Healthy Eating while Traveling Recipe

I received and email from someone who was having a hard time eating healthy while traveling for work. It can be tough. I started this post suggesting a few of my tips and tricks for healthy eating on the road, but once you read those be sure to check out the 100+ ideas you all contributed in the comments, fantastic.

Healthy Eating while Traveling

Eating healthy while traveling is an ongoing challenge for me. I'm not a light packer to begin with, and my attempts to squirrel various snacks into every pocket of my suitcase and carry-on(s) are met with varying degrees of success. There is a point when my laptop trumps a 12-pack of oatmeal packets. Apparently quite a few of you have similar troubles. I know because you email me about it. For example, the following email showed up in my in-box not too long ago. Written by a hotel-hopping business traveler with no kitchen at his disposal...

Dear Heidi, I work in real estate consulting. This allows me frequent trips to foodie paradises such as Shreveport, Louisiana, and the middle of Nebraska. One can go days without seeing anything as quaint as an apple. I am searching for a healthy way to eat while traveling for business.

Cooking, the one true way to ensure healthy eating, is out for obvious reasons. Often one cannot get to a grocery store, so buying simple whole foods is out too. Even eating salad isn't an option; McDonald's surpasses all measures of common decency with salads that have more fat than Big Macs do.

At this point I'm about ready to do something weird like pack most of my food as if I were going camping. My question/challenge to you is this: what solutions are available for the health-savvy business traveler other than subsisting solely on McDonald's yogurt parfaits and apple pies?

Regards, C.S.D.

While I have a few strategies I deploy, I still have plenty to learn on this front, so I thought I'd ask you to offer up your favorite tips for eating healthy whole traveling. Try to limit yourself to your all-time favorite tip (or two). My tips...

- Good airplane food: If I start off eating poorly at the beginning of a trip, it can be downhill from there. Things are usually hectic around here the day (or two) before leaving on a trip, and sometimes I flat out don't feel like cooking. But I do like having good (substantial) food in flight, and I like to kick off a trip on the right foot. Lately I'll bake off two Amy's Indian Spinach Tofu Wraps, let them cool to room temperature, wrap them in parchment paper, and then bag them in plastic. Think Indian burrito - it's a whole wheat tortilla, a bunch of tofu, spinach and spices in one compact package - really tasty. I just eat a half a burrito whenever I'm hungry until I run out.

- BYOF: If I'm traveling domestically, I pack three apples and a pound of nuts or toasted pumpkin seeds for snacking in my carry-on, and one box of cereal in my suitcase. Herein lies the catch - I like to eat cereal with plain yogurt (not the artificially sweetened stuff offered at just about every breakfast buffet I've encountered). I can usually buy the plain yogurt at a corner grocery, BUT I've been in plenty of hotels that don't have refrigerators, so there have been times when I fill up the sink with ice to keep the yogurt cold.

- Just add water products: They're great in a pinch. Look for the ones with natural ingredients. I can always find hot water.

- If you are on a road trip, pack a camping stove: This means even if you are staying in hotels or motels. Wayne and I go on lots of road trips, and we like to pull over to various parks and beaches for lunch/dinner. We'll cook something up on our little stove and be on our way. Makes us less reliant on eating "out" for every meal.

Don't get me wrong, I love to experience local foods ingredients and inspired cooking - but anyone who travels extensively knows there can be long stretches between healthy meals. These a just a few fall-back tactics I've come to rely on.

Ok, your turn - favorite healthy travel eating tips...

Wayne took the opening photo and was nice enough to let me use it here.

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Comments

Some grocery stores deliver, especially local, family owned ones. You can call your hotel before you go to ask if they know of a grocery that delivers to the hotel, or find one on line and place an order to be delivered to the hotel you will be staying at. The food is there when you arrive and you don't have to go looking for anything, or bring it on the plane with you.

