Good morning all!
Happy Monday to you. Did you have a great weekend? I was in Windsor spending time with my mum who has just had a pretty major neck surgery, so it was a low key one for me. Having said that, low key was exactly what I was craving after all the traveling I’ve been doing over the course of this month. I actually woke up at 9 O’CLOCK on Saturday morning, and I can’t remember the last time I slept past 7:30!
Speaking of travel, I’ve been receiving lots of requests recently from my health coaching clients and readers for a post about how to eat clean when away from home. I figured that if they’re wondering, some of you might be as well. So today, I’m giving you a peek into how I maintain my healthy eating regime while away from my own kitchen, as well as some tips to help you to do the same.
Step 1: Scope Out the Surroundings
The first thing I do once I find out I’m going to be visiting a new city is look for healthy food options near where I’ll be staying. (I know, I know – most regular people would probably look for other fun attractions but this is a foodie whose blog you’re reading!) Thanks to Google, food blogs, and restaurant review sites like UrbanSpoon, OpenTable, and Trip Advisor, it’s really easy to find healthy places to eat before you arrive. But it’s not just restaurants I look for. I also map out grocery stores nearby so that I can stock up on fresh items like produce and yogurt when I arrive, and keep them in my hotel fridge.
Step 2: The Food Prep and Packing
Again, it probably won’t shock you that I think about packing snacks before a single article of clothing goes into my suitcase. After years of traveling to and from my home in the Middle East each summer, I’ve become good at knowing which foods sit well in my stomach on plane rides and which ones cause problems. On any given flight, you’ll likely find these things in my hand luggage:
- baby carrots
- sliced cucumbers, celery, and bell peppers
- dried fruit and nuts
- whole grain crackers
- Vega One packets – shaken up with water, it’s a super healthy and easy liquid meal
- Simply Protein Bars (dairy free, gluten free, vegan, non GMO, kosher protein bars)
- gum (not great for digestion but good for ear soreness when the plane takes off and lands)
- ginger chews (like these ones from the Ginger people) for nausea or digestive problems. If you chew them too fast like I do, you can also opt for the hard candy variety. Ginger is fantastic for helping to reduce tummy problems and nausea, so never get on a flight without a good stash of these!
Note that depending on where you’re traveling, you may not be able to carry fresh produce and even some packaged food items with you. Customs are very strict with this, but you should be ok as long as you consume it all before you land. As far as domestic flights go, I’ve never had any problems.
Step 3: The Pre-Boarding Meal
Raise your hand if you like plane food!! What, your hands aren’t both up in the air? Neither are mine. In fact, I hate plane food. A lot of it is high in sodium which can cause really nasty bloating, and it doesn’t seem to matter which airline I fly on, but it just doesn’t taste like real food. Most of my recent flights have been at night time, so I’ve developed a habit of packing a pre-boarding dinner that I eat just before getting on the plane. This typically means a great big salad made of the following:
- some sort of whole grain or starchy carb like quinoa, rice, or sweet potato
- a protein source such as tuna, chopped tempeh, or edamame
- lots of chopped veggies
- herbs such as parsley and basil
- a few nuts and/or seeds – almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds
- a light dressing – usually balsamic vinegar mixed with a bit of olive oil
I’d recommend avoiding things like onions, broccoli, and beans in these salads (unless you know you digest them well) because sitting next to a gassy neighbour on an airplane is not pleasant! Steer clear of these foods pre-flight for your own comfort and the benefit of others. 😉
Packaging wise, I put my salads in older tupperware containers that I dispose of in the recycling bins at the airport. There’s no need to pack a fork because you can usually pick one up in the food court.
Step 4: The Grocery Store
After getting settled in at my destination, I stock up on a few groceries at the nearest grocery store. If your hotel room has a fridge, clear it out and re-stock it with some of the following items:
- pre-chopped veggies
- Greek yogurt (or non-dairy yogurt if necessary)
- tuna pouches
- kombucha (keep it in the fridge)
- pre-cooked chicken strips (look for organic with no funny ingredients – can be an expensive option, but if you really don’t want to spend much money on eating out in restaurants, it’s important to have a good source of protein!)
If you’re lucky enough to have a Whole Foods nearby, or another grocery store that has pre-made salads or a salad bar, you can package up a few things for yourself and store those in your fridge as well. Not having access to a cutting board and knife isn’t a good excuse for skipping your greens! 😉
If you know it won’t be a problem customs-wise to travel with food in your checked baggage, you could also pack the following:
- plain oats in Ziploc bags with cinnamon and stevia (and protein powder mixed in if you wish)
- trail mix
- tea bags
- homemade granola bars or snack bars (like my Lemon Poppyseed Protein Squares or Chocolate Covered Almond Bars)
Step 5: The Restaurants
If you don’t get a chance to do step 1, don’t worry. You can still take a few minutes to Google your healthy options when you’re at your destination, or ask your hotel concierge for recommendations. When looking at restaurant menus, treat them just like you would when eating at a restaurant at home. Look for dishes that are baked, grilled, raw, braised and steamed rather than those that are sauteed, deep fried, battered, or labeled ‘crispy’ (this is usually just another word that means deep fry!)
Don’t forget about hydration!
Just like when we’re at home, we often forget to drink enough water. Sometimes it can be even more of a challenge when you’re on the go, so pack a water bottle (ideally a stainless steel one) in your hand luggage. Keep it empty until you clear airport security, and carry it with you daily when you reach your destination. This is SUPER important if you happen to be traveling for a race and you want to keep your digestive system…. umm…. ‘moving’. 😉
Of course, nutrition goes hand in hand with fitness. While I don’t normally stress about workouts when I’m traveling (unless of course I’m doing a race!) I aim to make my holidays as active as possible. This typically means doing a lot of exploring by foot, or using a hotel gym if I happen to be staying in a hotel.
One of my favourite ways to learn about new cities is to run them, or go on long walks through them. A tool I use for finding safe, well-traveled routes is Map My Run. Here, you’ll find a bunch of different routes and trails mapped by other runners in cities all over the world. Whether you’re walking, running, cycling, or otherwise, I think it can be really useful to see which areas seem to be popular for pedestrians.
So there you have it – now you’re all set for a super healthy trip that doesn’t get in the way of your clean eating habits. But now it’s your turn! I’m sure you’ve got some experience in this area as well, so today I want to know…