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  • Writer's pictureJodi Forestell CHN. NNCP

10 Tips on how to Maximize Nutrition While Traveling

Updated: May 1

You work hard for your vacation time. And I bet you deserve it as well. So it's totally understandable that you might gain a bit of weight because of the 'throw-dietary-caution-to-the-wind-and-indulge' mentality. Local cheese laden dishes, decadent desserts, perhaps a fun cocktail (with an umbrella of course)...oh my! And then you return home and those jeans aren't zipping up quite as easily as they normally do. Ugh.

If the idea of going on vacation brings both relief AND the dread of knowing that you’ll fall off the wagon for your healthful habits, you’re not alone. But there are things you can do to to make your trip amazing and help you transition back to ‘real-life’ more smoothly.

As a nutritionist,  I can get a bit stressed about food when traveling. I worry about sending my digestive system into a tailspin when away from home and my regular routine. Believe me, I get that eating healthfully while traveling and making food choices that support your goals can feel like no fun and a daunting task. But it is possible to eat healthy while away from home. It comes down to a balance between what kind of experience you want to have on your trip and what kind of tradeoffs you are okay with making in regard to your goals. 

I have 10 tips you can implement so you can eat without feeling restricted or guilty whether you’re on a vacation. You’ve already done a bunch of work for your trip: you've gotten vaccinations, bought new gear, researched day-trips and have multiple to-do lists started so you can get the most out of this holiday. So why not add a few things to keep your body well-fuelled and ready for adventure while you’re at it?

1. Start Your Day with Breakfast

Eating a healthy breakfast can help you to meet your nutrient needs. Starting the day with a breakfast that is packed with protein and fibre will fuel your day well.  Hard-boiled eggs, oatmeal, whole fruit, unsweetened greek yogurt, whole-grain granola are all great options.

2. Balance Your Meals

Do your best to choose meals that include a balance of lean protein, fibre-rich carbohydrates, and vegetables. This will help you get a variety of nutrients and feel  satisfied. Opting for grilled, steamed or baked dishes rather than fried ones will help to reduce unhealthy fats. Don’t be shy about loading up on veggies in salads, side dishes or part of your main course.

3. Prioritize Protein

Protein helps to keep you satisfied, so it’s a must for warding off hunger while traveling. Getting enough protein will help you find nutritional balance, even if you decide to go for that extra cocktail or dessert. 

Packing protein powder and a blender bottle makes it easy to make shakes on-the-go in a pinch. I never travel without my favourite protein powder.

4. Veggies at Every Meal Please

No matter where you're eating while you travel, try to make at least half of what you eat vegetables. This trick works especially well at buffets, where the food isn't always of the finest quality, so you don't have to worry about missing out on a local delicious dish by adding some vegetables on the side.

5. Have a Restaurant Plan

Traveling usually involves eating out more frequently than you normally do. It is still possible to eat healthy when dining out as long as you know what to order. Check out the menu at any restaurants you plan on visiting during your trip to plan out meals in advance. A salad with lean protein, like grilled chicken is almost always an option (just get the dressing on the side). A sandwich on whole-wheat bread with lean protein plus a side salad is also a good option.

6. Don’t Fear Fast Food

No matter how carefully you plan your travel eating strategy, there’s always a chance you’ll end up at an airport or rest stop with only fast-food restaurants. This doesn’t mean all is lost. Wendy’s for example has baked potatoes with broccoli, just skip the cheese sauce. And most fast food restaurants have a salad option. Watch the dressing and the croutons because that is where excess calories come in. If you’re in a pinch, get a grilled chicken sandwich and take off the top bun or even get a single burger with extra pickles, lettuce, and tomato. Skip the fries and soda, and you’ll be in pretty good shape.

7. Eat Mindfully

Even if you can’t choose what’s on your plate at a client dinner or prix fixe restaurant meal, you can still be mindful of your hunger levels. When you sit down at the table, pause and think: “On a scale of one to 10, how hungry am I?” Put a number to that hunger, and let that inform your eating even if you don’t have control over the food options themselves. Eating mindfully instead of going on autopilot when your meal arrives, is practicing a skill that’ll have a big impact on your goals. Your body is very wise and intelligent, honour it by learning to listen to it’s signals.

8. Pack Snacks

Packing snacks is the key to keeping your nutrition in check while you're traveling. Stocking up on non-perishable snacks (that are also TSA-approved, in case you're flying) like dried nuts, protein bars, and jerky. Staying ahead of hunger with these quick bites helps you to make healthier food choices throughout the rest of the trip. Plan accordingly, and divide big bags of things like nuts or beef jerky into single servings so that you don't accidentally eat through your stash before the trip is over. 

9. Take a Reusable Water Bottle

Staying hydrated is crucial. It helps to maintain energy levels, supports immune function, and aids healthy digestion. Pack a reusable water bottle that you can refill at the airport, restaurants, and when you reach your destination. Aim to opt for water as your go-to beverage when you can. It doesn’t contain any added sugar, which many other drinks do. Limit caffeine and alcohol as much as you can since they interfere with your sleep are both are dehydrating. (Bonus…it will save you money and it’s better for the environment).

10. Enjoy Yourself!

These tips can help you feel your best when traveling. But there’s something to be said for indulging a little bit and not getting caught up in diet culture. Traveling is an excellent opportunity to experience food and cuisine that you may not get to try otherwise.

An underestimated way to reduce your stress levels is to accept that your diet on vacation may look different from your usual pattern. You can always get back on track when you get home. After all, building room for foods you enjoy without guilt is a hallmark of a sustainable diet.

In conclusion, you don’t need to be overly regimented or deny yourself simple pleasures, but you also shouldn’t take a let-it-all-go perspective during your vacation. And when you return home, you can use many of these strategies to transition back into real life. Wherever and however you vacation — have a happy, safe, enjoyable time!


Need more support around feeling like your best self holistically and naturally?

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