share any details). It can be as simple as “I feel my best when I eat/don’t eat certain things,” and leave it at that. Ultimately others will have to respect your decisions.
Temptations: Have a “safety” treat on hand for those occasions when various food options/availability might be tempting. If you ultimately don’t want to eat certain things, or they aren’t on your predetermined list of “ok” indulgences, give yourself something that does fit within your food paradigm. Maybe it’s a quality chocolate bar or some other quality treat that you feel good about. Having something (or even a few somethings) that you feel good about indulging in mindfully will help you resist the temptation at the moment.
Eating out: Eating out in different restaurants can be tricky. It’s helpful to look at menus online beforehand to plan ahead for your options. It won’t always be perfect when it comes to eating out. Most restaurants use cheap oils to prepare foods and cheap ingredients. Aim for the best decision you can make (meat, veggies, etc) in those situations. You can always ask your server about options, and even ask to have your dish cooked in butter instead of crappy oils or steamed. If it’s a burger joint, you can always ask for your burger to be wrapped in lettuce and opt-out of the bun. You may also choose to eat something a little more substantial beforehand and just opt for something simple like a salad to enjoy with everyone else. The point is to just do the best you can and don’t stress about the rest. Ultimately, making the best decision you can for your health vs choosing something at the moment that leaves you not feeling great will always be your best bet.
Offer to make meals that suit your needs. It doesn’t mean others will or have to adhere to your eating standards indefinitely, but I find that real food always wins. Make your meals separately if you have to. Yes, this may not be convenient while on vacation in someone else’s home. But the choice is still yours on how you want to eat. This could mean one day of batch cooking some things to eat on for the rest of the week. Whatever you need to do keep it doable for you.
Most of all, enjoy your journey. This doesn’t have to be a super restrictive, painstaking process. Remember, this isn’t about perfection. Causing added stress around food will ultimately impair digestion and impair the experience, and be more apt to make you cave to less than stellar food choices. Do the best you can with the resources you have. Stand your ground if you face backlash from family and those around you. No one can argue with you feeling your best! It’s worth it to keep feeling amazing vs making sacrifices in the moment that you maybe wouldn’t make otherwise. The important part is to be able to enjoy your time, but that doesn’t mean that it has to come at the expense of sacrificing your health. The choice is always yours.
Let me know some of your best healthy travel tips below! I’d love to hear how you maintain a stellar diet on the go!