This blog post was written by Kristen Peairs, Nutritionist and Meditation Guru at Nivati. You can see more of their content on the Nivat platform and on the Nivati blog. If you want to learn more about Nivati, click here.
When traveling is added into the mix of our lives, healthy eating habits can be easy to leave at home. Unfortunately, the cost of this behavior can be mountainous depending upon what we consume and the pre-existing health conditions we have.
Diabetes, food allergies, and food intolerances are all health conditions that cannot be ignored. Stepping off the designated eating plan for even a short time can lead to serious illness or even a hospital visit. No one wants to feel worse during or after their travel experience, so it makes sense to take some time to pause and do some planning.
It is possible and often very satisfying to know our health is still being cared for even while we’re on the road. Eating healthy while traveling may take practice, but the benefits of having a mind and body in top form are worth it.
Before we continue, let me provide you with a point to ponder. When a human is stressed, the body naturally craves sugar, salt, and fat. Traveling is inherently stressful, whether for work, fun, or something else. Unfamiliar environments, new people, surprise situations, and different schedules can all add up to a frazzled brain and body that has you reaching for doughnuts, candy, and fried foods.
How can this situation be mitigated? The answer is planning. A little planning can support us in being prepared with snacks in our briefcases as well as a list of convenient and interesting places to procure meals to help us meet our health goals.
Knowing our bodies are going to be craving foods laden with sugar, salt, and/or fat, is powerful. With this knowledge, we can leap ahead of the cravings and create satisfying results for our body and our health.
Also, note that it’s not that we need to entirely forgo unhealthy foods, it’s that we can be prepared and choose the healthy ones first. Once the body has the essence of its craving satisfied, we are more at choice about what we consume next.
How to eat healthy while traveling for work or any other reason is an art. It takes creativity, planning, and sometimes, a bit of intuition. The more we know and pay attention, the more likely we are to make food choices that support our primary health goals.
Antidotes to Roadblocks to Eating Healthy While Traveling
Let’s take a look at some common roadblocks and how to neutralize them.
· Cravings: As I addressed earlier, our bodies are likely to crave sugar, salt, and/or fat when stressed. To head off cravings, choose to eat every 3-4 hours throughout the day. Set a timer on your phone to help you remember to eat. Carry healthy snacks (such as nutrition bars, nuts, or fruit) with you in case you cannot obtain healthy snacks.
· Convenience: Most convenience foods are not aligned with our health goals. To give ourselves more time to find a good place to have a healthy meal, it helps to have snacks available to tide us over.
· Comfort: When in stressful situations, we may crave foods that feel familiar and calming. Often, these foods are full of unhealthy sugar, salt, and fat. Once again, having some familiar and healthy snacks at hand helps reduce the likelihood of over-consuming comfort foods. In this situation, it’s also important to have some additional comfort-creating strategies available. Meditation, exercise, journaling, or napping all qualify as comfort-creating strategies.
· Adventure: Many people believe that staying aligned with a health goal negates the chance to know a new place through its food. This is not true. Health goals just give us a focal point for knowing a place through its food. For example, I eat gluten-free, so when I travel, I always google “gluten-free” restaurants in the area. A list pops up on my phone, and I read through menus and comments to find a place that interests me. If I know I will be too busy to do a search while I’m traveling, I’ll do the search before I leave home.
· Social Pressure: Sometimes we’re afraid of attracting attention by doing something different than everyone else. When we notice that we’re tempted to consume foods that don’t align with our health goals due to feeling social pressure, try placing a hand on your heart or belly and take a few deep breaths. Check-in with yourself and your reason for having the health goal. Feel the benefits of staying aligned with your goal versus going off track. Choose what you want to do and move forward from there.
Additional Tips for Eating Healthy While Traveling for Work or Any Other Reason
The food choices we make to support our health have powerful effects. My best tips for traveling and eating healthy are as follows.
· Know your health goal.
Before you do anything else, become clear on your health goal.
· Purchase and pack your must-have snacks.
Whenever I travel, I know I need to take my favorite nut bars, a bag of dried fruits, and a bag of baked potato chips. These foods provide me with the comfort and security that I will be well-fed until I become oriented in my new location.
· Keep snacks with you at all times.
Whether your snacks consist of bars, popcorn, dried fruits, or nuts, always keep a few of them in your purse, backpack, briefcase, or pockets.
· Send yourself a care package.
For longer trips to areas that don’t provide great options for your dietary preferences, a package of your favorite shelf-stable meals and snacks may be a great option. Most hotels are happy to accept packages for guests who are staying with them.
· Research restaurants that can provide food that meets your dietary needs.
Make a list and take it with you.
· Find a local grocery store.
Healthy snacks are frequently found at grocery stores. Figure out where the best store for you is located and plan to either visit it or have some supplies delivered to you.
· Communicate your needs and preferences to the people you’ll be with.
Regardless of whether you’ll be staying in someone’s home or sharing food with a group, be honest with them about your health goal and what you do and don’t eat. This communication can avoid unnecessary confusion and upset. Having a conversation about how shared meals can work can support the wellness of all involved.
While eating healthy while traveling may seem challenging, with a little forethought and practice, you might be surprised at how rewarding it can be.
For more on healthy eating, check out these blog posts:
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