Wondering how you can eat healthy while traveling?
Whether you’re heading out for a weekend adventure or you’re busy with work travel, here are 3 tips for maintaining your healthy eating plan.
A. Keep the big picture in mind.
You know how when you try to be perfect on your food, but when you can't stick to it, you head into a downward spiral of beating yourself up...
Well, I'm telling you not to stress.
Because when it comes to your nutrition, what you do most of time is more important than what you do a small percentage of the time.
Weekend adventures and works trips are short. And normally, I'd tell you that you're gonna need to about 90% on point with your eating to make progress towards your goals.
(90% or higher for real, whole and minimally processed foods)
But a smart mindset for vacations or travel is to set your sights on 70% on point or higher. Give yourself some grace.
A couple of bad days won’t damage your fat loss efforts. Likewise, a few missed macros won’t eat away all your hard earned muscle.
When you remain disciplined for the major part of the year, then you can take some flexibility for your trips.
Why 70% works...
Let's say you're on a work trip and performance is key. Whether it's a big presentation or closing a major deal, you're gonna want to be on your A-game.
Too many meals on the “unhealthy” spectrum with processed foods can cause distress in the gut. This negatively impacts energy levels, mentally clarity, emotional control and immune strength.
So even though a few 'off plan' meals won’t wreck your physique goals, it’s important to be mindful of eating potentiality problematic foods on days when optimal performance is required.
Travels days that are chock full of business meetings, cognitively demanding tasks like presenting to an audience, or when peak athleticism is priority - 70% on point is going to have major benefits for you.
It will also give you a little wiggle room for celebrating the closure of that major deal or those fun campfire meals!
Eating right majority of the time means feeling energized, healthy and happy most of the time.
B. Keep it simple.
Progress over perfection is the goal.
Don’t worry about hitting perfect macro numbers on busy travel or vacation days. Just aim for a majority of your choices as 'performance meals.'
A performance meal is one that keeps you feeling satisfied and fueled. It's a feeling of having craving-free energy that lasts for hours.
You can build your performance like this...
Just shoot for any source of lean protein, add some healthy fats, and include a major portion of veggies or greens.
Let's face it, when we're away from home, finding quality, unrefined carbs can be a challenge. So let's skip them and take them and temporarily take them out of the equation.
You can stop in any grocery store, grab a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, 1 extra large container of lettuce, 1 avocado and maybe a packet of your favorite dressing.
Then, grab some plastic silverware from the cafe area to bring with you.
Pull the chicken off the bone, slice the avocado and pour the dressing right into the lettuce container with your greens and voila…….. that’s about 3 meals worth right there!
Or load up on a couple of cans of wild caught salmon and cucumbers. You can slice the cucumber for greens and enjoy the salmon for quality protein and healthy fats. It’s super portable and easy to eat on-the-go.
Food is fuel. Keep it simple and effective - meat, veggies and fats to the rescue….
By keeping it simple, you’ll get the nutrition you need to eliminate excessive feelings of hunger throughout your day.
And no matter how results focused you may be at the time, a “keep it simple” mantra will also mitigate some stress of feeling like you're “off” your regular eating plan for a few days.
“Keeping it simple” is always an option. Even if you’re constantly eating out for work, traveling for business, or on vacation - you can almost always find meat, veggies and good fats.
C. Play on offense and make it all a game.
It's more of a perspective or mindset...
But while you're traveling, what if you played on offense, at every single meal?
Every meal is a chance to move forward. There is no such thing as maintenance. We're either moving forwards or backward.
So the idea here is to 'take shots' and have a mindset of being on offense.
These can be small shots too. For example, you can ditch the bread on your sandwich. Or you can sub an extra veggie side for some pasta.
When we try to do the best we can at each meal and view it all as a game, it's fun to see what we're capable of creating.
I'm telling you, it's a game you can win!
D. Plan ahead.
Both work and fun trips will have large celebratory meals. Here's 7 steps to plan ahead for your healthy eating success.
1. Go light and lean leading up to the big dinner - this means more of a focus on lean protein and veggies and a limit on carbs and fats for the earlier meals in the day.
Save room for the carbs/fats that are coming later from the holiday meal or celebratory dinners while on your trip. Total intake for the day as a whole is what matters most.
2. Avoid showing up on an empty tank - you know how when you go to the grocery store hungry, you end up with way too much food in your cart?
Yeah, I'm guilty.
Consider a small protein rich snack about one or two hours prior to a big dinner to avoid showing up ravenous and it'll help keep portions more in check.
3. PVC - Eat in this order...Protein, Veggies, Carbs.
Actually eat the protein on your plate first like chicken, then any veggies, and save the higher carb sides for last.
Eating in this order fills us up and uses protein and fiber to build a backstop for ourselves.
4. Alcohol - the more we avoid sugary mixes and fruit juice add-ins the better.
5. One plate rule - whether it's appetizers or the main meal itself, when we commit to one plate and pass on seconds, we can dial in our portions and avoid feeling overstuffed.
6. Activity is our insurance policy - go for a run, get in a quick HIIT session, play some backyard football, weight train, or go for a walk.
Any activity on the day of a big celebratory meal or vacation eating will create a deficit that can be beneficial for burning up the extra calories we may consume.
And I save the best for last. The most important plan of all...
7. Enjoy the people, the moment, and the food - it's likely a special and memorable occasion. I'd recommend you fully enjoy it!
E. Set your environment up for success
No matter where you're staying, make the time to stop in a grocery store before you get to your destination.
Stock up on healthy items like protein rich snacks, protein powders, deli meats, clean protein bars, and trail mix.
Load up on plenty of bottled water to stay hydrated.
You never know when these items will come in handy and having them stocked is an easy way to stay on track when hunger strikes.
So, now you can embark on your next trip with confidence and travel like a nutrition pro. You know the mindset strategy and tips to not only succeed but to thrive.
If you got some value out of this post, share it with a friend. It's the greatest compliment you could give.
Written by Brett - Nutrition & Health Coach / Co-Founder of Moontower Matcha
Brett has worked for the last 10 years with thousands of individuals one-on-one to achieve their own health and fitness goals.
His mission is to share healthy habits, real-world solutions, and comprehensive strategies around nutrition, movement, sleep, and stress management to help guide individuals to the results they desire most.