I travel a lot for my work. During July and August, I was on an airplane every week traveling from Hawaii to Nova Scotia, to California, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, California, Illinois, Tennessee, New York, and back to Nova Scotia. In the world of many business travelers, this is not uncommon. Sadly, I see so many who are sleep deprived, drink too much, eat bad food, don’t get to exercise, and generally are a mess. I can relate. Without a plan to survive, a mess is inevitable. My health is important to me, so I have a few tips that might help. This advice is for the serious traveler, whose food situation cannot be solved by packing and toting. I would have to pack the whole kitchen and bring along the fridge to make this “perfect”, but it isn’t perfect, and I have to make some compromises, but it is the best I can do.
To eat healthy on the road requires planning. Without planning, I end up starving and have no recourse other than to grab whatever is available. Let’s start with breakfast. It can be a challenge, depending on how early I have to head out, but I must start with a good breakfast, or it all goes downhill fast. If I won’t be able to get breakfast before I leave, then I will usually pack food from home. In most cities, I can get an omelet with plenty of veggies and greens. This works well for me. Another option is to head to a Mexican place and get steak, eggs, and refried beans. Another good choice is Greek yogurt with real fruit. Sometimes I order something to-go from the restaurant I ate at the night before, and eat it or pack it up for breakfast. People look at me a little odd when I break out the steak and asparagus, but it is much much better than any other quick food options.
Lunch or dinner in an airport is easier because there are normally many restaurants open, and I can make lots of things work. Here are my normal “go to” choices. If sushi is possible, then I often will grab that. Lots of my friends joke with me that sushi is the last thing they would be buying in an airport and taking on a plane. I have no problems with it! Another good choice is Chilis. I know that sounds a little like a fast food disaster, but they have a salmon option that I order with broccoli as a side, and even a salad if I am super hungry. Not perfect, but it is ok. If I am in Charlotte, the BBQ place in the uptown Atrium area is good because you can get roasted chicken and collard greens!
If the worst case happens, and you are stuck on a flight, missed breakfast, and it is still 3 more hours to Phoenix, your options are really limited. I have found one slightly nutritious thing you can buy on a flight: the fruit and cheese plate. This has about 4 types of cheeses, some mixed nuts, and some grapes. That holds me over for about 1 hour, but it is better than starving. Oh, be prepared to mortgage your house in order to purchase it. Also, if you are in the back of the plane, you won’t be getting it because there won’t be any left. Best to plan ahead and not be at the mercy of the airlines. I vote for sushi, some nuts and a big container of water. Replace the sushi with a to-go box from last night if you need to.
If I am at a business meal, choices are easier. Just order fish, chicken, or steak and veggies. Include a salad if you want. I used to just eat the salad and skip the other things, but found that if I only eat salad, then I quickly get hungry and am perusing the snack table in the conference room, that has nothing I should eat! Better to go ahead and eat a complete meal. Skip or limit the alcohol, and skip the desert. Drink lots and lots of unsweet tea or water. You might not see exactly what you want on the menu, so you may have to special order it. I do it all the time and 99% of the time the chef comes up with something just fine. I have a bit of a reputation as a strange foodie with my coworkers for all this trouble, but that’s ok. I travel so much, that if I am not a little high maintenance about it, then my health and weight will quickly suffer.
What about getting in a workout? Well, I have given up on getting my normal work out in, and just try to be ok with getting ANY type of exercise in. When traveling, I am often tired, in another time zone, need to meet someone early in the morning, and can’t fit in my normal routine. I find if I go into it with the criteria that I need 40 minutes of cardio, followed by a half hour of weights, then it just gets overwhelming, and I end up doing nothing. If I go into it with the criteria that I will be happy to do anything, just move, then it is easier to get motivated. I normally will head down to the hotel gym and spend a little time on the treadmill. Sometimes I swim some laps if the pool is good. Often, I just lift weights because I like that best. If the weather is nice and it is safe, I will walk around the town I am visiting. The key is to just move. Don’t get too hung up on it having to be some type of super serious workout. Save that for when you get home. Just do something. Anything.
How about sleep and time zone changes? This is really hard to manage. I try as much as possible to get 8 hours, whatever it takes. I am the party pooper who leaves right after dinner and heads up to bed. I never go out for drinks or to a bar while traveling. I try not to drink at all, because alcohol and staying up late are the enemies of good rest. Not to mention that no good comes from being out partying without my sweet husband. I value that relationship too much to compromise it. Off to bed early is my philosophy. My body and marriage thank me for it.
I know this whole traveling thing is not perfect. It is likely that none of the food is organic. I’m not sure if the eggs are even eggs! What type of oil is that? Is there sugar in that dressing? Was that real butter? What types of chemicals are in that bacon? What are those almonds roasted in? I’m pretty sure that someone snuck some MSG in there somewhere. Heaven forbid I have to eat a rubber omelet from the Hampton. I just limp by as best as possible, and try to not go off the rails too badly.
Eat your veggies. Even when traveling,