For most of us travelesses, we pack so much activity into our travel adventures that eating becomes a contest to wolf down the first cheap thing we get our hands on. Eating right nosedives right to the bottom of our priority list. But it IS still possible to eat healthy on a plane, or pack healthy snacks for long road trips, and get all the nutrients you need to stay healthy and energetic. Not only do we believe it, we feel it’s essential.
Here are some helpful tips for making nutritious choices on the road and maintaining healthy habits.
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There are four major components to consider for your meals: carbohydrates, protein, fat content and fluids. The physical strain your body endures during travel is very similar to regular exercise. You have to include carbs at each meal for fuel; moderate amounts of protein to speed recovery and repair muscles; healthy fats for energy balance; and lots of fluids to replace the moisture you lose during travel and physical activity, like sightseeing or hiking.
On the plane…
- You can get a head start on smart eating on the road by requesting special meals on the plane, if necessary. Just make sure to call the airline about a week in advance.
- Drink lots of water. Yes, we know it’s a big pain to constantly get up and climb over your neighbors to go to the bathroom, but it’s necessary. The humidity on a plane is about 10-15% and it causes your body to lose a lot of moisture. On the same token, avoid coffee, tea and alcohol because it dehydrates you. (P.S. Getting up often will also keep the blood flowing, give you an opportunity to do some yoga stretches, and will help prevent your body from getting too tense during the trip.)
On the ground…
- Beware if you’re going from a warm to a cold climate because it may tempt you to eat more than you need. Don’t go there! Stave off the cravings by filling yourself up with plenty of water and the high-fiber foods suggested below.
- Make a trip to the grocery store: Not only will you be able to stock up on the right foods that you should eat, it could be more cost-effective than buying your meals individually. If you have a refrigerator and/or a microwave, use them!
Extra Tip: If you can only make one meal per day, make it breakfast. The beginning of the day is a good time to load up on essential grains, protein and fruit all in one meal (think a bowl of cereal, a piece of fruit and a hard-boiled egg).
At the restaurant…
Ah, the ‘x’ factor. You never quite know what you’re going to get, which is part of the fun, but it’s also the place where your nutritional needs can completely fall off the map. If you’ve got the luxury of being able to communicate, then ask your server to describe the meals so you know exactly what you’re getting. Ask:
- For extra whole-grain rolls
- For reduced cream or cheese in the meal
- To put the sauce/gravy on the side (channel your inner Meg Ryan)
If you have to eat at a fast food restaurant—let’s face it, even the best laid plans to eat healthy on the road fail sometimes—look for the high performance options with protein and vegetables.
- At a McDonald’s-type place: Opt for a grilled chicken sandwich, hamburger or veggie burger with lettuce and tomato; or a grilled chicken salad with reduced-fat dressing.
- If you are at a Mexican-style restaurant: Try for burritos or soft tacos with chicken, fish, steak or grilled vegetables.
- At a sub-sandwich place: Go with some chili with a side salad or a turkey sandwich.
- At a Panera-type restaurant: Pick a smoked turkey sandwich, low-fat Panera soup or a vegetable sandwich.
Bring Your Own
But the best way to control your diet is to bring your own food to eat on the plane and pack healthy snacks for long road trips.
Here are some easy to find and pack foods:
- Bulk Trail mix with dried fruits, nuts and seeds
- Mixed nuts
- Energy bars
- Granola bars
- Fresh fruit or vegetables, if possible. Dried fruits are also good.
- Wheat bagels
- Whole wheat bread
- Ready-to-eat cereals
- Low-fat oatmeal cookies
- Low-sodium jerky
And if you have a refrigerator or cooler handy:
- String cheese
- Cottage cheese
And remember, DRINK LOTS OF WATER!!!
Eating healthy on the road definitely requires some forethought and extra planning. It’s about packing healthy snacks for long road trips and more. But it will save you a lot of grief and inconvenience in the long run, and will keep your body in optimum shape as you continue your travels. Bon appétit!
Founder of Girls Who Travel. Penchant for travel, social justice, yoga, writing, marketing, high heels and words like penchant.