Eating Healthy While Traveling

[guestpost]Jan Tilley is the President and CEO of JTA Wellness, a national leader in nutrition counseling, wellness, and chronic disease management. As a registered dietitian, Jan helps at-risk clients develop a healthy lifestyle to combat chronic health issues. Holding a MS in Nutrition, Jan has over 20 years of experience in the food and nutrition industry. Thank you, Jan, for contributing to the blog today! [/guestpost]

On the Road . . . Again!

Healthy eating on the road can be challenging even for the most seasoned road warrior! Finding healthy food when traveling is not impossible, it simply takes a little preplanning and good ol’ fashioned street smarts to set yourself up for success.

First let’s tackle the basics of healthy balanced eating. It is as simple as 1, 2, 3!

  1. Eat every 3 hours. Our body digests a meal in about 90 minutes so if you are going longer than 3 hours without food you are asking your body to operate on no fuel. Food is the fuel our body uses to keep us energized, focused and productive. Without it we get fatigued, foggy and grumpy.
  2. Carbohydrate + Protein or Healthy Fat. The combination of foods we choose matters greatly! Carbohydrates are our body’s first choice for fuel and are converted quickly to glucose to fuel our brain and muscles. They are digested very quickly and if eaten alone, can cause us to feel dissatisfied and constantly hungry. By adding a protein or healthy fat we slow the digestion of the carbohydrate allowing us to stay feeling fueled and satisfied longer. This combination keeps our blood sugar and our energy to stay stable throughout the day.
  3. Don’t let your hunger get ahead of you! What happens when you allow yourself to get extremely hungry? The tendency is to overeat and make bad food choices. I often see this in my clients who eat very little throughout the day then eat everything in sight at the end of the day attempting to get satisfied. I like to demonstrate this concept using a hunger scale. janguest The goal is to eat within a 3-hour window all day and always balance carbohydrate food choices with either a protein or a healthy fat to stay between a 4 (beginning to have some hunger pangs) and a 6 (satisfied) on the scale at all times.

Practical Tools for the Road

  • Right-size your portions. If you are traveling with a friend or spouse, consider sharing a plate. Usually ½ of a restaurant portion is enough to satisfy if you’ve been fueling all day long.
  • Divide your plate into quarters. Think about what you are planning to order and make sure that ¼ of your plate is protein (i.e. chicken, fish, beef), ¼ is starch (i.e. sweet potato, quinoa, brown rice), and ½ your plate is fruit, non-starchy vegetables and salad. Using this mental exercise will ensure that you are including a variety of nutrients and balancing your meal.
  • Travel days can be difficult. Eating in airports or on road trips can be tricky. Plan ahead to have single-serve healthy, shelf-stable snacks available. Great ideas can be peanut or almond butter packets, nuts, Babybel cheese, Somersaults, jerky, KIND bars, 100-calorie olive packets, light popcorn and pretzels.
  • Limit alcohol. Providing empty calories with little nutritional value, alcohol can decrease your good judgment and drinking in excess can result in poor sleep. Recommendation is 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men.
  • Focus on choosing anti-inflammatory foods. A common complaint of travelers is the bloating, swelling, uncomfortable feeling that can result from making poor food choices. Choose more vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy and stay away from pro-inflammatory foods such as highly-processed foods (think chips, cookies, pastries), saturated fats (think sausage and ice cream), and sugar.
  • Take your tennis shoes! Hotels have a gym – use it! You will feel energized, revitalized and ready to ‘kill it’ at your next meeting!

Travel and over-indulging don’t have to go hand in hand! For more information on how to make healthy lifestyle changes, visit my website and sign up for our weekly newsletter to receive my motivational blog along with one new healthy recipe a week.

Take charge of your health and refuse to let travel days get in the way of a healthier, happier you!


Plan healthy food options before your next trip. Research some healthy restaurants and pack some healthy snacks. Keep a food journal and see how you do! Comment here and let us know how it goes. I'd love to hear about your experience!