Eating Right on the Road

Travel happens, and so do business meetings and social events, and for many of us, these situations might present a real challenge to sticking to your goals of eating clean while away from home.  Here are some steps I’ve taken to make sure that I can stay in (as much) control of my health and fitness goals on the road.

Travel tips:

1) Call ahead and make sure your hotel room will provide you with a mini-fridge for your meals.  Some hotels may charge you, but I’ve never had that happen.  If you’re traveling with a toddler like I do sometimes, you’ll probably need to have this for milk anyway. Besides, the mini bar fridge may not have enough room for your lean protein, hard boiled egg whites, and frozen veggies!
2) Along the same lines as calling ahead to make sure you got your bases covered, try to stay in a hotel with a gym, or safe access to walking/running/biking trails.  If you’re already a member of a franchised gym, you can always look up your gym’s location near your hotel and see if could train there, or pay a guest fee in another gym.
3) Pack lightly or ship some items to yourself ahead of time.  If you know where you’re staying, you can always ship to yourself some items that don’t require refrigeration, like your water packed tuna, nuts/seeds, whey protein, plain rice cakes, oatmeal, and instant brown rice (and the latter two clean carbs cook up fine with the hot water from the coffee maker.)  Or ship your gym clothes :)
4) Get a mini travel cooler if you don’t have one already.  I always travel with at least three prepared meals in there anyway, and some ice small ice packs. Most of the time the security people will waive you through if you say you special dietary needs-and lots of people do.  Unless you want to throw away what you’ve packed, you could say you have food allergies, are diabetic, are traveling for a competition, whatever works.
5) For me, the most important thing to pack has been a clean protein source.  At airports or on the road, you might have to deal with battered, fried, or otherwise heavily salted mystery meat.  For the most part, it’s pretty easy to get whole fruit at airports, bags of raw almonds, and food courts usually have plain green salads.  Unsalted rice cakes weigh practically nothing and you can toss this in your carry on for a clean carb source on the go.

At business meetings/social events:

When you’re eating right and training hard, at some point you’ll stick out for being “different.”  Recognize that most people won’t relate to your goals, so don’t take it personally.  Let everyone else have their excuses, and stick to your goals of making healthier choices.  I’m not talking about the occasional treat meal or whatever. At some point you need to indulge and live a little, but if you find that your week is packed with business and social events, you could always try the following:

1) Eat before your event!  Seems like a no-brainer, this one. At breakfast meetings, if anyone cares to point out that you aren’t eating, you could always say you had a super early morning and ate breakfast with the roosters.  In my case, my toddler likes to wake up at the crack of dawn, so it’s never a lie that I’ve already eaten my breakfast with her.  You could always sip coffee or tea, or have some fruit if that’s an available option.
2) At business lunches and dinners, at the very least, eat your clean protein source before your event.  My girlfriends who eat clean, like to joke about the “purse poultry,” “hen in a handbag,” and “pocket protein.”  It’s usually pretty simple to get a plain green salad, grilled/steamed veggies, or a baked potato at most restaurants.
3) Ditch the sauces and dressing. More and more people are being diagnosed with food allergies these days (e.g., gluten allergies) so restaurants are getting in the habit of leaving sauces and dressings off of salads, especially if you tell them so!  I can’t even begin to describe the ridiculous amount of salt and sugar (and fat- not always the good kind!) that’s hidden in restaurant sauces.  When I eat out, with out fail, every single time, I can see the following day that I’m retaining water from the excess sodium.  It’s a recipe for instant weight gain.
4) During receptions, limit or avoid alcohol. Chew some gum, sip water with lemon, drink tea, or firmly state that you have to drive after the event.  When you’re small framed like me, even one drink could be a bad idea anyway.

I’ve been in enough uncomfortable situations and have learned I really don’t care too much about what anyone else thinks, because they will think whatever they want to think about you anyway.  But if you really feel the urge to be polite-you could always say you’re not feeling too well, your stomach isn’t right, or you have several food allergies.  Lots of people dislike having attention drawn towards them because of what they are or aren’t eating, so figure out the best way for you to deflect that attention, if you don’t like it.

Congratulate yourself for your lifetime decision to eat healthier. Just remember that not everyone will relate, acknowledge that there will be obstacles, and try to deal with them with a sense of humor.  It doesn’t take super-human discipline nor willpower to navigate through tricky social situations or when on travel, just a little bit of planning and preparation.  At the end of the day, you’ll be better off for making those healthier choices.

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