Call it Murphy's Law - as soon as you get in the habit of eating healthy at home, something will crop up that takes you away from your normal environment. Whether you end up flying out of state for a conference or you hit the road for a family vacation, it's not easy to maintain healthy eating habits while traveling. Use these tips to learn how to maintain a healthy diet while traveling.
At the airport
There's not a whole lot to do at an airport other than sit around, wait for your flight and...eat. Humans tend to be impressionable, and all those fast food joints and coffee shops are bound to start calling your name. Avoid the temptation to grab something greasy by planning ahead and packing appropriately. Here are a couple quick tips to keep your diet clean while at the airport:
- Pack an empty, reusable water bottle in your carry-on luggage and fill it as soon as you pass through security. Not only will you avoid spending the exorbitant fees charged for water at airport retailers, having a bottle of water at your side will keep you hydrated and occupied, helping prevent mindless eating.
- Stock your bag with healthy, nutrient-dense snacks. Fruit, nuts, protein bars, whole wheat crackers, baby carrots and string cheese all make good options. While these certainly aren't substitutes for a real meal, they're healthy, filling foods that can help prevent cravings...something that's especially important when you find your resistance caving at the scent of Cinnabon!
- Go ahead and purchase a real meal. Let's face it - you can't easily pack your bag with pasta, salad or chicken enchiladas, but relying on snacks alone isn't going to get you through a full day of traveling. As soon as you get to the airport, scope out the eating joints and identify the healthiest one. Before you get on the plane, go ahead and order a sandwich or salad that you can take with you when you board. This way, when lunch or dinnertime rolls around, you won't be tempted to order the airline meal or ask for extra packets of airline snacks.
- Keep yourself occupied. You know the saying, "Idle hands do the Devil's work"? That applies to airport nutrition, too! When you're bored, you're much more likely to turn to food to pass the time. Pack your bag with a multitude of entertainment options - books, magazines, music, movies, heck, even work! When you get tired of one thing, move on to the next. Only when you start to feel the twinge of hunger should you stop to enjoy a snack. Which brings us to...
- Focus on your food. When it's time to eat, put your book or magazine aside and really concentrate on the food in front of you. Mindful, focused eating is more enjoyable than mindless eating, and studies have shown that you're less likely to overeat when you're paying attention to your food.
On a road trip
Road trips definitely provide more flexibility when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet, but who doesn't love grabbing sodas, candy and chips from the Quicky Mart at the gas station? Or trying the "World's Best Apple Pie" at an out-of-the-way diner? No vacation needs to be completely junk-food-free, but your waistline will thank you if you keep the treats to a minimum. Use these tips to make the most of your road trip:
- Stock a cooler. You can travel with just about anything if you have an ice-filled cooler in the car. Stock it with water, sandwich fixings, 100% juices, fruit, veggies, cheese, even milk! Have a separate box or bag for dry items like bread, cereal and chips or crackers. Whenever you start running low on supplies, pull into a grocery store rather than a convenience store. Not only will you save money, you'll have a lot more healthy options to choose from.
- Picnic or cookout, don't eat out. It's not that you can't enjoy a restaurant meal every now and then, but you'll probably end up having more fun and seeing more sites if you seek out parks and campgrounds to grab a bite to eat. Just do some research to find parks that are easily accessible from your route. When a park advertises grills or fire pits, pick up chicken or turkey burgers at a grocery store and enjoy an impromptu cookout. If grilling isn't an option, just break out the sandwich fixings and let everyone help themselves. This type of food stop not only enables you to control your consumption, it also gives you the chance to stretch your legs and explore areas you wouldn't otherwise see.
- Know your temptations and head them off. Everyone has a few road trip temptations, so if you know what yours are, try to beat them at their game. For years I was subject to the call of Flamin' Hot Cheetos and Diet Dr. Pepper every time I took a road trip. Weird, because I never ate these things at any other time. To satisfy the craving of carbonation and crunch, I started carrying sparkling water and Sun Chips in the car. While it's not a perfect science, and I still occasionally splurge on my old favorites, 95 percent of the time I'm able to avoid a less-healthy convenience store purchase.
At your destination
Whether you're staying at a hotel or with family, eating healthy at your destination can be just as hard as eating healthy while traveling. You may have to make a few compromises in the name of being a gracious guest, but there are ways to make the most of the situation. Here are a few tips:
- If you're staying at a hotel, book a room with a kitchenette. Not only can you stock your room's fridge with your healthy go-to staples, like yogurt, salad fixings and fresh fruit, you can also safely store your restaurant leftovers. This means that if you don't want to bother prepping food in your room, you can order a couple healthy options when you're at a restaurant and have them boxed up for later.
- Keep snacks on hand. Just like at the airport and in your car, it's important to always have a couple healthy options at-the-ready in your handbag. This is especially true if you're going to be super busy while at your destination. Skipping meals is never a good idea, and a protein bar or bag of trail mix can do wonders to prevent over-eating later in the day.
- Be a gracious guest. Every family has different eating habits, and when you're staying with family or friends, chances are you're going to be somewhat obligated to eat what's available. It's so important to be gracious and grateful when someone else is serving you, so avoid turning up your nose or talking condescendingly if their eating habits don't match your own. There are a couple ways to make the most of this situation: first, eat smaller portions if you're wary of the contents, and second, offer to serve your hosts! Tell them in advance that you'd love to make their job easier by preparing a few meals while you're with them. If they agree, plan a few healthy feasts and go grocery shopping when you arrive. When approached this way, you're unlikely to step on anyone's toes or cause offense. Plus, you get to stay on track with your own healthy eating plan!
>> Tell us, what are some of your tactics for staying on track while traveling?
Header image credit: Kuster & Wildhaber Photography, http://www.flickr.com/photos/wildhaber/5976264120/sizes/z/in/photostream/