How to Eat Healthy While Traveling

Top tips from a health coach for how to eat healthy while traveling. Whether you’re on vacation or traveling for work, these habits will make healthy eating while traveling a breeze. 

I recently received a reader question about how to eat healthy while traveling and I thought this week would be the perfect time to answer his question. That’s right, his question! I have more male readers than just my dad. 🙂

The question: I spend about a week every month in New York for work and my schedule is always bananas. No matter how hard I try, I always end up grabbing the quickest thing possible on the go all day and then I’ve starving by the time I show up to business dinners (my mantra must become stay away from the bread basket, I know your starving, but lay off!). The bad behaviors make it hard to get back on track when I return, too. Any tips on food I can pack/pick up easily that can help me avoid the gross fast food?

I think a lot of people have trouble with finding healthy options because let’s face it, we are surrounded by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that are full of items that are obviously unhealthy and non-nourishing to us. And then there are the items that are marketed as healthy, but are really aren’t (hello, Mcdonald’s oatmeal). It can all be a overwhelming! So what’s a busy traveler to do?

My number one word of advice is to PLAN ahead. Eating healthy on the regular takes a bit of planning and eating healthy while traveling takes even more. Here are some of my go-to tips when I’m going on a trip.

Before you leave home:

  • Pack snacks or meal replacements. Here are a few great ideas: fresh fruit like bananas, apples, and oranges (they’re super portable), oatmeal packets (all you need to add is hot water), nuts, nut butters (some brands offer individual packets), protein bars or fruit and nut bars, raw veggies, sandwiches made at home for the day you’re traveling. If you’re flying and feel like being a rebel you can even try to bring overnight oats – it worked for me.
  • Pack a water bottle and keep it full. Staying hydrated is so important, especially when you’re traveling.
  • Research the area you’ll be staying online. Search for restaurants nearby your hotel, check out the menus online and see which restaurants offer healthy options that look good to you.
  • Check to see where the closest grocery store is. On your first day of a trip go buy some fresh veggies, fruit and other items you can prepare in your hotel. Yogurt is great if you have a mini fridge in your room. I pretty much always look to see if there’s a Whole Foods nearby.
  • Plan/look over your schedule. Make sure you have time to eat a healthy breakfast and lunch so your not ravenous by dinner time.
  • Bring your workout gear. At the very least, bring sneakers so you can walk around the area you’re visiting. You’ll get in a workout and get to see the city by foot. Most of the time I wear workout gear including my sneakers on the plane. This way I’m comfy and they don’t take up a ton of space in my suitcase.
  • Pack your daily vitamins. Keep your immune system up by not skipping on your vitamins. This is particularly important if you’re not eating as much fruit and veggies are you normally would.

While you’re traveling:

  • Quick/ fast food isn’t always bad. My favorite place to find something healthy to eat while traveling is Starbucks. They’re everywhere and actually have some decent healthy options. Check out their cooler for things like veggie trays, protein plates, fruit cups and salads (great for snacks and lunches); order oatmeal with nuts and dried fruit or check out the nuts or KIND Bars they usually offer at the counter. Just stay away from the pastry case and the high calorie coffee drinks.
  • Eat as healthy as possible when eating at restaurants. Choose options that will be filling with a mix of protein, healthy fat and veggies (i.e. grilled baja shrimp salad with romaine, shaved red onion, fresh palm hearts, fennel, sweet tomatoes and avocado with the dressing on the side). Make modifications to dishes to make them a bit healthier by asking for no cheese or for your protein to be cooked without oil/butter.
  • Skip the alcohol, when possible or choose only 1 or 2 nights to indulge. The calories from alcohol are empty and alcohol can also impair your judgment when making good food choices.
  • Wake up early enough to get in a quick workout and eat breakfast. Being physical can help remind you to eat healthfully and it will make you feel better throughout the day.

Overall:

  • Enjoy yourself! Do your best to eat healthy and stay active but don’t make yourself crazy. Sometimes you won’t have control over the situation (i.e. your client picks a restaurant that only serves fried food).
  • Don’t deprive yourself. Say you’re in Chicago which is known for their deep dish pizza and hot dogs. If you really want to try that pizza or hot dog, go for it!
  • Don’t get down on yourself. You’re likely to have a few indulgences or unhealthy meals while traveling. Just hop back on the healthy train when you get home!

Some helpful healthy traveling links:

Do you have any tips you’d like to add?

