The 2022 holiday season is in full swing, which means traveling for many. Traveling can present a challenge in maintaining nutrition and fitness habits and disrupt the body’s sleep and digestive processes due to a change in routine, different foods, and time changes. Not supporting your body with good nutrition and food choices can only add to travel exhaustion.
Here are some tips for avoiding common travel food mistakes and making healthy eating choices.
Common food mistakes people make when traveling.1) Going Too Long Without Eating
The hectic nature of travel can cause us to put off eating for too long. So if you’re feeling hungry but plan to grab something on your next layover or wait until you get to the next town, you may want to rethink that.
Going too long without eating can cause your blood sugar to fall, leading to hypoglycemia. Anyone can experience this, even if you don’t have a condition like diabetes. Hangry is for real!
2) Relying on Processed Convenience Snacks
Food options at airports, gas stations, and convenience stores are limited and, while easy to pack into your carry-on bag, tend to be highly processed, high in sodium and added sugars, and low in nutrients.
3) Not Drinking Enough Water
When rushing around, it can be hard to remember to drink water. It can also be difficult because you can only bring small amounts of fluids through airport security. Travel can also make you dehydrated, especially when spending time in the dry air of an aircraft cabin.
4) Drinking More Caffeine & Alcohol
Sometimes, you may need an extra push from caffeine to make it through a stressful travel experience. But if caffeine is being used to “replace” the food you didn’t have time to eat or the water you didn’t drink, you might want to consider whether or not you are nourishing yourself properly. Some studies also show that caffeine may enhance your stress response and increase the stress hormone cortisol levels. Researchers have long known that alcohol can lead to more dehydration and bad food choices. Airplane and airport coffee and alcohol is overpriced and usually poor quality anyway. Not worth it!
Healthy Travel Checklist For Flying
When it comes to flying, you might underestimate what you can bring with you on the plane. Food is allowed on planes, so pack snacks and even some "mini meals.”
The foods you bring will likely be healthier (and cheaper) than most things you'll find at the airport. Plus, if your flight is delayed or you're stuck in a terminal section with bad food choices, you won't have to worry because you'll already have everything you need.
Whether you’re packing food to bring with you or choosing from the available airport options, here are some tips and tricks for making your next flight a lot healthier.
1) Plan Snacks Ahead
Pack some TSA-friendly whole food-based protein-rich snacks. A little can go a long way! Here are some nutritious snack ideas that don’t require refrigeration:
Roasted chickpeas or edamame
Assorted nuts to munch on (such as almonds, walnuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds)
Pack some portable fresh fruits like apples and bananas, for hydrating, low glycemic carbohydrates to accompany your favorite high-protein snacks
Brown rice cakes and packets of nut butter (such as peanut butter or almond butter) to spread on top
A low-sugar protein bar (I like Rx or Think Thin bars in a pinch)
Safe Catch seafood pouches
2) Bring an Empty Water Bottle
Though you can’t bring a full bottle with you when you go through security, you can fill your water bottle up when you get through your checkpoint. A liter-sized water bottle will allow you to stock up on water before you even board your flight.
3) Make Healthier Choices at the Airport
If you were unable to plan ahead and are looking for food at the airport, here are some tips to keep in mind:
Watch out for descriptive words like "fried," "battered," "creamed" and "breaded." Instead, choose foods that are "grilled," "baked," "roasted," "poached," or "steamed."
Reach for protein first. Simple baked or grilled portions of meat, seafood, or tofu can be a good place to start. Wrapping your burger in a lettuce wrap instead of a processed flour bun is a great way to avoid refined carbohydrates.
Try to get sauces or dressings on the side and use smaller amounts, especially if they contain added sugar.
Pack some napkins and any utensils you need before boarding your plane. Then you’re all set to relax and enjoy the food you brought aboard!
Flying and driving share many common food-related stressors and challenges. However, when driving, sometimes we have a little more freedom regarding what we can pack, making it a little easier to stock up on healthy road trip snacks.
Here are ideas to consider for your next road trip:
1) Bring a cooler with some ice or ice packs. In addition to the suggestions above, try adding these ideas:
Plain Greek yogurt or string cheese
Pre-made hard-boiled eggs
Uncured deli meat “roll-ups” with sliced cucumber, sliced bell pepper, dijon mustard, sliced avocado, and a squeeze of lemon juice inside
Protein with sliced avocado. Season your avocado with salt, pepper, lemon juice, bagel seasoning, or anything you like!
Hummus with sliced cucumbers, baby carrots, or celery sticks as dippers
Pre-made wraps with gluten-free or low-carb tortillas, fresh lettuces, chopped veggies of your choice, and some meat, seafood, or tofu for protein.
Bring Extra Water. It's always a good idea to have your regular reusable water bottle in tow, and keeping an extra gallon or two of water to fill it up during a long trip saves money and lessens excessive plastic waste from plastic water bottles.
Healthier Fast Food Options
If you’re out of the options you brought and you’re grabbing something from a restaurant or fast food stop, there are some relatively healthier options you might want to try out.
Subway No-Bread Bowls. These usually have a nice amount of protein and veggies with fewer processed carbs and sugar than an entire Subway sandwich.
Chick-fil-A Grilled Chicken Nuggets. These are grilled instead of fried, which can cut down on extra oil.
Chipotle Salad Bowls or “Lifestyle Bowls”
Starbucks Spinach Feta Wrap – This high-protein grab-and-go has a healthy veggie and egg-white filling inside a whole grain tortilla.
Panera Smoked Turkey Breast Sandwich – Order from the “You Pick Two” menu to try a half sandwich and a small salad for plenty of protein and fiber.
Wendy’s Power Mediterranean Chicken Salad (half) + Small Chili – This salad-soup combo is high in protein and fiber and a smart choice for a quick meal any time.
When You Arrive at Your Destination
It’s not a bad idea to take a peek at what food availability is like at your destination. Will there be grocery stores around that have what you need? Will you have access to a kitchen or kitchenette where you’re staying? Having a game plan before you embark can help ease the stress once you arrive.
Bonus points: bring your regular supplements with you (I use mini zip lock bags marked AM or PM.
Pro tips: Plan to have veggies and protein with every meal, drink a glass of water between alcoholic beverages, and choose which holiday treats you love the most. Skip things that aren’t as satisfying. That way, you won’t feel you “went off the wagon” come January. An 80/20 approach is far more enjoyable and sustainable.
Enjoy this time of year, and don’t forget to keep moving!