Every year thousands of Americans travel domestically and around the world for a variety of reasons – work, education, family, or vacation. Whatever the reason, extended time in airports or train stations, on the road, in hotels, and away from your kitchen and gym, provides numerous challenges to staying on track with healthy eating and physical activity. But travel doesn’t have to be a lost cause. Follow these tips and you’ll return home with the same pants size you left with.
Always be prepared with healthy snacks on hand. Stow easy to pack snacks like nuts, trail mix, jerky, durable fruit like apples, or snack bars (try to choose options with minimal ingredients and a some fat, protein, and fiber, which will make the snack feel more filling), to have in the airport, between work meetings or sightseeing, and for late night cravings. Pack more than you think you’ll need, as healthy snacks can be hard to find in hotels and airports. If you don’t want to travel with a lot of food, look for a local grocery store near where you’re traveling. Of course, enjoy the coffee available at numerous cafes. That is worth your money.
2.BYOB (Bring Your Own Breakfast)
At most hotels, unless you fork over $20 for the sit down breakfast, the breakfast offerings are slim. Most continental breakfast consists of cold eggs, processed bacon, pastries, bagels, sugary cereal, and canned fruit cocktail, if one is offered at all. If you’re lucky, the eggs will be hot and there will be fresh fruit. If you’re unlucky you may find a few stale pastries and some juice. Either way, the safest bet is often having something nutritious in your room you can eat, both saving you money and starting your day off on the right foot. Some great options include banana with peanut butter, oatmeal (you can usually find hot water) with dried fruit and nuts, or if you have a refrigerator, Greek yogurt with fruit and nuts. You can also look for a nearby Starbucks, as many of them offer a few healthy options, including oatmeal and the “Protein Bistro Box”.
3.Do your due diligence
Look up restaurants that are near the area you staying while traveling, and read over their menus before you go. Most places will offer some sort of meat and potatoes dish (although avoid the steak frites), or salmon and green vegetable (salmon with asparagus seems to be a popular combination). If you read up ahead of time, you can identify a few places you know you can find a healthy meal, and a few meals at each place. Having your mind made up before you get there can help you avoid the temptation to order something less healthy (like the cheeseburger and fries). Bonus tip: if you’re offered bread turn it down. You’re a lot more likely to have too much if it’s sitting in front of you.
4.Team up with your travel mates
With all the focus on health and weight loss these days, in all likelihood someone in your group will be trying to pay attention to health too. Sharing this common goal can make it more likely that you’ll both stay on track and keep each other accountable. It also provides an exercise buddy.
5.Bump up the activity
Sometime when you’re traveling, there’s no getting around a less than desirable meal. Your salmon comes with more sauce than you thought. There’s no other food available in the meeting besides pasta salad and sandwiches. Exercise can not only negate some of that damage, it can also give you more energy and motivate you to stay on track while you’re away. And on vacation, there are a lot more opportunities to be active than are in a normal workday (at least if you happen to sit at a desk). Running or walking are great, free options in most cities. Use MapMyRun or similar software to map a route ahead of time, or use it to find routes posted by local runners. If running outside isn’t an options, take advantage of what is. Use the pool in your hotel to swim some laps. Look up workouts you can do in your hotel room. See if there is a bike sharing service (like Boston’s Hubway) and use that instead of public transportation. There are lots of creative ways to get 20-30 minutes of movement in during some part of your day.
6.Go easy on the booze
Whether for work or play, traveling always seems to include healthy doses of adult beverages. Whether you’re enjoying the local fare or just networking at company events, it can be easy to overdo it. And not only does booze add additional calories, a little too much can impact sleep, exercise, and diet that night and the next day. Try to aim for no more than one drink an hour, and mix in plenty of water between. If you’re enjoying a mixed drink, ask for sugar free mixers like diet tonic or soda water.
7.Keep up the sleep.
While this can be tough on the road – whether it’s work commitments, fun adventures traveling, a different bed, or cramped space – sleep impacts so many aspects of our health. Lack of sleep can reduce motivation to exercise and make it harder to resist starchier, fattier “comfort foods”. Promote better sleep by avoiding screens closer to bed-time, sleeping in a cool room, and avoiding caffeinated beverages after lunchtime.