Inga

Maybe you won't re-read this, but GlutenFreeForGood, what do you make your granola with? Do you eat oats? If so, where do you find ones where the crop wasn't rotated with barley? I also make 2 small quesadillas with cheese and mashed black beans and non-watery veggies (like diced peppers, patted very dry) and pack them flat in tin foil. They slip right in your carry-on, and can even serve as a book mark. (although eat them within 5 hours of packing).

Snowmeg

I always take high fiber tortillas with me. My favorite brand is La Tortilla Factory. Some varieties are only 1 WW point. You don't have to worry about smashing them (as with bread) or coming up with hot water or stoves (prepping oatmeal or whole grains). I usually buy sandwich meat or prepared tofu (non fried varieties) and make sandwiches. Small mustards are pretty cheap. If you have a microwave in your hotel room, you can also steam vegetables; many supermarkets have smaller bags of fresh veggies that are marketed for this purpose. Also, if you have a silicone (or other material) colander that folds flat, you can make a cold bean salad. Their website (www.latortillafactory.com) has a store locator feature to pinpoint where you can find them. Their headquarters are in Sonoma County, so they are pretty easy to find in the Bay Area. If you can't find them, their products can be bought on the internet. Here's an old tip from an old road warrior: you can always get hot water from a convenience store. You may want to invest in a soft sided cooler for transporting refrigerated items from home to hotel, hotel to hotel and/or hotel to home. Asking for a fridge in a hotel is a good idea. I also have asked for a microwave if my room doesn't have it. Most hotels which cater to business travelers will have microwave and/or fridge.

Andrew M.

I always take high fiber tortillas with me. My favorite brand is La Tortilla Factory. Some varieties are only 1 WW point. You don't have to worry about smashing them (as with bread) or coming up with hot water or stoves (prepping oatmeal or whole grains). I usually buy sandwich meat or prepared tofu (non fried varieties) and make sandwiches. Small mustards are pretty cheap. If you have a microwave in your hotel room, you can also steam vegetables; many supermarkets have smaller bags of fresh veggies that are marketed for this purpose. Also, if you have a silicone (or other material) colander that folds flat, you can make a cold bean salad. Their website (www.latortillafactory.com) has a store locator feature to pinpoint where you can find them. Their headquarters are in Sonoma County, so they are pretty easy to find in the Bay Area. If you can't find them, their products can be bought on the internet. Here's an old tip from an old road warrior: you can always get hot water from a convenience store. You may want to invest in a soft sided cooler for transporting refrigerated items from home to hotel, hotel to hotel and/or hotel to home. Asking for a fridge in a hotel is a good idea. I also have asked for a microwave if my room doesn't have it. Most hotels which cater to business travelers will have microwave and/or fridge.

Andrew M.

A couple tips: - Usually you can call ahead & ask the hotel to put a refrigerator in the room. Best bet is to call the morning of the day when you plan to arrive. - Take an empty water bottle through airport security (be sure you put it in the tray like a laptop), then ask a cashier at any fast food restaurant to fill it with water for you. Flight attendant will usually fill it up also, if you ask nicely.

katin from thesimpleme

Lots of excellent tips here. Here are mine; I am a journalist, spend a lot of time on the road, and almost always have to be packed for carry-on only. 1. For the plane, carry an empty water bottle (mine is a Sigg) and keep filling it; the walk up/ down the aisle will improve your circulation (no elephant ankles), To fill it, go to the galley, where there is a tap; if the flight attendants are friendly, they will probably offer you whatever bottled water they are serving instead. 2. Unless I am in first class (where the food is good as a marketing tactic), I try to pack a meal. Since you can't bring liquids, and even gels are suspect (eg peanut butter or hummus in a jar), I try to keep it simple and solid - sandwich, nuts, carrots, nonsquashable fruit. 3. I have a soft-sided shoulderbag cooler, meant for a six-pack. I fold it flat and keep it packed. Once I land, I try to find a grocery store to buy yogurt, cheese, fruit, etc. I make sure to liberate a few produce bags. In my hotel room, I put the stuff in the bottom of the cooler, fill the plastic bags at the icemaker and put them on top of the groceries (because cold travels down). Renew the ice every morning. This can carry you for up to a week. If I think my room will have a coffeemaker, I also buy 1/4lb of excellent coffee, because hotel coffee is the work of the devil. 4. Generally, I try to drink as much water and eat as many vegetables as I can find. 5. If you are going somewhere with dodgy water, and can check bags, two great things to have are a small container of bleach (tape closed AND doublebag in ziplocs) and a small camping filter, for instance to fit in a Nalgene. Filtering your own water will make it safe(r) to drink. This let me stay hydrated in India. Bleach will allow you to eat produce: capful of bleach in a sinkful of water, let the veggies soak 10 mins, rinse. This let me eat raw vegetables in Malawi.

