No shade to Women’s Running, but… I was so excited for last month’s cover story: “How to Eat Healthy While Traveling”. I really needed some new tips. Of course, I was disappointed to find that the article was one page and super generic. Stuff like: drink water, eat almonds. Definitely tricks that work in a pinch but if you’re someone who travels A LOT for work, you can’t sustain yourself off of almonds and water alone. And when you’re traveling with Celiac’s disease like I am, it can be even harder.
I often find myself in airports with incredibly few options (MIA I am looking at you and the one Nathan’s Hot Dog Stand) and I’ve come up with a REALISTIC guide to eating well when you find yourself in airport terminals all the time.
This one is a no-brainer and when I say snacks I mean SNACKS. I read a lot of posts where the author recommends you make your own salad or meals in Tupperware and bring them on board. That sounds lovely if you’re traveling on a vacation or to a house with a place to wash your dishes. But when you’re traveling for work, you are often running straight from the tarmac to a meeting. It’s stressful enough to waltz into an important meeting with your luggage, but add on an entire tote bag full of dirty tupperware? No thanks. Also my bag is usually full of documents, folders, and my laptop, which doesn’t leave much room for meals.
Instead I pack snacks that are DIVERSE and I know won’t upset my stomach. The worst thing is trying a new granola bar and then 30 minutes later fighting bloat in a cab on the way to a meeting. The worst. Always go for real ingredients and different flavor profiles. The different flavors is CLUTCH for me because I know that if I bring only fruit based bars, I am going to feel sick eating just fruit all day. Here’s a sample of what I usually pack for a typical work trip, it’s enough to cover all of my flights as I usually have no time for myself to go grocery shopping anywhere I go:
RX Bars, an Apple, Beef Jerky, Trail Mix (w/o chocolate, ok), Clif Bars, G-Free Crackers, PB packet.
The dreaded airport meal. Even the airports where I fair pretty well (JFK) it’s still not something I look forward to.
1. In airports with few options or when you are crunched for time, the best item to look for is a salad. But do your best to find a place that actually knows how to make a salad. Do not go to the Sam Adam’s Brewhouse and ask for a salad, I promise you it will be heavy and kind of gross. Instead look for small cafe’s or even the tiny Grab N Go stations. I know the salads are pre-made but most Grab N Go’s tout a commitment to vegan or organic produce so you know you’re getting pretty decent goods.
2. And while yes, I am trying to eat healthy while traveling for work, I do my best to avoid eating some usually good proteins in airports (fish, steak etc.) because of how they are prepared (though one time I did get airport sushi)… but if I need the protein I pick chicken. It’s lean and easy to tell if it’s cooked right. You don’t have to guess much with chicken.
3. that annoying person who asks for dressing on the side and side salad substitutions for fries. It seems like you’re making a big deal but you’re not. If you’re nervous about it, you can ask your server upfront if they make substitutions or changes. It’s polite and your server will be prepared to help you and you’ll be prepared to order.
AVOID CARBONATION & GUM
Part of eating healthy while traveling for work for me is keeping my gut happy. I love gum and I love seltzer but oh my god… the BLOAT isn’t worth it. It took me forever to realize the connection between these vices and my painfully bloated tummy on a flight. High altitude can already cause bloating, don’t help it out by adding bubbles. Opt for flat water (and a ton of it!) and mints. I know they aren’t sugarfree, but honestly a little sugar is better than being so painfully blown up that you can’t eat dinner later or sit through a meeting properly.
YOGURT IS KING
Unless you have a dairy allergy, yogurt is an amazing friend. If you have a hotel mini-fridge grab extras at the hotel market (most of them have these now) and toss some in there for breakfasts and late night snacks. And if you can find yogurt at the airport — YASS! The key to eating healthy while traveling for work is making sure you are full but also getting the same key nutrients you would on a regular day. Yogurt is an excellent source of protein and also contains natural probiotics that keep your digestive system on track while you travel. Gut health = your health.
STARBUCKS HAS BANANAS
Bananas have a ton of fiber and you can find them at almost any Starbucks. Did you notice that there are Starbucks literally everywhere? I hate their coffee so I am often the girl who has a banana and water and who says “No” to “Anything else?” but I am okay with that. In a rush at the airport, hotel, meeting space, whatever, I can grab a banana and know that it will help me make it to my next meal. Bonus points if you packed the PB packet like I told you to.
There are so many variables when it comes to dining out while traveling for work and sometimes the worst culprit is yourself when you’re alone. I’ll be honest and say that I have had a lot of burgers and fries in bed, (the days are long and I like burgers.) But 98% of the time I aim to keep my dinners as clean as possible. This is because dinners are typically the only time I am at rest, sitting down, and have a higher price point (meaning a better selection) on food. If I know I am going to be struggling at the airport, and during lunch in between meetings, I rely on my dinners to be the staples of my day. I think about what key vitamins and nutrients I missed and try to plug them in. If I haven’t had a leafy green all day, I’ll make sure I get a giant salad. If I haven’t had any protein, I’ll aim to get a nice piece of salmon. It isn’t ideal, and you shouldn’t typically eat a big meal before bed, but for surviving on the road, this is necessary.
The last thing I’ll say is this: do your best to maintain any and all routines while traveling for work. If you typically work out in the morning at home, work out in the morning at the hotel. If you have tea before bed while reading a book, have tea and read even just a couple of pages before bed in the hotel. I always pack face masks because I like to do them after flying. It also just makes me feel more at home. Keeping yourself as calm and happy as possible will keep your stress levels down and you much healthier.
Let me know if you have any of your own tips and if any of these were brand new to you! I am always looking to create content that is actually NEW and helpful, instead of regurgitating what you’ve already read.