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The Traveler’s Guide to Healthy Eating

Feb 17 2021
6 min read
Close-up of hand spooning quinoa out of metal lunch tin.

Traveling, whether for fun or business, is easier and more productive when you are at the top of your game.

Eating well plays a big part in feeling your best, but many aspects of being away from home can interfere with your efforts. Airport food courts filled with less-than-ideal choices, disrupted dining and sleeping schedules, vacations seemingly centered around eating — even the most dedicated individuals can find their healthy eating habits quickly derailed.

The best travel guides tell you where to stay, which sights you can’t miss, and the best way to get around town. They help you feel confident and prepared to visit a new place. You refer to them often, sometimes marking up the pages. We want this article to be just as useful. Consider it your guide to navigating the landscape of eating while in the air, on the road, or on a ship so you can enjoy your travels without sacrificing your energy and well-being.

Attention All Travelers

The challenges you face can differ depending on how you’re traveling. But these three tips apply across the board and are often forgotten.

  • Eat breakfast. There are many simple, on-the-go options that can help you keep the first meal of your day a healthy one.

  • Eat a snack or meal every three to four hours during the day. This will keep your blood sugar levels stable and prevent the overeating that comes from being too hungry.

  • Eat light while you are en route. Heavy or large meals can lead to fatigue and aren’t consistent with healthy eating on the road or at home. Save your splurges for when you’ll really savor them.

If You’re Flying

Air travel poses a series of challenges to healthy eating. You may not have had the time or appetite to eat before you left home, you’re bombarded with unhealthy options at the airport and on the plane, and it’s easy to get dehydrated. Here are some simple solutions:

  • Choose the best of airport food.
  • Try to avoid the usual (less-than-healthy) suspects: alluring cinnamon rolls, large fancy coffee drinks, pizza, chips, and burgers. When you don’t have time to pack your own food, look for options like a whole-grain bagel, oatmeal with toppings, salads, fruit, and yogurt.

Pack your own snacks.

  • Even peanuts and pretzels have disappeared from most short flights, but you can stay nourished with:

  • Fresh fruit: Sturdy options like apples can go right in your bag. Cut up pieces of fruit travel well in plastic bags or containers.

  • Nuts and dried fruit: Both are calorie and nutrient dense, so they help you feel full longer. Pack them separately, purchase a high-quality fruit and nut bar, or make your own trail mix.

  • A sandwich or wrap on whole-grain bread or a tortilla.

  • Small bags of healthy snacks like kale chips, whole-grain crackers, or freeze-dried vegetables.

Stay hydrated.

  • Due to the plane’s circulating dry air, flying can lead to dehydration. Avoid it by:

  • Choosing water, tea, or 100% juice (you can water your juice down to limit calories). Avoid soda, coffee, and alcohol while in the air.

  • Bringing an empty water bottle in your carry-on bag and filling it after you go through security. Or buying bottled water at the airport.

  • Packing tea bags in your favorite flavors and using airline hot water to brew them on board.

  • Putting a few slices of fresh ginger in an insulated travel mug and
    filling it with hot water after security for a soothing ginger tea.

Stock your hotel room.

  • Once you arrive at your destination, plan ahead to ensure you have something healthy to eat on hand.

  • Pick up some fresh fruit for your room. Bars, trail mix, and nuts are also great options.

  • If you have a refrigerator, stock it with yogurt, fruit juice (again, water it down), hummus, and hard-boiled eggs.

  • Hotel breakfast buffets usually have some simple, healthy choices like bran cereal, whole-grain bagels, and hard-boiled eggs. Avoid the pastries.

If You’re Road Tripping

Part of the fun of a road trip is exploring local food, but travelers often find themselves stopping at fast food chains or convenience stores to grab a burger or candy bar. To avoid that:

  • Invest in a small cooler. Pack it with homemade sandwiches, hummus, raw veggies, fresh fruit, and yogurt. Use frozen ice packs or frozen water bottles to keep the contents cool.

  • Carry healthy snack foods. Nuts, dried fruit, trail mix, and bars are good options.

  • Schedule some stops. Rather than snacking while you drive or ride, pull over for a quick meal. Plus, you’ll get to walk around and stretch your legs.

If You’re Cruising

The biggest temptation on a cruise ship is the overwhelming abundance of food. But there are ways around the indulgence:

  • Decide before you board. Commit to eating in a healthy way from the beginning. Find a buddy who wants to do the same and spend mealtimes together when you can.

  • Have a nutritious breakfast. Keep it light.

  • Opt for a lighter meal and a larger meal each day. It may be easier to make lunch your light meal, but a light dinner is also possible.

  • Take advantage of the healthier dining options. Many cruise lines are offering lighter meals in response to travelers’ demands.

Don’t let traveling derail the healthy habits you have worked so hard to establish. For example, if you eat three meals and two snacks at home every three to four hours, continue to do so while you’re traveling. This will help with your transition once your vacation is over, so you don’t have to start fresh with eating healthy every time you travel. You may not eat the exact same foods while traveling, but at least try to keep your habits consistent.

Bon voyage!