Clean eating while traveling is tough. For me, the hardest part is willpower.
The second it starts to feel challenging, I throw in the towel and stop thinking creatively. It’s not about “dieting” or being “good,” it’s about how it affects my experience. When I don’t eat well, I don’t feel my best and don’t enjoy my time as much as I could have if I felt refreshed. Not only can eating poorly take a few days to recover from once you return home, but it can also squash your motivation to get back into a normal routine in the first place!
Here are some travel tips to eat clean and get the most out of your travel experience.
Before you go:
- Book an Airbnb instead of a hotel. This one was a game changer for me. Not only can you typically find a better deal, but it also gives you access to a kitchen and usually some staple items that previous occupiers have left behind (oils, spices, etc.).
- Pack smart. You may become famous for packing more food than clothing (the struggle is real) but hitting the store before you leave and bringing some travel snacks along with you is key. Check out my “food products you can trust” list here. Note: I’m constantly updating this list so bookmark it if you need to.
- Prioritize produce. In your smart packing, prioritize fresh fruits and vegetables. Pre-washed and chopped options are particularly helpful when traveling.
- Bring a water bottle. It is easy to forget to drink water when out of your normal element and one of the most common symptoms of mild dehydration is fatigue. Bring an empty water bottle with you to fill up after getting through security and to enjoy throughout your trip.
- Look at menus ahead of time. As you’re planning other fun (or work) activities on your trip, start looking at restaurants close by to see which menus will be best for you. The better you plan, the less you have to think or decide in the moment. If in a pinch, I usually look up where the closest Chipotle is since I know their salad bowl is a solid option. AND I’ll use any excuse to eat Chipotle…
- Pre-portion oats. This is for you overachievers out there who are awesome at planning. Pre-portioning some oats and nuts in a ziplock can make hotel breakfast so much easier. Use the in-room coffee maker for hot water and bring a coconut butter pouch for some added fat, protein, and slight sweetness.
On your trip:
- Seek out the closest health food store. This is great for a variety of reasons. See points about packing smart and prioritizing produce from above – the same thing applies for stocking up after you land. Health food stores also typically have great hot bars and salad bars too. Since Whole Foods is a national chain, they’re usually an easy place to start but Google should bring up mom & pop shops too, which is a fun way to get a feel for the local culture.
- Don’t be afraid to picnic. For some reason, having a picnic is not as commonplace as it once was so I’m trying to revive it. Hit the local health food store or a specialty shop and buy a picnic spread to enjoy outside. There are a lot of room temperature items that work great for this: salami, dry aged cheeses, olives, almonds, dried fruit, or fresh vegetables.
- Ask questions. When looking at a restaurant menu that seems limiting, here are some questions to ask:
- Can I leave off the bun?
- Can they sub a salad or extra vegetables for the side instead of bread?
- Is there anything I can add or remove from the salad to make it more balanced and hardy?
- Can they do the fish/chicken grilled instead of breaded?
- Are any of the sauces questionable in terms of ingredients? Asking for olive oil or aioli on the side is a better bet in terms of oil quality.
- Ordering a la carte. Usually, sides on the menu will be some sort of vegetable, grain, or protein so ordering a few of those to make a complete meal is also a good option. For example, breakfast places usually do a side of bacon, oatmeal, and fruit. Lunch places sometimes do a side salad, avocado, and chicken. And dinner places typically do a brown rice, cooked greens, and a meat.
- Make solid choices at a gas station. Especially with road trips, gas stations and convenience stores can feel like the worst necessary evil. No, you may not get anything organic, but you can still make some choices that would be better than other choices. Stick to plain jerky, popcorn, dried fruit, nuts, and seeds. Once you get into the flavored stuff is where you’ll get some funky ingredients.
- Eat Balanced. I definitely sound like a broken record with this one, but eating a balanced meal that contains complex carbohydrates, proteins, and fats is really important in keeping you full and satisfied with balanced blood sugar. When traveling, you can’t always control food quality, but you can typically control eating a balanced meal so make this the focus of your trip.
One thing that is most important when traveling is to not be too hard on yourself. Yes, you will have times where you are in a situation that is out of your control and I want to encourage you to not stress about it and be ok with doing the best that you can in each situation.
I like to preach the 80/20 rule: try to eat clean 80% of the time and then 20% of the time will either be situations you can’t control or that extra glass of wine at dinner to celebrate your vacation. I find that this ratio allows for the most trip enjoyment but also allows you to quickly hop back into your normal routine when you get home.
Oh yeah, and keep exercising while traveling! Explore new hiking areas, rent a bike or kayak, and keep moving!
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