With a trip planned to NYC this week, it made me think about how difficult it is for many people to stay on track while traveling. It wasn't always so easy for me either. Looking back, I remember a time when I used traveling as a license to throw all the rules of clean eating and exercise out the window. I don't know where this behavioral habit started, but it's like the minute many of us step into the airport, we think we should automatically head to the nearest TGIFriday's for some appetizers or buy a candy bar for the long flight. Road trips can be equally as daunting with the endless stream of fast food restaurants dotting the open highway. It's one thing to enjoy a few treats while you're away experiencing a new place, but it's a whole other thing to make poor choices the entire trip, skip workouts, and come home with a massive food hangover. I'm willing to bet that you're trying to stay on track with living healthy as a true lifestyle and can recognize the importance of having a plan to stay on track while traveling. Failing to plan is planning to fail! So, with that said, I thought I'd share the top 10 things that help me stay on track while traveling.
1) Pack Your Own Food. – Use snack size or sandwich size baggies to make your own portable snack packs. Dry foods are the easiest when flying, but if you are driving, there is even more flexibility to pack a cooler for more variety. Some of my go-to’s while traveling…
- 1 cup dry roasted edamame
- 1/2 cup "Ann's House Good Health Energy Mix"
- 1 cup Kashi cereal, 12 all natural almonds
- 1/2 cup Kashi cereal, .5 oz. raisins, 12 almonds
- Albacore tuna packet w/1 serving crackers or an apple
- Snack size peanut butter snack cup w/1 serving whole grain crackers or an apple
- Protein bars (store bought or homemade)
- Low sugar all natural granola bars
- Protein shake packets...take a portable blender/shaker (can also ask a bartender at your hotel/airport to mix you up a frosty shake and tip them a couple bucks….I do it all the time!)
- Protein Oatmeal (1/2 cup quick oats w/1 scoop whey protein). Take it in a baggie. Order hot tea (for the piping hot 1 cup of water) and ask for a bowl at an airport restaurant or bar. Great for the hotel room too…just use the coffee maker/microwave to make hot water.
*I always take my own packets of Stevia when I travel to add to protein oatmeal and hot tea. I’ve yet to find a restaurant or hotel that offers Stevia (all natural 0 calorie sweetener).
- Peanut butter roll-ups (2 small high fiber tortillas with 2 tbsp. all natural peanut butter)
- Mini soy crisps/rice cakes
- Natural unsalted nuts
2) Always carry a water bottle. It’s important to stay hydrated while traveling, and bringing your own bottle is the best way to do it consistently…and for FREE! Find one (BPA free preferably) that fits conveniently into your purse or carry-on and refill it at the water fountain or cooler time and time again. I like to carry one with a sport top/ Ot’s easy to drink without spillage….plus it just goes down faster...just makes it easier to meet a daily water quota of roughly 1 gallon. You should have a water bottle with you at all times! Don’t leave home without it!
3) Use hand sanitizer. Being in confined places where there is shared air and contact on surfaces increases the potential for getting sick. Wash your hands every chance you get, and use hand sanitizer often. Make it your mission to keep your immune system strong with proper nutrition, and be mindful of protecting yourself from unnecessary exposure to germs. There is nothing like getting sick to throw you of course while traveling. You don’t want to be missing workouts or losing sleep, so stay well and stay on track.
4) Surround yourself with reminders to stay in a healthy mindset. Buy a few fitness magazines to read while away. Print out a few motivational quotes or scriptures to tuck away in your wallet. Write down your current fitness goals or make ones specifically for your travel time and post them on your mirror wherever you’re staying. I never leave home without some good health and fitness reads!
5) Plan ahead for your workout location. Choose a hotel that has a fitness facility or has close proximity to a local gym. Decide ahead of time where you will work out. If you need to a gym pass, get the details ahead of time. If you plan to work out sans gym, plan your workout on paper or on index cards. There’s a lot you can do right in your hotel room with your own body weight!
6) Plan ahead for your workout time. Working out first thing in the morning is a great way to make sure you get your workout in during time away from home. It allows you to take care of business or enjoy your vacation for the rest of the day with your workout already out of the way. It also sets the tone for your day and keeps you in a healthy mindset in a place where you might feel removed from your normal routine. Set out your workout clothes the night before so you can throw them on easily. If you are insistent on being a P.M. workout person, then don’t let the day’s busy activities derail you from getting your activity in. Schedule workout time into your calendar just as you would a meeting, and stick to your schedule!
7) Get in extra activity any place you can. Think creatively about how you can plan things that involve more activity. Take a walk while you’re waiting to board a flight instead of just sitting at the gate. Sign up for a water sport lesson or take a jog instead of just lying on the beach. Take the stairs at the hotel when you aren’t in a rush to be somewhere. If you’re eating out, find somewhere in walking distance and walk there.
8) Perhaps the most important skill you can ever master…Specify how you’d like your meals prepared when dining out. No one can read your mind and know what you’re thinking, so make sure to be clear when ordering and ask what things they might have as healthy options that aren’t necessarily advertised. For example, many hotels and restaurants that offer breakfast don’t even tell you they have egg beaters or egg whites. Don’t be shy…ask and you shall receive! If you see any single ingredient on a menu, it can most often be substituted into another dish. If you want the protein from one dish paired with a side from another and want a different sauce or no sauce at all, then ask for it. They have the ingredients if it’s on the menu, and most times they’re willing to combine the ingredients you want and charge you for a similar meal.
For breakfast try: Egg white omelette (no oil) loaded with veggies and a bowl of plain oatmeal w/cinnamon and walnuts.
For lunch try: Grilled chicken salad with balsamic vinegar and evoo on the side with some whole grain bread or fruit.
For dinner try: Grilled salmon and steamed veggies, no sauce, no butter, side aalad w/ no croutons and no cheese.
9) Have a plan, even if it’s modified from your regular routine and stick to it. As much as I’d like to eat 5 to 6 perfectly clean meals per day while traveling, many times it just doesn’t end up happening. I’ve learned that modifying my plan while traveling to set myself up for success is a better route to go. For example, I shoot for 4 slightly larger meals per day many times while traveling. If I know I’m attending a special event or function on a certain night, I plan that into my week as a “free meal” or as part of a “free day” so that I know ahead of time where I need to be strict with eating and can allow for more wiggle room in others. Having a realistic plan that you can stick to helps you avoid falling into “all or nothing” behaviors and keeps you focused on making it through your travels without coming back feeling like you’ve failed to stay on track.
10) Expect for the unexpected. Every once in while, things might not go according to plan, but that’s part of life. When unexpected occasions arise, allow yourself to enjoy them and then get right back on track. Indulging in an unexpected bite to eat or impromptu glass of wine isn’t the end of the world, but don’t use it as an excuse to go off the deep end for the rest of your travels either. Remind yourself of any priorities and goals for the rest of the day or the following day, and ask yourself how partaking will affect your ability to do those things. Set limits mentally the second you are presented with an unexpected event, and stick to your guns.
Traveling doesn't have to mean you are thrown completely out of your element and routine. A little extra time to set a realistic plan for yourself is all it takes. You'll be able to enjoy your time away, knowing that you are making good choices and staying true to your healthy lifestyle. Even more importantly, if you're traveling with your spouse or children, you can have peace of mind knowing you are setting the example for them to pick up some good travel habits in the process.