How can I stay healthy while traveling?

Traveling can make sticking to healthy habits a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be a road to ruin. Follow these tips and you’ll return home with the same pants size you left with.
  • Be prepared. Always be prepared with healthy snacks on hand. Try to choose options with minimal ingredients and some fat, protein and fiber. Pack more than you think you’ll need, as healthy snacks can be hard to find in hotels and airports.
  • BYOB (bring your own breakfast). At most hotels, unless you fork over $20 for a sit­down breakfast, the menu offerings are slim. The safest bet is often having something nutritious in your room you can eat, both saving you money and starting your day off on the right foot.
  • Plan ahead: Scour menus before your trip to choose healthier meals. If you read up ahead of time, you can identify a few places in the area you’re staying where you can find a healthy meal, and what to order at each place. Having your mind made up before you arrive can help you avoid the temptation to order something less healthy.
  • Team up with your travel mates. Sharing the common goal of staying healthy with your travel mates can make it more likely that you’ll both stay on track and keep each other accountable. It also provides an exercise buddy.
  • Bump up the activity. Sometimes when you’re traveling, there’s no getting around a less than desirable meal. Exercise can not only negate some of that damage, it can also give you more energy and motivate you to stay on track while you’re away.
  • Use MapMyRun or similar software to map a running route ahead of time, or use it to find routes posted by local runners. If running outside isn’t an option, take advantage of what is. There are lots of creative ways to get 20­30 minutes of movement in during some part of your day.
  • Go easy on the booze. Whether you’re enjoying the local fare or just networking at company events, try to aim for no more than one drink an hour, and mix in plenty of water between. If you’re enjoying a mixed drink, ask for sugar­free mixers like diet tonic or soda water.
  • Keep up with your sleep. Lack of sleep can reduce motivation to exercise and make it harder to resist starchier, fattier “comfort foods.” Promote better sleep by avoiding screens closer to bedtime, sleeping in a cool room and avoiding caffeinated beverages after lunchtime.
Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics

Snacking and letting yourself get overly hungry are two common pitfalls of travel that can lead to poor food choices. While healthier snacks are becoming more available in airports and on the road, it can still be difficult to find good snacks. To avoid choosing high calorie, fried snacks, pack fresh fruit, seeds and nuts, and some cut up crunchy veggies. Even a sandwich on whole grain bread can work. Pack it in a small refrigerated bag. Be on the lookout for healthy Mexican food, Asian food, and other non-fried items like salads and hummus. Don't let yourself get too hungry because if you have not planned ahead you will be more likely to succumb to poor food choices.

Traveling can really interrupt your fitness routine and encourage you to ditch your healthy habits. The key to combating this disruption is to be prepared for the scenarios that accompany travel. Pack a travel cooler with cut up veggies, low-fat yogurts, lean meats and whole grain crackers will help keep your metabolism burning. Practice healthy choices when dining out and make room for indulgences in your diet throughout the week, so that you don't feel deprived. Hit the hotel gym or bring along resistance bands to do some strength training in your hotel room. Do some push ups, jumping jacks and abdominal crunches before starting your day, and lace up your walking shoes for touring a new city on foot. With a few preparations, you will be able to keep your health and fitness routine on track!
Kelly Traver
Internal Medicine

Here are several tips people find helpful for staying on track:

  • Deli sandwiches can be a good option when you are traveling. Choose whole-wheat bread; substitute mustard for mayonnaise; choose lean-meat fillings such as lean roast beef or turkey; save extra calories by skipping the cheese; add lettuce, tomato, or other veggie toppings to help meet your daily vegetable needs.
  • For long car or train rides or plane flights that don't include meals, pack some healthy snacks such as fresh or dried fruit, whole-wheat crackers, or energy bars. Take a bag of fresh, crunchy bite-size vegetables along. These are all high in fiber and may also help if you suffer from constipation when traveling. Nuts in single-serving packets are another good option to keep hunger under control. Bring bottled water and keep it cold in an ice chest if you're driving.
  • When you are flying, be sure to drink plenty of water, as the air in the plane is dehydrating. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which act as diuretics and can contribute to dehydration.
  • When you are traveling across several time zones, try to adapt to the new time as quickly as possible, including mealtimes. This will help you stick with your healthful eating routines.
  • Eating out all the time can be tricky, but make the most healthful choices you can and focus on portion control.
  • If you'll be visiting an exotic place, take time to research the health precautions for that area. Know whether the food and water are safe and whether certain vaccines are recommended.
  • Finally, don't forget to exercise. If you are sightseeing, try to walk to see the sights whenever possible. If you are traveling on business, use the hotel gym or pack a lightweight resistance band or jump rope. You can even buy weights that require you to add water to provide the weight. Then you just drain out the water when it's time to pack up and travel again.
  • Pack your running shoes on top of your clothes so they will be in plain view when you open your suitcase. You can stay healthy when you are traveling. You may have to be a little more creative about it, but chances are, if you're feeling healthy, you'll be more likely to have a great trip.

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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.