As a dietitian in Washington, DC, many of my clients have some amount of travel associated with their job. Whether traveling 10% of the time or upwards of 50% of the time, there are a few tenets to take into account when eating healthfully on the road (or in the sky).
- You have to, HAVE TO, take accountability for yourself.
No one is doing this for you. Once you’ve found a dietary style that suits your likes and needs, it is 100% up to you to make the choices that keep you on track.
- Not to be crass, but excuses, much like opinions, are like a**holes…
Everyone has them, and they all stink. Don’t get me wrong, I make excuses. We all do it. You are the only one who decides what goes into your stomach. Catch yourself making excuses and hold yourself accountable… at least 90% of the time.
Which brings me to…
- The 90:10 rule.
Some people use the 80:20 rule. I say 90:10… If you follow the rules that you set for your lifestyle 90% of the time, you can be easy on yourself the other 10%. I save this for ice cream and cheeseburgers… and the occasional salad with fried chicken and ranch dressing (hey, I grew up in the midwest). Anyway, especially if you’re traveling a lot and you care about your waistline as well as what’s going on in your arteries and vital organs, you should stick to the 90:10 rule.
- Be prepared.
There are not many times, to my knowledge, when one is unexpectedly whisked away for travel without advanced notice. When packing a for a trip, throw some snacks in your carry on bag. Even if you don’t eat them, at least you have them there in case your plane circles around ORD so long they have to land and refuel in Lansing, MI where there really are no healthy food options. Shelf stable snack ideas: nuts, trail mix (watch for sugar… the last thing you need on a sedentary travel day), RX bars (my preferred snack bar), fruit (if it suits you), veggie chips, etc.
- Get to know your options.
Some people travel a lot, and travel in and out of the same airports. Some people enjoy dining in the airport, having a drink at the bar and meeting people / being social. I am one of these people. I love talking to strangers. Every time I’m at ORD enjoying a basket of chips and salsa at Tortas Frontera in terminal 1, I have met an awesome person. There are (almost) always going to be options for you no matter what your lifestyle is. If there aren’t, that’s why you plan ahead and either not eat at the airport, bring your own food, or wait til you get to wherever you’re going. I had someone tell me that Louis Armstrong International Airport had “nothing but fried food, it was impossible to find something healthy.” Had they been prepared, they could have snacked on something or eaten before going to the airport. Also, a quick google search and Eater tells us there are some good options in that airport (for starters “crab and beet salad” or “raw oysters”), as well as close to the airport. The airport website also lists food service offerings by concourse, so a quick glance through the options should let you know how well off you’re going to be when choosing to rely on food offerings at the airport.
- Last but not least, a healthful diet will always incorporate moderation and variety
If you choose to use your 10% time to nosh on french fries and beer, try to have a salad along with that. Don’t think “I’m in the airport/on a work trip /on vacation, so I’m in vacation mode and that means I can eat whatever I want” then gorge on fried and processed foods. I don’t like to use the term “cheat days” or “cheat meals” because that attaches a feeling of guilt to whatever you’re enjoying at those times. Even when you *are* on vacation, you don’t get to take a vacation from your health, your fitness goals, and so on. Say you lost 30lb before your wedding, are you going to blow all that hard work on your honeymoon by eating 44oz porterhouse steaks with stuffed twice-baked potatoes and dessert everyday or drinking a dozen frozen piña coladas while napping on the beach? I hope not. Healthy food that fits into your lifestyle should be enjoyable no matter where you are. Always choose veggies and eat the rainbow (aka eat a variety of foods in different colors).