How to Eat Healthy While Traveling
Happy summer everyone! To help us celebrate, I am thrilled to introduce guest blogger, dietitian extraordinaire, Andrea Hardy from Ignite Nutrition Inc. Andrea is an influential, Calgary-based dietitian, with a contagious (and unifying) “no-fad diet” mentality. Andrea offers nutrition e-courses, consults one-on-one and provides corporate presentations. She and I connected over twitter and instagram with a shared love for recipe blogging and information sharing. Today, Andrea will be addressing a timely topic, How do I eat healthy while travelling?
Ok. So here it goes. The horrible truth. Eating out is rarely healthy, and often chock-full of hidden calories. Making the healthy choice can be deceiving and hard. So instead of focusing on making a perfect choice, I tell my clients to consider that eating out should be part of the 20% of their diet – the extras and treats part – as it is often difficult to make it fit in the 80%.
But for those of you on the road regularly, as my husband often is, you may have no choice but to eat out for days on end, meals on end. Here are some tips and tricks to navigate your way to the healthiest choice.
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1. CHOOSE CHAINS.
Hear me out. I can HEAR you getting out of your chair, ready to disagree with what I’m saying. But in actuality, chains often allow you better control over what you’re eating. They list nutrition information on their websites. They have menus available so you can pre-plan what the healthiest choice may be. They practice portion control, and often have regulations and standards on what each portion size should look like. Everyone always attacks McDonalds – and while I don’t think it’s an every-day kind of choice, you can still make a reasonable choice there! (I personally, really like their oatmeal and coffee for breakfast when I’m on the go).
While their choices are higher in sodium – I often find them a much better choice than, let’s say, a burger from Earls – which has almost triple the calories and saturated fat.
Why? Because portions are often quite large in sit-down restaurants. Pair your entrée with a side salad and voila, you’ve made a reasonable choice in your eating environment. Now I just picked McD’s for fun, but there are other healthier fast-food options out there, where you can get a bit more of ‘balanced plate’ – like Edo, Subway (skip the cookies and chips), Jugo Juice (their salad rolls are quite nice!) and many more. Really, I like to tell people to choose places that offer vegetables, so that you can round out your meal with them.
EAT YOUR CALORIES, DON’T DRINK THEM.
You all know how I feel about calorie containing beverages. But think about it this way. You’re already going to be consuming more than you likely would at home with your meal calories – and those meal calories are likely WAY tastier than a soda. So make the best choice you actually enjoy, and choose food calories over beverage calories. WAY more satisfying.
If you do choose to have an alcoholic beverage, see my post on sneaky ways to cut alcohol calories and reduce your alcohol intake.
PLAN FOR SNACKS.
Often, when you’re on the road for work, your days are JAM-PACKED. Often with late lunches, and even later dinners. When you go to a restaurant starving, you’re way more likely to make an unhealthy choice, and require a larger portion to feel satisfied. We know that restaurant food is calorie dense. So the larger portion can be really detrimental to your waist-line. To circumvent this, plan for snacks. When you arrive, take 5 minutes to stock up on some fruit, veg (think baby carrots, a veggie tray), nuts and seeds, cheese and crackers, or hardboiled eggs. Most grocery stores have those pre-hardboiled eggs in the deli section, and most hotel rooms have, at minimum, a small fridge where you can keep your snacks.
Pack snacks in your purse or laptop bag, and be sure to have a little something every 3 or so hours to prevent the need to make nutrition decisions when you’re ravenous.
I know what you’re thinking – you don’t have time. Make time. Make your health a priority and take that additional 5 minutes to stock up on a few items. If you’re not comfortable doing this, pack non-perishables in your suit case, and swing by a convenience store for a few pieces of fruit.
Grab your copy of Dietetic Directions free snack sheet here!
SCOPE THE CITY.
I am LOVIN’ the trend towards making healthy, fast food. In Calgary, some of my go-to’s are Freshii, Fit Kitchen, and Made Foods. And I find each and every city has restaurants popping up like this – places where balanced meals AND convenience matter. The cool part is, many of these services deliver! If you wanted, you could order a few days’ worth of food, and have it delivered to your hotel and kept in your room fridge. All you need is a microwave. If having an entire days’ worth of food isn’t your jam, you can also swing by these places to pick up healthy options on-the-go.
Most people that travel for work typically go to the same city, same hotel, on a regular basis. Know your healthy go-to options in the neighbourhood you travel to. Make the cities you travel to for work your home away from home. Have a list of healthy breakfasts, lunches, and suppers you know you can rely on, and plan meals there. Get to know the community you work in there and what they offer. It can be a fun adventure!
TOP 5 TIPS FOR ORDERING.
Ok we’ve discussed the what, where, and why – now the how. These are my TOP tips for cutting excess calories when eating out
- ALWAYS order sauces on the side. That way you have control over how much is used
- Order double vegetables. You can do this with almost any dish – up your intake of fibre, and be satisfied with less.
- Order a lunch portion, or half portion. It’s no secret restaurant portions are atrociously large, and likely, you’re not taking the leftovers back to your hotel (or you could!). Skip the temptation all together, and cut it in half. You can always have a healthy snack later if you’re still hungry.
- Avoid deep fried items – usually indicated with words like ‘crispy’ or ‘fried’. Limit the fries, battered chicken and fish, etc. Opt for baked, grilled, roasted instead.
- Skip the appetizers entirely. It seems to be the culture now to order app’s before entrees, when often these appetizers are just as calorific as the entrees! Insist on going straight to the meal – people often won’t argue if you say no to apps. (The power of suggestion is incredible – and look at all the calories you saved the entire table!)
To save you a bit of time, I have created a SUPER AWESOME cheat sheet on my top 3 fast food picks for breakfast, lunch and supper, as well as some super handy tips to make the best possible choice when surrounded by a ton of unhealthy choices.
Ps. In case you missed it, here’s my guest post on Ignite Nutrition entitled, “Are Carbs Bad? A Dietitian Explains.