How can I stop weight gain while traveling for work?

Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics
Plan ahead. If you cannot find healthy food at the airport, bring a sandwich with you. There are more and more healthy options on the road and in airports. Do not think of business travel as a vacation! Watch alcohol intake at dinner meetings, avoid rolls and carb rich snacks. Find time to workout especially on travel days.
Karen Ansel
Nutrition & Dietetics

Traveling for work can be tricky because you're constantly eating out. The best strategy to minimize travel related weight gain is to plan in advance. That starts before you even leave. Think about where you'll be eating breakfast, lunch and dinner and what kinds of food will be available. If you have access to online menus for restaurants you'll be eating at take advantage of them and look up the calorie counts of potentially healthy choices.

It also helps to bring your own food whenever you can. It can be really difficult (and often impossible) to find healthy foods at the airport. Arrive armed with healthy snacks that are easily portable like apples, oranges, small baggies of nuts and low fat string cheese as well as a sandwich that won't spoil easily like peanut butter and banana on whole wheat bread. You can also bring healthy foods to keep in your hotel room like whole grain dried cereal, 100 calorie packages of nuts and small baggies of dried fruit. Pair any of these with a low fat yogurt and you have an instant healthy breakfast. For lunch and dinner, load up on vegetables where ever possible, choosing salad and double (or even triple) portions of produce. Not only will these keep you slimmer, you'll feel less weighed down and bloated so you'll have more energy on your trip too.

For more tips while traveling check out my latest book, The Calendar Diet: A Month by Month Guide to Losing Weight While Living Your Life, at the link below:



Ruth Frechman
Nutrition & Dietetics

An unlimited expense account and eating every meal at restaurants can add additional and unwanted calories. You may be out of your usual eating and exercise routine. To counter the effects, try to increase physical activity. Pack a jump rope for cardio and a resistance band for strength training. You can still try new foods but try to limit the portion sizes. If you drink alcohol, limit or avoid while traveling. Alcohol can disrupt sleep and add lots of extra calories. If you are in a different time zone, sleep will be even more disrupted. As soon as you get back home, get back to your usual routine.

Jessica Crandall
Nutrition & Dietetics

Planning ahead is key to being successful when traveling- here are a few tips:

  • Stick with low or no calorie drinks
  • Choose fruits or veggies to snack on vs. chips and candy
  • Pack healthy snacks for the plane ride (fruit, veggies, protein bar, nuts) as well as in your checked bag (oatmeal packs well for breakfast), these tips will help you be on track when you arrive-
  • You can always scope out a local grocery store to stock up on staples and store in your hotel room- just make sure to ask for a mini fridge with your room reservation.
  • Most restaurants will have their menu online so check it out before you depart and pick your choices wisely. 
  • Try to focus on what your body needs when ordering not what just what sounds good.
  • Look at the options before you start loading your plate at a buffet line
  • Try to stick with half portions while served meals
  • Find places to stop and exercise for example take a minute to walk around a park, trail in the hotel gym or even around the hotel before you head out for the day.

Know that one day will not ruin your success so if you get off track, just refocus your thoughts on what you can do to be successful at the next meal

Dee Sandquist
Nutrition & Dietetics

Always travel with a healthy snack. When we get too hungry, we overeat. If you eat out frequently, watch portion sizes. You don't have to clean your plate. Try ordering a salad with dressing to the side so you can control the amount of dressing. Order a salad instead of fries. Find a strategy for physical activity. If there's a fitness room at the hotel, use it. You can ask the hotel for safe routes for walking. If you don't want to leave your room, use an exercise DVD, podcast or stretch.

This has been always a hard issue for people who do travel a lot for work.  Unfortunately there are so many unhealthy choices out there that people usually chose the convience foods rather than what is healthy for them.  Bottom line if you want to keep the weight down while you travel make healthy food choices like instead of the burger get the chicken salad.  Instead of the beer or soda get water or iced tea.  Even skip desserts all together.  Also if you have time during your travels see if there is a fitness facility you can workout in while you are away.  There are many ways to keep your weight down while you travel you just have to make the hard choices of avoiding those temping foods that everyone loves to eat.  In the end you must burn more calories than you take in if you want to keep the weight down.
Gaining weight while traveling for work can be a big issue. There are two likely causes for the weight gain that can be addressed. The first cause may be your diet. While you travel it's likely you are eating out a lot and this can lead to a significant intake in calories. A good strategy to combat this is to plan ahead. If you have an idea of where you might be eating you can often look at restaurant menus online so you can make an informed choice ahead of time. This helps prevent you from ordering something spur of the moment just because you are hungry. Also remember to ask for heavy sauces and dressings on the side so that you can control your intake. Steer clear of fried foods and other obviously unhealthy choices.


The second cause for weight gain while traveling is often lack of activity. You may find yourself stuck in a car or in meetings all day with little chance for exercise. Again, planning ahead can make a big difference. Look for hotels with fitness facilities so that you can exercise once you are done working for the day. If you are staying somewhere without a fitness center call ahead to find out if there is anyplace nearby to walk. You can also exercise right in your room. Exercise videos are a great way to stay in shape and can easily be packed in your luggage. Resistance bands and a yoga mat are also items you might want to consider packing for in-room exercise. With a little planning you can combat weight gain while you travel for work and you'll feel much better once you get back home.

Traveling can definitely take a toll on your health and fitness. It requires constant vigilance to not let life on the road wreck your body and health. Two areas will require your attention-food and activity. When travelling, try to pack healthy food options such as nutrition bars and portion-controlled healthy snacks. Many people pack a garbage bag of high calorie, fat, and sugar snacks to fuel their body during a five hour plane ride. You will be sitting still for hours. The last thing you need to do is pack in the calories. Avoid airport food. Stick with water or diet soda for beverages. If you must have an alcoholic beverage, try light beer or vodka/rum/gin mixed with club soda or diet soda. Mixers can add hundreds of calories very quickly. When eating out, order especially lean. Try to follow these two simple rules-no fried food and no junk food. Eating these things just make it harder to not gain weight. To add in activity, you have to find something you can do. Try walking, running, swimming, or biking. Most hotels have fitness centers now that offer a few pieces of cardio equipment. For weight training, you may need to seek out a gym or pack exercise tubing. Gyms are rarely far from a hotel, and many have arrangements to allow guests for free or reduced prices. Decide that you will watch your food intake and workout (or be active) even if you really do not want to. Doing so will prevent the traveling life from ruining your weight.

Continue Learning about Travelling & Exercise

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.