Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Nutrition While Traveling

I love food. Love love love food. My travel weakness is going all out and eating everything that sounds good at the time.  It happens every year...and every year I have a rude awakening that makes me reevaluate what I am eating.

Let's start with the why.  Why does it matter what I eat while I am traveling? The first year I traveled for work I was convinced I was going to gain a ton of weight from eating out all the time.  Two important life lessons came from that. The first was that it was exhausting and frustrating to try to count calories while also working crazy hours and going from place to place. The second was that, after I gave up tracking it and started to just eat what sounded good, I actually lost weight.  Depending on your reason for travel this may or may not be the case for you.  In the office I usually sit still all day, on the road I am on my feet all the time. having discovered these things, I paid a little less attention to what I was eating.  Then it comes to the real why.  At home I am not a perfect eater, but I try to eat pretty clean and healthy meals most of the time.  The food that is sometimes provided and other times just easiest to get does not usually match up to that eating approach. Last week I kept going to fairs that fed us...lasagna, Chik-fil-a, greasy garlic bread galore.  I loved it and it all tasted so good.  And I figured I was running enough I deserve a few goodies now and then.  The problem really was that my stomach didn't know how to handle these foods. I was in pain and miserable. This is probably way more information than you want to know, but I was getting acid reflux like crazy and I was convinced I was going to get sick during some of my college fairs.  I took a day to really focus on eating things that I woud normally eat at home. I avoided anything greasy or fried. And by the next morning all my problems were gone. Ok, at least the ones involving my tummy.

The point I am trying to make, is that eating well is going to play a huge part in how you feel both at home and while traveling. It's just a bit more challenging when you are away from your usual food sources.

10 Tips for eating healthy while traveling:

1) Balance. Just like every other part of staying healthy, balance is key. If your friends/family want to go out to get ice cream or pie, you don't have to deny yourself.  It won't make you happy in the long run. That said, if they are eating pie and ice cream for every meal you should probably opt out of a few trips or your stomach might not agree with you.  I try to keep y meals simple and healthy for mot of the day, then have one indulgent meal.  Some days you won't feel like there is anything all that tempting, some days there will be multiple meals that sound great.  As long as you can find the balance that keeps you feeling good, embrace it.
If there's a diet that doesn't include Cowfish I don't want it!

2) Find your "safe" restaurants. I love Panera and the Whole Foods salad bar.  When I go to either of those I can find something that is delicious and will keep me full without the stomach churning grease and such. When I start to feel like I have overdone it, I will go to these places and it helps me get back to feeling well.

3) Embrace the grocery store.  The other day my lunch was yogurt, and apple, tea, banana chips and crackers.  Does it sound exciting? No. But it is what I would be eating at home and it had the nutrients I needed.

4) Keep snacks in your car/purse/fannypack(?). I have snacks on me at all times.  I can be driving somewhere and get so hungry I will pull over at the nearest gas station/McDonalds/anything I see to get food. And decisions made while hungry are usually not healthy. I usually just aim for whatever looks like it will fill me up. When I am in my office I pretty much snack all day, so having food with me helps avoid the hunger panic that sets in when I really really want food and have nothing on me.

5) Stay hydrated. This is another thing I am great at in the office and terrible at when I travel. And as we have all been told a million times, being dehydrated can feel like being hungry.

6) Watch out for sneaky bad foods.  I drink a lot of coffee on the road, but after reading all the things that are in a pumpkin spice latte, I do a lot more research on my coffee choices. I am a nerd so I enjoy researching things anyway, but I really do find it important to know that the "healthy" foods I am choosing while out and about are as healthy as they sound.

7) Do your research before leaving home. I like to find any local restaurants specializing in healthy foods.  I also like to find out which regional dishes I really have to try.  This way I can better plan out what I will eat when.
Shrimp and grits were a must in Charleston

8) Yelp is your friend.  If you don't do your research ahead of time, or you are like me and leave the research sitting on your desk/couch/binder at home, it is a great way to see the reviews of what is near you. And menus. I like to know what I am walking in to before I get there.

9) Track your macros if it helps.  If I feel like I need to get back on track I will track what I eat. I don't worry about tracking perfectly, I just aim to get close to the right percentage of carbs, protein, and fats.

10) Keep it fun! I "treat" myself to the healthy foods I usually don't buy for myself at home.  Again, the salad bar at Whole Foods and delicious (nutritious) smoothies. Also the kombucha teas with chia seeds.  Usually these are above my budget at home, but they are ofter cheaper than eating out.  The basic idea is to get the healthy foods you think of as a special occasion food.

So there you have it, ten tips for keeping your healthy eating happening while traveling...at least in my own humble little opinion!

Hope you have a splendid Tuesday!

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