Traveling can be the death of a good fitness plan. Long hours spent in transit, limited healthy food options and an irregular schedule can lead to all sorts of junk binging, with minimal activity to limit the damage.
I’ve been traveling a lot this summer (I’ve spent 13 weekends outside of NYC in the 3+ months since the end of April) and will be out of town for at least two out of the four remaining weekends of the season. It’s madness (madness!), and it’s been really hard for me to remember how to eat healthy and stay fit while on the go. Thankfully, there’s a world of information out there on the Interwebs, so I turned to some of my favorite fitness and health bloggers for advice.
Eating Healthy While In Transit
Rest stops and airports aren’t exactly known for their healthy meal options, but most cafes offer apples, bananas and basic salads at the bare minimum. Here are some other snack ideas for while you’re literally on the go:
- “Bring airport-friendly snacks, like nuts, fruit, and bars.” – Mellissa, from A Fit and Spicy Life
- Additional snack ideas from Bobbi at NHerShoes: instant oats, yogurt, sandwich, veggies and hummus. *Hummus and yogurt fall into the liquids category at airports, so those should either be packed in small clear tupperware (and then in a quart-sized plastic bag) or purchased once you’re at your gate. For instant oats, you can always bring a dry packet with you, and once you’re through security, “cook” it with the hot water airport cafes use for tea (ask nicely, and they’ll usually be fine with it). Also, this is why I much prefer car travel to flights — you can bring whatever you want in a car.
- Flying around lunch or dinner time? Choose salads and grilled chicken or vegetable sandwiches/wraps. Avoid lunch meat-based sandwiches, since the high sodium content can make you extra dehydrated and puffy (flights are already dehydrating, and you don’t want to make it worse). Grain salads travel extremely well, and are usually ok for the airport.
- I love bringing these magic granola bars with me, whether I’m on a plane, on a bus or in a car. Other good homemade snack ideas: kale chips, granola (sweet or savory), whole-wheat muffins, roasted chickpeas
Eating Healthy At Your Destination
Once you’ve reached your destination, “I’m on vacation!” is an easy way to excuse all sorts of bad behavior (food or otherwise … ). This is the hardest part of staying healthy while traveling for me — I like exploring a new place through its restaurants, local markets and bars, which means lots and lots of eating out. Note to self: fight the urge to eat extravagantly at every meal — your stomach (and wallet) will thank you for it.
- In a post on traveling, Kath from Kath Eats Real Food suggests visiting a local grocery store while on vacation. I second this idea, especially for breakfast staples such as bananas, yogurt and cereal, since it’s much cheaper than room service or buying from a hotel cafe.
- “Do a little research about the area you’re staying in. Try and find the vegetarian and vegan restaurants, even if you’re not a vegan or vegetarian — they usually have BETTER options!” – Bobbi, NHerShoes
- Choose salads, grilled or sauteed lean protein with a side of vegetables, whole grains, etc. as often as possible. Split desserts, and avoid gorging on appetizers or bread before your meal.
- Obviously, if you’re in Chicago, you’re going to get deep-dish pizza and if you’re going to New Orleans, you’re not leaving without a beignet or three (unfortunately I am going to neither of these places — who wants to send me there?). Definitely partake and enjoy, but the key is moderation. One slice of deep-dish is more than enough; you don’t need seven on your three-day trip. *I struggle mightily with this, but will be trying my hardest while in Detroit.
- “Stick to sparkling water and lime.” – Bobbi, NHerShoes *Booze is a real diet killer, both because of the calories in the alcohol and the calories in the drunk pizza/burger/gyro/french fries/cake/ice cream that comes along with it. I’m a poster child for drinking a day’s worth of calories in a few hours, so this will be a big challenge for me. We’ll see how it goes …
On Staying Active While On Vacation
- “Work out every day in some way while on your vacation. Wake up 30 minutes early and go for a brisk walk — it’s the most peaceful time of the day and a great way to see the sights around you when it’s not crowded. Take the stairs whenever possible. Jump in the pool with your kids and swim or tread water. Choose a hotel with a free fitness center. Plan active things to do. Talk to the concierge and choose activities that keep your body moving rather than the more sedentary alternatives — for example, hike rather than choosing the Segway tour.” – Courtney, The Naked Avocado
- Running is a great way to explore a new city while also getting in a workout. Find local running routes or trails, or reach out to local running groups to see if there are any get-togethers while you’re in town.
- “Save space to pack workout clothes: a top, shorts, sports bra and shoes really don’t take up that much room. I always tuck socks into my shoes as well.” – Mellissa, A Fit and Spicy Life
- I like to find local gyms and yoga studios online, to see what classes are available while I’m in town and what their drop-in policies are. I dragged my sister to a hot yoga class while in Pittsburgh and made my cousin take me to his gym in Connecticut during my weekend there, and of course I always hit up our local yoga studio when I’m home in Maryland.
- “Use an online workout service or bring a workout DVD to use on your laptop when in hotel rooms. Most hotels aren’t known for their fantastic gyms!” – Mellissa, A Fit and Spicy Life
Bottom line: when in doubt, try to eat whole foods whenever possible and stay as active as you can. Vacation is a time to relax and enjoy new experiences, so don’t stress over calorie counts and meal points — just stick to reasonable portion sizes and enjoy your meal!
What are your tips for eating healthy while traveling?