If you were like me, you were home-bound for the holidays. Millions of humans travel home for the holidays by car, plane, train, bus, and sometimes by sea. What do all of these environments have in common? (Aside from debatable seating arrangements). No kitchen space. Honestly, I welcome the break from preparing my own food! However, if you are someone who steps away from home frequently, you could well be tired of feeling like a deflated balloon when faced with the convenient options as you pass through gas stations and airports. Never fear, because I'm about to share with you how to eat healthy while traveling for work.
Let's address the elephant in the room: cooking nutritious meals at home can be hard enough. Preparing and accounting for healthy meals on the go can be even harder. However, I'm here to help you with FIVE basic concepts to keep in mind so that you're not traveling with food fear- you'll be on the go with food freedom instead.
So, let's dive into how to eat healthy while traveling for work.
Don't Be Afraid of Fast Food
Before you think that a nutritionist is telling you to only eat from fast food chains whilst away from home- yes, in some ways, you are correct! You probably haven't thought about this but US and EU laws require fast food chains, such as McDonald's and Starbucks, to have healthier options on their menus that meet certain calorie and protein requirements. How cool is that?
You can guarantee, without a doubt, that at least one fast food chain will be in any airport, across any bus or train terminal, and will have menu options that are more nutritious clearly marked in.
Bonus points: these chain restaurants are also legally required to have allergen information clearly and easily accessible for customers. If you have a food allergy, food intolerance, or are minimizing certain ingredients to manage autoimmune conditions- fast food chains can work well for you too.
What would I recommend at a fast food restaurant, as a nutritionist and personal trainer? Check out the list below:
Starbucks- Kale and mushroom egg bites; spinach, egg white, and feta wrap
McDonald's- McChicken sandwich meal (with salad instead of fries); the Sweet Chili Chicken One meal (with salad instead of fries)
Burger King- Junior Whopper (with no mayo, skip the fries for fresh fruit or veggies and hummus)
Nando's- Chicken butterfly with spicy rice and long stem broccoli; Beanie burger with corn. on the cob
Ask Your Server
Your server isn't there to simply take your order (although, that is an integral part of the role). In a restaurant, your server plays the role of food orderer, AND mediator between you and the kitchen. If you want your protein baked, not pan fried; or, if you prefer to sub a side of steamed vegetables and rice for the mac and cheese because you are aiming towards healthy weight loss- your server can inform you whether your request can be accommodated or not. Rather than feel discouraged and frustrated by the menu in front of you, asking your server to advocate on your behalf is part of his/ her role at your table.
Bonus points: most restaurants will have menus available on their websites/ social pages. Investigating into these menus beforehand empowers you to go in with an informed choice because you will know what to order so that you can enjoy your meal without negative self- talk or potential digestive consequences.
Be Prepared (With Better Storage)
When packing food for eating at altitude, investing in a few smart storage pieces can be crucial to your success. You can have a better chance of success in making it through airport if your food is pre-packed in pre-sealed containers. You can get lucky with some airports not requesting you take all food out of your bag. I, personally, have had easier security experiences at international airports than their regional counterparts.
Bonus points: I love these containers for packing hummus on the go. They're TSA- friendly and come in 100ml capacity. As well, these little bags and bowls are reusable, easily washed, and come in a variety of sizes to pack any manner or snacks (almonds and berries are a travel fave for me!).
When you're on the road, you probably don't want to drink too much so that you aren't continuously pressing pause on your drive time. You also are going to be quicker to opt for the complimentary wine with your meal on the plane than water. However, staying hydrated has a host of benefits to your health whilst on the go. Flying at altitude is surprisingly dehydrating, which sets you up for potential effects of dehydration such as dizziness, shaking, and headaches. Water keeps your skin bright and healthy, whilst airport air can do the opposite. Consuming adequate fluids can also help with short-term memory, attention, and mood.
When you're in a car or on a train, you don't have to deal with altitude (thankfully for some!) but your water consumption still matters for staying alert. As well, being dehydrated generally creates stress in your body which is the last thing you need when it comes to working on the road.
Pack An Enzyme
If you're someone who suffers from digestive distress, SIBO, or any sort of upper abdominal pain around meal times, a digestive enzyme can help with food breakdown if you find travel a bit anxiety- inducing.
When you are operating under a low state of anxiety or stress, your stomach reduces the amount of acid it produces to break down food. A digestive enzyme can help in this regard.
Bonus points: a digestive enzyme helps with food breakdown in general, so you can feel more freedom to enjoy heavier meals and richer meals out without dealing with major consequences like uncomfortable bloating, clothes fitting too tightly, etc.
Key Takeaways From Today
Don't be afraid of fast food chains. Your restaurant server is your advocate. TSA- friendly food containers can go a long way. Hydration is always key. Digestive enzymes can help a LOT with belly bloat.
If these tips help, you can get even MORE tips that are customized to your lifestyle in Empowered To Go LIVE which starts on January 16th!