I Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Rules
How many times have you went on vacation or traveled for work, and then returned feeling weighed down, tired, bloated, and unhappy? (Huge hand raise over here!) Travel is often the culprit for weight gain, poor skin, and a weakened immune system. But it doesn’t have to be that way! I am so excited to share these easy tips with you and teach you how to eat healthy while traveling.
Believe it or not, even fitness fanatics and nutrition nuts struggle to maintain balance while traveling! Because let’s face it; sometimes everything you know about healthy eating goes out the window when you’re on a trip. That little voice in your head tells you to have fun, and whispers, “There are no rules when you’re on vacation.” A little bit here, a little bit there, and before you know it, it’s a whole lot of not feeling good.
I could simply tell you to hit the gym every single morning, eat nothing but chicken and veggies, and drink lots of water. Yep, that would work. But you likely wouldn’t listen to me. More importantly, it wouldn’t be realistic. Because let’s face it, we are complex creatures and we have cravings! So, instead, here are the basic guidelines I try to follow while traveling.
How to Eat Healthy While Traveling
Eat Real Food
Ok, this seems pretty easy. But it’s actually quite challenging when you’re on-the-go. Walk into a gas station, an airport terminal, or take a look at your hotel concession store. The chances of finding real, non-processed food? Like 1 to 20. But I promise it can be done!
If you eat like crap, you’re going to feel like crap. And when you fill your body with nutrients, you’re going to feel great and have more energy, allowing you to enjoy your vacation to the fullest!
Here are some of my favorite travel foods, arranged by meal.
- Eggs – Eggs are a great source of protein–an essential way to start the day and get your metabolism revving! If you want to keep your fat and cholesterol intake lower, opt for egg whites only. You can also buy hardboiled eggs peeled and ready to eat at airport convenience stores, Starbucks, and gas stations. Tip: Travel with baggies, order hardboiled eggs from room service, and store them in your mini fridge for an afternoon snack or quick on-the-go breakfast.
- Meat – If I’m in a restaurant or have room service available, I usually order chicken breast, bacon, or chicken apple sausage. Chicken breast is the leanest option of these three, but some people don’t like eating it for breakfast. I try to avoid pork sausage which has double the calories and almost triple the fat compared to chicken sausage. Some people prefer turkey bacon to regular bacon to save on fat and calories, however I opt for pork bacon because it has significantly less sodium and nitrates. When available, I choose naturally leaner center-cut slices which can contain as little as 60 calories and 260mg sodium per slice.
- Bananas – You can find bananas at most airport concession stores, gas stations, any restaurant that serves breakfast, and almost every room service menu. They are a great source of carbohydrates, electrolytes, and potassium! Bananas also have fiber which can aid in digestion. Even better, you can throw one in your bag if you’re on the go.
- Oatmeal – Oatmeal is a great way to start the day because it will give you lasting energy in the form of carbohydrates. I call it brain food because it is packed with iron and will help your concentrate throughout the day. You can order oatmeal at any restaurant that serves breakfast, any room service menu, Starbucks, Jamba Juice, or McDonald’s. I personally ask for dairy-free milk (like almond milk), skip the brown sugar, and add bananas, berries, and almonds. Tip: Dried fruit like raisins will be high in sugar, but are fine in moderation. Nuts are a great source of protein and healthy fat.
- Avocado – I always ask for a side of avocado because I believe in having a well-rounded breakfast with healthy fat for extra energy. It is a great substitute for peanut butter, cream cheese, or other creamy spread.
- Nuts – Raw, unsalted nuts like almonds or cashews are a great source of energy in the form of healthy fats. All you need is a handful and it is the perfect pick-me-up before that long cab ride, in between meals, and when you’re feeling drained. You can buy them at any convenience store, airport, and Starbucks.
- Deli Meat – Available at every grocery store, as well as Subway and other sandwich shops, I love how easy it is to find deli meat and get even more protein in my diet. Filling up on protein first will allow you to feel full longer and curb cravings that resort to unhealthy snacking.