Maryn

When I travel, I like to take a small rice cooker--it's great because you can plug it in and cook a portion of brown rice, quinoa, whatever other grain you want. Great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

hadley

I like to carry a soft ice chest/lunchpail that has a shoulder strap. I can fill it with goodies and use it as a carry on. When/if it's empty I can flatten it into my suitcase or use it as a purse. I can get ice at the hotel and keep suff cold for a long time and refill with more healthy goodies if I find a store.

Lia Brewer

Dont forget you can take an empty bottle through security at the airport! That saves lots of money and guilt!

Jenny

Thanks to the posters who mentioned the "tofu tollbooth" book and also the toad trip planner website. I tried it out and didn't come up with much, so let me add my tip for road trips: ChowHound.com. Admittedly most ChowHund posters are enthusiastic carnivores, but for a recent road trip in the Southeast I got a great tip on a locally-owned lunch place less than 2 miles off the highway. It's so great to avoid fast food.

Anonymous

On-the-go snacks to pack: Larabars, fresh fruit & vegetables, pre-portioned nuts, dried fruit.

VeggieGirl

Wow, so many great ideas. Here is what I typically do while traveling. On the plane (carry on): - bring my SIGG water bottle for filling - portion out 1 oz bags of trail mix or raw nuts (if I don't portion them out, I can get carried away) - Greens Plus Protein Bar(s) - whole grain turkey sandwich or wrap (can't wait too long to eat it though) - homemade beef jerky - gum Make sure to get up and walk around as often as you can. This is why I always try for the aisle seat. Drinking lots of water = lots of trips to the bathroom for me. :-) Then, I bring individually portioned bags of protein powder, homemade beef jerky, more nuts, etc in my suitcase. I also use grocery stores to stock up on more bottled water, yogurt, milk, Boarshead lunchmeat, etc and bring along a soft cooler to store it all in, in my room. I try to stay where I can get a full breakfast as well, and room service is probably so annoyed because I am the customer who asks for one order of 4 egg whites, no oil, no cheese, one order of oatmeal, no brown sugar or milk, one banana, etc.... I also make sure to get in a morning workout, get in lots of activity throughout the day, and drink tons of water. If I know I will be entertaining for dinner, I try to limit my calories throughout the day, sticking mostly to proteins and fats, and then limit alcohol to 1 glass of wine with dinner and pass on the bread, and just a bite of dessert...if someone offers to share. :-) Sheila http://www.livewell360.com

Sheila | Live Well 360°

Recently got done with a 5000mi road trip myself and just in case the list isn't quite long enough... Don't be tied to ideas of cereal/eggs for breakfast. Celery and trail mix is pretty good too. Heidi's call on oatmeal is a fantastic one, especially for organic options. Packing a jar of your favorite nut butter is a good call too. It can accomodate most fruits and veggies, or a spoonful makes for a good hold over in a pinch.

Karen

This is more prevention than eating health, but regarding coffee makers and the cups they provide in hotels - I saw a hidden camera news report showing hotel cleaning staff that did not replace those cups/mugs if they didn't -look- dirty, just gave them a wipe.

