Authors: Registered Dietitians
(HealthCastle.com) Do you travel as part of your work? I do about four times a year. Not too often, but when I do, I experience challenges for eating well and living well. I recently traveled to the east coast for 3 days of meetings. Here are 5 lifestyle challenges I had and how I tried to address them.
Challenge #1: Dehydration on the airplane
Airplanes can be very dry places. Because you cannot carry fluids with you as you go through security, it is easy to forget about keeping yourself watered!
- Before boarding your airline, purchase a bottle of water to keep yourself topped up.
- While on the plane, take a drink whenever offered. Many fluids contribute to your hydration – water, juice, milk, coffee, tea. However, keep your overall health goals in mind when drinking calorie-containing fluids – water is one of the best choices.
- Pack along a caffeine-free herbal tea bag in your carry-on.
Challenge #2: Less healthy choices are easily available
Whether you are on an airplane, at the hotel or in between meetings, healthier food choices may be harder to find, especially during after hours. There are new and interesting foods and desserts to try, which may mean you are eating more food than you necessarily need. Think about the health goals you are working toward. Identify the foods are you wanting to eat more of, then go to look for them.
- Look for a local grocery store or farmer’s market outside of your hotel. From here, you can build a balanced snack or meal.
- Look for fruit trays, veggie and cheese platters, a single-serving of yogurt, a one ounce serving of almonds or other nuts from the bulk bins, and/or a carton of low-fat milk.
- Find a coffee shop and order a low-fat latte to get in your calcium-rich choices. Order a fruit and veggie smoothie.
- Take an apple from the basket offered at the hotel.
- Pack along a higher-fiber cereal in your suitcase.
Challenge #3: Larger portions when eating out
You’ve heard this one before: restaurants and food service establishments serve large portions. Research has shown that when served larger portions, people tend to eat more food without feeling more full. We also tend to finish whole units of food – a bottle of juice, an entire muffin, a plate of food. If you are eating out 3 times a day, the larger portions can result in over-eating without you necessarily being aware.
- Be aware of the portion size of what you are buying and eating. For example, one ½ cup serving of grains and starch portions looks like one tennis ball - think in terms of how many tennis balls you are eating. Other portion size reference ideas are here.
- Be aware of how hungry and full you feel. Enjoy your food, but listen to your body.
Challenge #4: Alcohol
Going out for dinner may involve alcohol. Interesting drinks might be available - I had never tried a blueberry martini and wanted to try it. Alcohol can easily contribute to excessive calorie intake, especially when combined with challenges #2 and #3 above. Another challenge is what I call the bottomless glass of wine. I found that my highly attentive server kept topping up my glass of wine, resulting in a lack of cues to gauge how much wine I had actually drank.
- Finish a glass of wine before filling it up again – that way you can gauge how much you actually have had.
- Set a limit of how much alcohol you will have.
- Drink water throughout your meal.
Challenge #5: Sedentary Days
Traveling usually means that your days are jam-packed with meetings – and this may mean very sedentary days.
- Pack along your running shoes and your workout gear. Take advantage of your hotel fitness facility and squeeze in a workout. A small amount of activity is better than nothing.
- Pack a workout DVD to do in your room. There are many short fitness and yoga videos available.
- Identify when you are most likely to fit in your activity – in the morning, after meetings, or after dinner. For me, I am least likely to skip my workout if I do it first thing in the morning before a day’s worth of work.
- Find a friend! While away, I got up each morning to run with colleagues with whom I had traveled. Having running buddies kept me accountable to getting up each morning to fit in a run before our meetings.
- Walk whenever possible. Walk at lunch, walk after your meetings, walk to your dinner destination. You will enjoy the fresh air.
Traveling gives you a chance to try new local foods and see new places. But it can also wreak major havoc on your lifestyle with it being easy to eat more food and move less - unless you are prepared. Before you leave, reflect on your health goals. Keeping these goals front and center in your mind can help you create a plan to address the many challenges you may experience while traveling. How do you handle lifestyle challenges while traveling?