Whether you are on a business trip in the Middle of Nowhere, U.S.A. and fast food is your most gourmet option, or on your honeymoon in Paris, surrounded by pastries and wine, maintaining a healthy diet while traveling can be difficult and feel impossible. However, we promise, it is not. While balance is essential and there are definitely cases when you absolutely must eat that gelato in Florence, overall, a nutritious diet and optimal health are most important, no matter where we are.
The main places where healthy eating habits go awry while we travel are the airport, the hotel, restaurants and the bar. Do not fear, we have the tips and tricks to keep you on track toward optimal health while you are on vacation without sacrificing your fun.
· Most foods do in fact pass through security, so pack at home. This option will save you money and set you up for success as your temptation to indulge in an unhealthy snack at the convenience store will be eliminated. Fresh fruits and vegetables paired with peanut butter and hummus, unsalted nuts and granola are just some of the many ways you can make sure to keep healthy while flying.
· Finding a healthy pre-flight meal may be difficult. Depending on how much time you have, try and decide whether you really must eat at the airport or if you actually can make something at home and eat before you go! If not, here are some tips to take into consideration when choosing your airport meal.
· Skip the junk food sides like chips or a cookie.
· Flying is already an extremely dehydrating activity so definitely steer clear of salty foods if possible.
· If you are in a rush, do not force the meal down in the five-minute window you are allowed to sit. Bring it on the plane and enjoy it at a normal, relaxed pace.
· Figure out which terminal you will be spending your time in before arriving to the airport and gage what your options will be. This way, you will not feel overwhelmed by the plethora (or lack) of options.
· Try to eat a balanced meal.
· Stay sober and stay hydrated – drink more water than usual if you can.
· If your options are not the best, be prepared for boring. But, this one boring meal is a minor set back compared to the vacation filled with fun and delicious food that awaits.
· Do not waste your calories on liquids – skip the juice. Opt for unsweetened tea, coffee or water instead.
· Walk through without a plate first. This way, you can take into consideration what all of your options are so you can make sure to not get hasty and grab one of everything you see.
· Skip the pastries. Starting the day with sugary carbs filled with empty calories will leave you feeling sluggish and in a bad mood before lunch.
· Take advantage of the fruit. A typical feature of most breakfast buffets is a wide variety of beautiful fruit. Load your plate with as much colorful fruit as you can.
· Choose your spreads wisely. Spread a nut butter on your toast rather than a sugary jam or butter/cream cheese.
· Make sure your grains are whole grains.
· Do not take the term “All You Can Eat” literally.
· If you know you will be eating a heavy dinner, go light at breakfast and lunch. Make sure snacks are light and healthy.
· With modern technology, nearly every menu is on the internet, available for you to read. Make sure to give it a look before going out to eat so you can plan ahead and weigh your options before you get there.
· Either ask the waiter to skip the bread basket or resist your own temptations and skip it yourself.
· When ordering a drink, avoid alcohol. Your best friend is water. However, if you do choose to order alcohol, try to pick a light beer, a glass of wine, a simple martini or a vodka tonic.
· Read between the lines. Steer clear of the words creamy, breaded, crisp, sauced, stuffed, buttery, sautéed, pan-fried and au gratin. These nearly always mean: calories.
· Remember that each meal should be a balanced meal. For a rule of thumb, vegetables should be ¼ of the meal, protein should be ¼ of the meal and grains should be ¼ of the meal (the remaining ¼ is reserved for fruit).
· Add as many vegetables as you can, whenever you can. Order a delicious side of vegetables, a side salad or start with a salad.
· If a meal comes with fries or chips, ask for a healthy side instead.
· Salad Tips - Always ask for dressing on the side and pour with extreme moderation – a little goes along way. Restaurants love to load up on the dressing and it usually packs a lot of calories.
· A fun trick is the fork dip. Simply dip your empty fork into the dressing, then put your fork into the salad. Surprisingly, this provides the perfect amount of dressing for taste and health! Avoid creamy dressings, bacon and other salty meats, croutons and large amounts of cheese.
· Take advantage of the restaurant’s obligation to keep your water glass filled and drink a lot of it. This habit will help you pace yourself throughout the meal.
· Just because a restaurant serves a huge portion does not mean you must eat it all in one sitting.
· Bring leftovers back to the hotel mini fridge and eat them for lunch the next day (money saving).
· Eat slowly. Your brain does not tell your stomach that you are full for twenty minutes. Not only will you end up eating a proper amount, the meal will most likely be more enjoyable as you are not rushing.
· No matter how amazing the crème brulee looks, you can live without it. Skip dessert. You will be happier and healthier for it.
In certain settings, alcohol can be a big part of a vacation, as well as a large hindrance on your health. Always remind yourself that you will have fun if you choose not to drink and prioritize your health. Alcohol is acceptable if consumed responsibly and in moderation.
· Eat food while you drink.
· Take small sips and make the drink last longer.
· Drink a glass of water in between each drink.
· Skip the bar snacks.
· Pre-plan your post-drink meal.
Keeping all of these tips in mind will send you in the right direction. Above all, never take opportunities for granted while traveling. Have fun, indulge when you want to – but in moderation! Happy travels!
- Written my Hub Healthy intern / BU nutrition student Maddie Metzger