Traveling, whether for business or pleasure, can be a fun opportunity to see a new part of the world, enjoy new cultures, and have a break from our normal routine. Unfortunately, a lot of my clients become anxious when they have to travel because they worry about eating healthfully or fear they will get sick while on their trip. I've had to travel a lot for work recently, so I wanted to share some of my tips and tricks for healthy traveling.
When it comes to eating while traveling, here are the major guidelines that come from the intuitive eating philosophy (HINT: they still apply while you're in your hometown!):
1. Eat when you're truly hungry. Don't wait too long to eat for fear that you "shouldn't be hungry" or "shouldn't eat." Hunger is your body's internal mechanism that signals that your metabolism is humming and that you need fuel. Most people naturally get hungry every 3-4 hours, but for some people it's more or less time. This is why it's so important to bring snacks on trips!
2. Stop eating when you're comfortably full. It's true, I probably won't have many opportunities to eat Maryland crab cakes, but it doesn't mean I have to gorge myself on them when I have the chance. Fullness is our body's way of saying it has had enough. How else would we know when to stop, right? If you're eating slowly and mindfully and you choose foods you really enjoy (see below), eating until comfortable fullness is usually not difficult, though it does take practice if it's not what you're used to. And those crab cakes? I can usually take them to go and have them at my next meal if I want to. It's not worth the resultant stomach ache and heartburn...I want to enjoy myself, after all!
3. Choose foods you truly enjoy that satisfy you. Does this mean that you'll eat cookies and cake all day long? You could, but you would probably not feel well. Becoming an intuitive eater means listening to your taste buds AND your body, trying to pay close attention to how food satisfies you. Most people cannot thrive on "junk" food alone, but it doesn't mean that on the flip side we have to eat all "healthy" food to be truly healthy. It's all about balancing what our body needs and what our tastes buds crave. In general, aim for healthful foods most of the time and "play" foods some of the time.
4. Eat slowly and mindfully, paying attention to each bite. This is probably the hardest guideline of intuitive or mindful eating, but it might be the most important. The more attention we give to food as we eat it, the more satisfying, tasty, and filling it is. Think about it - have you ever found yourself at the bottom of a bag of chips or a pint of ice cream wondering who ate it all...and it was you? When our minds are not engaged in the eating process, we don't sense hunger or satisfaction very well. When we are truly in tune with how food is tasting and feeling on our bodies, we tend to eat less, enjoy each bite more, and even crave healthier foods.
With all this said, while traveling it's extremely important to be prepared and take care of yourself. You don't want to succumb to an illness brought on by a germ-filled plane and ruin your trip. Additionally, trying to sneak in healthful foods, along with the fun, new foods of your travel destination, helps you feel great while enjoying your trip. Exercise is always important too, but don't get too hard on yourself if you struggle to fit it in. Simply try to walk more, use the stairs, and enjoy your new scenery as much as possible!
Since I have been traveling a lot for work, I have developed somewhat of a system. The hotel that I have been staying in has a full kitchen and laundry machines in each room, plus a gym on the property. During this last trip I traveled alone and didn't want to leave at night for dinner, so I ended up buying supplies for my little kitchen and eating everything from there. This is an unusual circumstance, I know, but I wanted to show you that it can be done!
Here are some things that I have been doing during my travels. Hopefully you can glean some helpful information from my experiences. Of course, you might find that you have lots of business dinners or special meals while on your trips. If this is the case, remember to eat mindfully and enjoy every bite!
Be prepared! Bring snacks on the plane in case you don't get a chance to eat (or if you fly an airline that doesn't serve food, which is almost all of them these days). I like to pack fruit, nuts, Lara bars, and Skinny Crisps, which are gluten-free nut-based crackers. Don't forget some Emergen-C for the plane!
Don't forget the water! Southwest gives water in cans on their planes. Even though I buy water in advance, I usually go through more than a bottle on a five hour flight. When they serve beverages, I order two cans of water and drink straight from the can or in a cup without ice. Air travel can be extremely dehydrating, so drink up...and sit in an aisle seat for bathroom breaks!
Build up your immune system! Traveling often requires early mornings, late nights, stress, and germ-filled, cramped environments. Give your system a boost with vitamin C, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin D, and other immune enhancing herbs. I like Emergen-C packs for traveling. I keep Starbucks cups (after finishing my tea) to get my C boost without having to flavor my entire water bottle.
Grab healthy meals when you can! Since most business trips or vacations involve fancy or rich meals, try to add some balance with soup and salad or a sandwich. This was from Whole Foods.
Shop for your hotel! Again, I was eating all of my meals at my hotel and had a big refrigerator, so I was able to buy a week's worth of groceries. Even if you can't store a lot of foods, at least you can pick up some fruit, water, or snacks so at least you have options and don't have to resort to vending machine food.
Fit in exercise where and when you can! Whether it's at the hotel gym...
...your hotel room...
(I take P90X and Insanity DVDs to do in my room):
(watching from my laptop):
...or you take the stairs!
Happy, healthy travels!