I am a full-time traveling registered nurse, fitness enthusiast, and nutrition expert. Every morning I wake up intending to bring awareness of the importance of health and spiritual wellness, especially to the traveling community. At Messy Bun Traveler, we promote travel that allows the traveler to either kick-start, maintain, or enhance a healthy lifestyle. So whether you're someone who travels for business, travels for pleasure, or new to travel and looking for health advice while on the road, this blog is for you!
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A lot of the time, if we are traveling for work, we opt just to skip breakfast altogether to get those few extra minutes of sleep. While skipping breakfast isn’t recommended, and often leads to poor dietary choices or overeating, new studies are showing that the importance of breakfast is not necessarily WHEN you eat it but rather, WHAT you eat. A lot of the time, when we’re traveling, we’re eating what’s provided in a hotel’s continental breakfast. This includes a waffle maker station, perhaps some cereal and toast, muffins, coffee, and sugary fruit juices (a lot of the time aren’t even real juice!). We’re lucky if the hotel-provided breakfast offers eggs or even fresh fruit. My point is, although trips can sometimes be hectic, people need to start the day off with the right breakfast. Eating breakfast at a reasonable time during the day, as well as the QUALITY of the food you’re eating will help keep your metabolism running and stave off that bad cravings later.
Many times, when we’re traveling, we feel the need to indulge in three full-sized meals a day. This is largely because we’re frequently eating out, and restaurants tend to dish out large portion sizes. This leads to overeating as our body doesn’t need that many calories in one day. Generally, the right portion size is no larger than the size of your fist. Opt for a meal that has a fist full of protein, a fist full of veggies, and a fist full of whole grains. Many restaurants offer half-orders or even senior menus. Don’t be afraid to be picky! You can quickly shed calories off an entrée by asking the chef to hold the butter, or even use a fat-free dressing on your salad!
Another common mistake I see a lot of people make while traveling is that they don’t drink nearly enough water. Dehydration is a real thing, people! Also, your brain can mistake dehydration for hunger instead of thirst. A lot of times this leads to overeating and not drinking enough water. To fix the problem, when you think you’re feeling hungry, drink a tall glass of water first. Give it about 15-20 minutes, then see how you feel afterward. This is an easy trick to healthy eating while on the road.
Don’t think that you’re not allowed to treat yourself to a nice cocktail while traveling, but I do recommend limiting yourself. Alcohol is what’s considered as “empty calories” in that it has a high-calorie content but doesn’t add any nutritional value.
A lot of the time, when we’re on a trip, we have the mindset of “I can do whatever I want – I’m on vacation!” and yes, while it’s good to treat yourself while you’re out traveling, just like the drinking, it shouldn’t be overkill. We should still be making sure we’re eating enough nutrient-dense foods, so we get all of the necessary vitamins and minerals we need.
Sometimes you’ll be surprised at what you read. But in all honesty, one of the best things you can do to help stick to a healthy diet is to always read nutrition labels. Be especially mindful of the calorie count, saturated fats, sugars, and carbohydrates!
Sometimes we don’t account for the calories in dipping sauces and salad dressings when in reality, that’s where most of the calories are sometimes! If you’re eating a salad with a heavy, high-fat dressing, you may be consuming more calories than a double-decker cheeseburger and not even realize it! My recommendation, be mindful of the calorie count in all sauces and dressings and ask for low calorie or fat-free alternatives whenever you can!
One thing I love to do while I’m traveling for work and feel like I don’t have the time to prepare healthy food is order a food subscription box. I order from Sunbasket because I know all the ingredients are fresh, organic, and the recipes are healthy. Additionally, there are many different categories you can choose your food from, including low-calorie, paleo, vegan, gluten or dairy-free, diabetic-friendly, and more!
Proteins and vegetables will keep you full longer because they take longer to be digested in the body. Plus, they contain many vitamins and minerals to help you feel good and well energized!
Eating carbohydrate-dense meals will leave you feeling high with an energy crash later on in the day. Plus, any carbohydrates your body doesn’t use up for energy gets stored as fat and can be even harder to process later!
As mentioned earlier, generally, portion sizes should be no bigger than the size of your fist. If we’re not cognizant of our portion sizes, it’s very easy to over-eat.
Carry a refillable water bottle with you to avoid dehydration. Dehydration can easily be mistaken for hunger, causing us to overeat. Plus, our energy levels deplete once our bodies are starving for water.
It’s best to consume small, frequent meals throughout the day to keep energy levels up. If you’re looking for inspiration on the best travel snacks, check out my list of my 25 favorite healthy travel snacks here.
A little planning can go a long way. If you know what area you’re going to be in, do your research in advice with a quick google search. Pick out your restaurants that you know have healthy food options in advance.
You don’t need to be dining out every evening. Instead, opt for a home-cooked meal by buying fresh produce at the grocery store, and preparing it at the hotel or Airbnb. Many locations offer either kitchens in the hotel rooms or a community kitchen for all guests to use!
I shared in Wellness Tourism: How Wellness is Changing the Way we Travel, that many hotels are incorporating health and wellness into their branding and marketing strategies to appeal to the millennial generation (a generation that values health). Picking a hotel that focused on putting “wellness” services into the hotel will most likely provide better continental breakfast options, healthy room service food selections, and in-house fitness rooms.
Waiting until you’re dying of hunger can make it tempting to indulge in whatever the next food you see is. A lot of the time, this consists of junk food and unhealthy choices.
Be mindful of all those empty calories!
I added this point to healthy eating because the number one prevention in food poisoning is proper hand hygiene. Before you indulge in your next meal, make sure to wash your hands with warm water and soap. Of course, if none is available during your travels, it’s always handy to have sanitizer available.
And lastly, don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect. You’re on vacation to have fun, not always worry about what you’re eating. By just giving it some effort and taking those baby steps will set you off in the right direction. Remember, habits aren’t something that form overnight. But making a conscientious effort to healthy eating while on the road will set you on the path to success!
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I definately needed to read this! I will be more conscious and picking hotels henceforth. Thanks Reina for all the very useful and healthy advices on your page.
I’m so glad you find this information useful! Thanks for the sweet comment!
Great tips! I don’t like it when I drink too much on vacation – if I’m lucky enough to not be hungover, I’m still tired and dehydrated the next day. I’d rather enjoy (and remember) my trip while I’m there! Also – the struggle to not overindulge in food is real. haha
Yes, I agree about the drinking! The hangovers and sluggishness the next day make it not worth it!
I have a difficult time with healthy eating always! My personal trainer had my pick 2 areas to start with. 1. Drink more water and 2. Eat breakfast. And recommended adding more protein. This list will be helpful for sure!
Those are great things to focus on! Especially adding protein to every meal!
Love these tips! I cannot function with breakfast but sometimes whilst travelling I will be so inspired by a place that I don’t feel hungry for lunch. My partner on the other hand is used to over eating on holiday so I try to make sure we eat 3 meals a day during our trips!
I agree! It’s so easy to get caught up in the sights we forget to eat!
I never thought to order from a place like Sun Basket while traveling. We did order from Whole Foods while we were in Disney though and that worked out really well for us! Great tips
Yes! I like to use Sunbasket while I’m on travel nurse assignments because it’s easy to just quickly update my shipping address. And the meals are quite easy to make! All healthy and organic ingredients too!
I travel for work sometimes and it’s so hard to eat well after working and going back to a hotel room. I carry a reusable water bottle with me so I can be sure to drink lots of water. I also try to be very selective of what I eat – more so than when I’m home sometimes : )
Those are all great things! Another tip: call your hotel ahead of time and ask for a mini-fridge and microwave!