5 tips for eating healthy while traveling

HealthyTravelEatingRTFVacations are our excuse to cut loose from our routine diets. That’s the fun of it, right? Enjoying local specialties, desserts and drinks is a big part of exploring new places.

But what about eating on the way there and back? We often make due with ultra-processed gas station fare, overpriced airport snacks, or whichever fast food joint is closest to the offramp – the kind of meals that leave us dying of thirst in the car, or seriously considering our belt extender options on the connecting flight.

We can do better. But it takes some planning. Here are five tips for doing travel eating right from the registered dietitians at Ohio State's Health and Fitness Center in New Albany, Ohio:

1. Plan healthy stops on your route.

Before you grab your keys or book your hotel, reach for your smartphone and check your favorite mapping and restaurant review apps. Search phrases that are important to you, like “vegan,” “gluten-free,” “grain-fed,” or “fresh produce.” Knowing when and where grocery stores or healthy restaurants are coming up will help you avoid a bacon-double disaster. If you’re taking to the skies, prepare for layovers by previewing airport fare – a turkey sandwich or salad may lie just beyond that giant cinnamon roll.

2. Pack nutrient-dense snacks.

Throw a variety of easily portable, non-perishable items in your car or carry-on. Choose foods that give you the most nutritional bang for your calorie buck – think dried fruits and meats, trail mix with dark chocolate, or raw or unsalted nuts. They easily fit into whatever you’re carrying, keep you feeling fuller longer, and help you stay off the rollercoaster of high-carb, empty-calorie junk food.

3. Don’t leave the fruits and veggies behind. 

A lot of people have the misconception that taking some sliced avocado to the airport will earn them some quiet time with the TSA, but that’s not the case. Solid food items can be carried on the plane or packed with your luggage. Chop them up the night before you leave. Clear containers are helpful, and be sure spills won’t ruin your time or anyone else’s. If foods are perishable, you might want to bring along a cold pack. Get creative! (but be mindful of crunchiness and odor; your neighbors may not appreciate celery or hard-boiled eggs.)

4. Eat a little bit every couple of hours. 

Switching to smaller portions and eating more frequently can help you burn calories more efficiently. You’ve already been sitting for hours in the car or plane, so eating light and often can help keep what you’re eating from turning into stored fat. Big meals can also make you feel tired, which isn’t great when you’ve got four more hours behind the wheel.

5. Drink water. 

We get it. You don’t want to stop the car again, or maybe airplane restrooms aren’t your style, but staying hydrated – an 8 oz. glass of water every hour or two – can actually help reduce cravings and keep you feeling good. And if you’re on the way home, water is an excellent way to get your body back into a routine.

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