It’s no easy task maintaining a healthy diet when travelling, writes Leslie Beck, RD, Director, Food and Nutrition at Medcan and regular Globe and Mail columnist where this article was first published. But with a handful of smart strategies, it’s possible to fuel your body on the road without a surplus of calories. Here’s what Beck suggests:
Whether you’re driving or flying, bring a stockpile of healthy, non-perishable snacks in your briefcase or carry-on bag to fill nutrient gaps and curb hunger when you’re in transit or between meetings. Doing so will help you stay in control of what you eat at lunch and dinner.
Travel-friendly snacks include nuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit (air travel within Canada), 85-g tins of tuna with pull-off tabs, and whole food energy bars (e.g., Larabar, Elevate Me, Taste of Nature, Simply Protein Fruit & Nut).
If you’re doing business on the road, bring a small cooler in your car to keep yogurt, protein shakes and bottled water chilled.
Eat every three hours to feed your brain and avert hunger that can make you reach for the cookie tray during a meeting – or hit a drive-thru on a long car trip.
Drink plenty of water while travelling, especially on long flights. Low humidity and recirculating cabin air can cause dehydration, which zaps your energy and concentration and worsens jet lag. Drink 250 ml of water for every hour of flight. Avoid salty drinks such as tomato and Clamato juices.
Pack a stainless steel water bottle so you can sip on water during the day.
Skipping breakfast sets the stage for hunger and cravings during the day. If ordering from a hotel menu, yogurt, berries and granola, oatmeal, poached eggs on whole grain toast or an egg white omelet with fruit salad are good choices.
If you live out of hotels during the week, bring a supply of unflavoured instant oatmeal for quick in-room breakfasts. To add protein (and calcium), order a latte to go.
At a coffee shop or drive-thru opt for an egg white sandwich, oatmeal topped with dried fruit or nuts, yogurt parfait, whole grain English muffin with peanut butter or a Protein Bistro Box (at Starbuck’s).
Make protein – not carbohydrates – the focus of your meals. Protein-rich foods such as lean meat, chicken breast, fish, egg whites, tofu and Greek yogurt provide tyrosine, an amino acid that prompts the brain to manufacture norepinephrine and dopamine, neurotransmitters that keep you feeling alert.
During an extended stay, ask for a mini fridge in your hotel room. Find a local grocery store so you can stock it with fruit, milk, yogurt, peeled hard-boiled eggs, baby carrots and hummus.
It’s a challenge to get 7 to 10 fruit and vegetables servings while away on business. Pack small baggies of powdered greens (e.g. Vega Protein & Greens, Genuine Health Greens+). Stir two teaspoons into juice, a latte, yogurt or oatmeal.
Drinking caffeinated coffee boosts alertness and mental focus. But caffeine also increases cortisol, a stress hormone that, when chronically elevated, revs up appetite and sugar cravings and triggers fat storage.
Stick to one cup of caffeinated coffee per day. Drink decaf or switch to tea, which has considerably less caffeine than coffee (45 mg versus 100 -175 mg per 8 ounces).
A few cocktails at a client reception or business dinner adds unwanted calories and weakens your resolve to make smart food choices. Alcohol also reduces REM sleep, the deepest stage that’s involved in memory.
At business functions, decide in advance to have only one or two drinks. To keep track, don’t let servers refill a half empty glass.
To make you stop and think about what you’re eating between meetings, track your food intake with an app such as MyFitnessPal, Lose It! or MyNet Diary.
If you travel to the U.S., an app can help you find healthy menu choices at restaurants and airport terminals (e.g. HealthyOut, Find Me Gluten Free, GateGuru).