- Blue Diamond Almond Thins – Unless you’re grocery shopping at Sprouts while you’re on vacation, you’ll likely have to buy these ahead of time. That being said, I highly recommend these! They are gluten-free, wheat-free, and made of rice flour and almonds. They come in a variety of flavors and are the perfect substitution for traditional potato chips. PS – they are processed, but still nutritious 😉
Lunch & Dinner
- Fish – This is my favorite thing to order at restaurants. Since it’s not something I cook very often at home, I appreciate it even more when I order it on vacation. My favorite options are Chilean Seabass (rich and moist in flavor with large, tender flakes), Halibut (lean, mild in flavor, and dense while still tender), Salmon (delicious, full of flavor, and high in healthy fat content), and Shrimp. This is a great option when you’re at an Italian restaurant and can’t find anything else except pasta! Steer clear of the creamy sauces, butter, and breading by asking for light preparation (grilled or broiled).
- Tacos – This is my go-to meal when eating out at Mexican Restaurants. To avoid inflammation and bloating, I order corn tortillas (which are gluten-free) in lieu of flour tortillas. I usually get chicken breast or grilled fish, no cheese, extra veggies, and sauce on the side.
- Salads – In all honestly, I personally don’t enjoy eating salads. I feel like I’m eating a bowl-full of lettuce. However, a lot of people do, so I wanted to share some tips! Things to avoid in order to keep your salad healthy: sugar (in the form of excess fruit and sugared nuts like candied pecans), creamy dressings (like ranch and creamy caesar), croutons and won ton chips, cheese, fried foods (like breaded chicken) and corn (because it’s tough on your digestive system). Opt for salads with real ingredients like beets, asparagus, grilled meat, mushrooms, tomatoes, zucchini, etc.
- Whole Grains – Whole wheat bread, oats, and brown rice are a great source of fiber, help aid in digestion, and allow you to feel full faster. These are great alternatives to white potatoes, white bread, and pasta.
I either bring a small cooler full of healthy snacks, or make a quick trip to a convenience or grocery store once I get to my destination. Almost every hotel has a mini fridge that can be secured ahead of time if you call and ask. This is a great place to store your perishable snacks throughout your vacation.
Another thing I like to do is travel with a NutriBullet or similar portable-sized blender. I pack a small baggie full of protein powder, a jar of almond butter, and order ice water and a banana each morning through room service. One minute of prep, and you have an easy and inexpensive breakfast on the go!
Order for 1
I know it’s fun to order drinks, appetizers, a nice entree, and maybe a dessert to share… but imagine if you were back at home. Would it really take this much food to fill you up? Sometimes I look down at my plate and I think, “this is how much food I would prepare if I were having 4 guests over for dinner.” But I eat it all anyways. Because I can. And I don’t need no stinkin’ rules! And then guess what? I feel like crap.
So back up, and let’s see where I went wrong. Here are the recommended serving sizes I provide to my Dollar a Day Meal Plan crew. These are great guidelines for eating out, too.
Just Say No
I honestly don’t expect you to say no to all of these. I certainly don’t (whoopsie), however these are the culprits when it comes to digestive issues and an irritable bowel during travel. And let’s face it, that isn’t fun for anyone!
- Fried Foods
- Dairy (except for yogurt, which can be good for digestion)
- Alcohol (especially cocktails with added sugar)
- Spicy Foods
- Coffee, Tea, Soda (if you’re going to have coffee, opt for coconut or almond milk instead of creamer)
Whew, that was a lot to take in. But what really matters is that you relax, allow flexibility to divert from your regular routine, and don’t be too hard on yourself. Stay active (even if that means walking instead of grabbing an Uber), get lots of sleep, drink plenty of water (to help flush out the excess sodium and bloating that occurs from eating out and traveling), and take your vitamins. Balance is key!