Wayne

The absolute best approach to eating healthy while traveling is NOT TO STAY IN HOTELS. When we travel, we rent apartments. They have kitchens, giving us the choice to either go out or cook in. No one wants to eat three meals out a day anyway.....so we can have a simple healthy breakfast in, grab lunch out, go to the market on the way home and have a home cooked meal....or any combination of the previous. There are any number of sites brokering apartments and/or homes of any size for vacation rentals both in the US and abroad. And FYI, they are always cheaper and far more comfortable than any hotel room!!!

vivian

I'm a huge fan of the meager peanut butter on whole wheat. It's full of protein, and I usually add sliced apples and a few chopped nuts for added flavor. I always have a bag of almonds & dried fruit in my purse, even when I'm just out & about around town. So these naturally are in my suitcase while traveling. I'm with Natasha on the cheese too. Hard cheese don't need to be refridgerated. I usually look up a local health foods store when traveling so I can stock up on healthy snacks. It really is possible to eat heathfully on the road, it's often our mindset that hols us back, not the lack of options.

Susy

One other thing. Again, for those traveling long haul -- many of the airlines offer a wide variety of special meal options. I fly British Airways a lot and I either do the vegetarian or the Muslim meal. It's MUCH healthier. As for bringing water into an airport. No, you can't do that. But what you can do is buy a bottle or two AFTER you've gone through security. Fair point, Tara, re: the candy on your pillow! I am thinking of my own experiences. I am in Geneva at least 5 times per year. In Switzerland they tend to give you a rather startling amount of chocolate each night! So, I take away the temptation. But, you're right. Not exactly the best tip in the world...

amy

I'm a vegetarian flight attendant, and packing food for 5 day pairings (shifts) can often be challenging. Here are a few things i've found useful: -Drink plenty of water. bring a large empty bottle with you that you can fill when you've past security. -Avoid salt before and during the flight. It will make you bloated and uncomfortable. -Avoid food that gives you gas. Pay attention to the expansion of the air in your water bottle on take off, and think about what your intestines must look like. -Take as much fresh food as you can carry, but avoid food that will squish in your luggage. Freeze yogurt, applesauce so it doesn't leak in transit. -If you're packing liquidy foods in your checked luggage, use mason jars, they won't leak. -Almost all hotels will have fridges that you can use. Ask when you check in. It's useful to have all refrigerated food in a labeled bag so it's easy for them to find when you want it back. -the coffee maker is your best friend. use it to heat up soup, leftovers, etc... i put in some red river cereal and water in the pot as soon as i wake up, and by the time i'm showered and dressed, breakfast is ready. -avocados are perfect. Easy to pack, soft enough to cut with a credit card (knives on a plane are a no-no), and delicious with a little lemon or tomato on a tortilla.

Zoe

Somehow I thought this would be about international travel--maybe since Heidi was just in South America. When overseas, I find that the biggest challenge is getting enough fiber. Once you get used to a certain level and eat a high fiber breakfast, you feel rather gross after only a day or two which is not fun. I love GNU fiber bars which have about 50% of what you need in day. Dried fruit is good as the best local stuff is quite often exported. I then try to "top off" and have some legumes or vegetables that have been really well cooked especially if conditions are not sanitary. I also try to eat the local yogurt/cheese in order to get some friendly local bacteria in me to build up my immunity to unfamiliar microbes. If the tap water is bad, sometimes you have to drink coke or beer and lots of tea. I avoid like crazy Western hotel food in developing countries--just because the place is nice does mean they have a fridge. I once ate the MOST DELICIOUS calamari at a locals only type of place in Vietnam, ordered the same thing in the hotel and was so sick from the hotel food. I learned my lesson and even though I am not an early riser, I got up early for pho on the street before I had to work.

zoya

I travel often overseas and besides not wanting weigh down my luggage, I worry most about getting protein. It's amazing how hard it is to get a restaurant to serve you plain beans! I travel with plastic bags filled with a protein powder (soy or whey) mixed with a 'greens' powder of some sort and flaxseeds. Each morning, I mix a scoop or so with water, or soymilk, or (if I'm lucky) yogurt. Drink it up, add some fruit, and you've got a lot of nutrition under you right away.

JWB

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