Eating healthy on the road is a challenge that confounds even the most experienced travelers. Between long travel days, the black hole of airport food options, and the stunning high-calorie temptations travel often brings, many find themselves returning home with a few extra pounds under their belt.
It doesn’t have to be this way. There are a few easy things you can do to vastly improve your travel diet. Follow the tips below and you won’t only learn how to eat healthy while traveling, but your meals will be tastier and cheaper as well.
Pack Your Own Snacks
Eating healthy begins at home. Before you leave for a long trip, make your own snack-pack to keep away unhealthy cravings. Think high-protein granola bars, nuts, hummus, or even a peanut butter sandwich. All of these things can easily be taken through airport security or stashed in your glove compartment. When your stomach starts to rumble, these snacks will help you avoid unhealthy cravings, like airport fast food, until you can find a healthier meal option.
Drink Water, Avoid Alcohol
Hydration is essential for travel, particularly if you’re taking a long-haul flight or are jet-lagged. Oftentimes when we feel hungry, we’re actually thirsty. It’s extremely easy to take in hundreds of empty calories via sugary sodas or energy drinks, so whenever possible, stick to plain old zero-calorie water. It’s free and more hydrating anyway.
Most alcoholic beverages are also high in calories, so try to avoid overdoing it on the margaritas or local beers. Skipping the alcohol will also keep you from making poor food decisions later on when your judgment is impaired.
Always Eat Breakfast
There’s a reason nutritionists insist on a healthy breakfast to start the day. Not only does it set the tone for eating well all day long, but it helps you stay full and prevents you from overeating later. Make breakfast a priority, even on busy travel days. Skip carb-heavy donuts or pastries and instead look for something with healthy protein to keep you full longer.
Avoid Fast Food
You already know this, but of course avoiding fast food is easier said than done. It’s worth going out of your way to skip the chain restaurants, not only because they’re terrible for you, but because there’s almost always a better option nearby.
Take the time to look for fresh, local options: a corner sandwich shop, happy hour sushi, or a local diner. Not only are you likely to find something better for you, but it’ll probably taste better too.
Plan Your Meals Ahead of Time
Oftentimes, desperation is the biggest enemy of making a healthy, delicious dining choice. When you’re extremely hungry, your judgment becomes impaired, and it’s easy to go for the quickest option, whether it’s a good idea or not.
Combat this by making good decisions ahead of time. Use Yelp or Foursquare to find promising looking restaurants and shops. Most restaurants even publish their menus online. Then, when the time comes, you can simply follow your plan. This is particularly useful when you wake up hungry for breakfast and the closest option is a donut shop. You’re much less likely to give in to temptation if you know there’s a local breakfast spot around the corner.
Remember: Everything in Moderation
Eating well isn’t about denying yourself the pleasures of travel. After all, you can’t visit Italy without indulging in the amazing pizza and pasta, and you can’t go to Buenos Aires without at least trying the pastries and ice cream.
It’s okay to give in to the temptations of local food. Don’t feel guilty about the occasional splurge, but remember that moderation is key. Practice mindful eating. Enjoy one slice of cake but don’t go back for seconds, and try to grab a salad later on.
Follow these tips and not only will you feel better about yourself, but you’ll enjoy your food more and have more energy for sightseeing.