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    28 comments
  1. I really appreciate your tip to bring your workout gear so you can still stay healthy wherever you are. My wife recently got a new job that requires her to go on a lot of business trips, and we both have started running to be healthy. I will be sure to tell her that she should try and run while on her business trips!

  2. I am traveling to many different cities for work over the next few months and I would love to try different local restaurants. You make a great point that while you are traveling you should try to find healthy options on the menu that are filled with vegetables and protein. Also, you make a great point that a lot of restaurants give you the option to modify your dish to keep it healthy and I can stay within my dietary restrictions.

  3. You’ve definitely shared some important and helpful tips. I love that this post was inspired by a male reader. I think it is important to see that many men struggle with the same weight loss and healthy eating issues as women. I’ve recently ran across a male writer blogging about his weight loss journey and his perspective and humor is refreshing. Here’s the link if anyone is interested: http://blog213.com/

  4. Good tips 🙂 I usually have more alcohol when I’m on vacation so I try to choose lower-cal beverages like vino, champagne, skinny margs, or vodka (or light rum)/soda/splash juice (my new fav is pineapple…so refreshing!)

  5. These tips are great – I do the many of the same things when traveling. I try to be “good” about 80 percent of the time but allow for indulgences, too! I like Starbucks for healthy on the go foods, also! My goal is usually to maintain my weight while away not gain or lose – if I come back a pound or two up, I can handle that. I just get back on track the next few days I’m home!

  6. These are all great tips. I love that you did though include the one about not depriving yourself because I 100% agree on this. Yes, if I’m at the airport I know that all the options are going to be pretty lackluster so I’ll usually opt for something really healthy, but like you said, if there is something a place is known for as a foodie I find it really satisfying to enjoy that so I do make room for those indulgences.

  7. Love this post! TONS of great information here that I will definitely be using! When I usually go on vaca I say “Screw it-it’s vacation! I’m going to eat what I want!” But then I get back to the real world and feel so terrible! I need to introduce a few of these tips in my life!

  8. I always fly with some larabars or dry cereal, I seem to always get “snacky” on planes. I also like to look up restaurants I might be going to in advance to come up with a plan!

  9. I am also new to your blog and enjoying it very much.

    I like to bring the same lunch with me on the plane whenever I travel: quinoa (cooked with chicken or veggie broth and sometimes a dash of lemon juice or a sprinkling of lemon pepper for variety) mixed with oven roasted veggies (mixed peppers, zucchini, eggplant, red onion) and some toasted pine nuts or sliced almonds (wrap the nuts separately and add them just before eating, otherwise, they get soggy).

    I love Jamba Juice for a nice healthy breakfast.

    As for snacks, I pack single servings of reduced fat cheese, small bags of raw nuts and of course, Larabars, which are a total life saver. I recently spent several weeks in a remote area of Mexico and survived almost exclusively on Larabars, plain yogurt and almond butter sandwiches on whole grain bread… I know you are supposed to experience local food but it just wasn’t very sanitary.

  10. I agree with you on Starbucks – they have great healthy options, I always go there when I’m traveling – oatmeal in the morning and sandwich or a protien plate if it’s lunch or dinner. International travel is tough because a) you’re on the plane for a looong time and b) you technically aren’t supposed to bring produce (i.e. fruits and vegetables) into other countries, so I usually pack a couple of peanut butter sandwiches (pb won’t spoil) and Kashi or Lara Bars. You never know what the plane food will be like 🙂

  11. Be sure to check out HappyCow.com for listings of vegan, vegetarian, and vegetarian friendly restaurants and food stores – it lists resouces in cities/towns around the world.
    Thanks for this post.

  12. Thank you SO MUCH! This is really going to help me; all very realistic & easy things to add into my travel plans. I really appreciate you doing this post!

  13. so you can bring any dry foods with you through security?? I am about to leave for spring break and want to take granola/english muffins/ and oats for breakfast, will i get through with that stuff on my carry on bag? thanks just starting reading your blog and love it! thanks

  14. i try to keep these in mind when i travel for business, too. with trade shows, lunch is often grabbed on the floor and consists of whatever can be found in the box lunches. i try to bring my own breakfasts/fruit with me, and then order smartly when we go to dinner. it’s definitely hard because you sometimes have to be on someone else’s schedule and don’t want to be “that girl” holding everyone up with her oatmeal. 🙂

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