Ask a Nutritionist: 6 Tips for Staying Healthy While Traveling

April 15, 2015
by Stephanie Clarke RD and Willow Jarosh RD, C&J Nutrition for Thrive Market
Ask a Nutritionist: 6 Tips for Staying Healthy While Traveling

Are you always hopping on a plane, or scheduling business trip after business trip? See if this situation sounds familiar to you.

I travel a lot for work and I always seem to get run down while I’m away. I also gain weight. I know that I don’t eat very well when traveling, but I find it challenging to make healthy choices. I’m working so hard to eat well and exercise on a regular basis and don’t want to undo it all during a business trip. What can I do to take better care of myself while traveling so I will feel better?

First, awesome job for taking that first step by recognizing that you need to make some changes in your travel habits! Traveling for work can be a challenge when it comes to maintaining healthy habits; it can take a toll on your mental and physical well-being if you’re not careful.

1. Take a moment to relax.

Business travel can be stressful. Do something to help reduce the stress. Good options include a quick morning meditation, yoga routine, journaling, taking a walk before your day starts (and/or after it ends), or reading something other than work material. We love using meditation apps while traveling.

2. Eat before you go.

The normal travel distress we all experience can release stress hormones that cause cravings for sugary/carb-rich foods to peak. This can be dangerous when combined with the smell of the Cinnabon stand or greasy food-court fare when you’ve finally made it through security at the airport and you’re stressed and starving.

Instead, make time to have a full meal before you head to the airport. An egg sandwich on a whole wheat English muffin with tomato, spinach, and cheese is a good, quick breakfast option. If it’s later in the day, a turkey sandwich with veggies and a piece of fruit also works well. Just make sure you’re getting protein, a little fat, and a source of high-fiber carbohydrate. Plus, when you plan in extra time to eat, you won’t feel as rushed and your blood sugar won’t tank, which can also help relieve some travel stress.

3. Pack snacks for the whole trip.

Snacks deserve a sizable chunk of real estate in your suitcase. They’ll keep you from getting the “hangries” (hungry and angry) or grabbing something unhealthy at the airport, on the plane, or when that business meeting runs way too long. Aim for snacks that provide some fiber, protein, and/or fat, which will help keep you satisfied and prevent a crash in blood sugar and dip in energy.

Some examples are: homemade trail mix made with dried fruit, nuts, and whole grain cereal or popcorn; whole fruit (bananas, pears in these awesome pear packers, apples, etc.); dried organic edamame; roasted and seasoned chickpeas; or nut butter and sliced fruit in a whole grain tortilla.

4. Hydrate again and again.

Being well hydrated can mean the difference between feeling energetic or lethargic. It can also help you stay healthy and can help curb mindless noshing.

Set a reminder on your smartphone if you need help to remember to keep sipping. Bring a reusable water bottle (bonus points if it has a built-in filter) so that you can fill up at a water fountain right after you go through security. That way you can keep track of how much you’ve sipped and will always have a full bottle on hand. And remember, club soda, water flavored with lemon or lime, or herbal tea are all great ways beyond plain water to stay hydrated.

5. Don’t skimp on sleep.

Getting enough shut-eye is essential to keeping your stress level in check, your immune system strong, and even managing your appetite. Set a bedtime close to your usual one and try to stick to it as best you can.

Additionally, keep your bedtime routine similar to your home routine. Or, if your sleep hygiene could use some help, use this as a time to practice. For instance, don’t turn on the hotel TV or stare at a phone or tablet screen before falling asleep.

6. Keep moving.

If you’re not already exercising prior to travel, make that a priority, as it can help improve your health and well-being overall. During travel, carve out time in your schedule to move your body.

It doesn’t have to be your regular exercise routine, either. In fact, we challenge you to do something different, which can be a pleasantly refreshing break from your usual exercise regime. If the hotel has a pool, try swimming; take a fast walk around a new neighborhood; or look into a class (like spinning, barre, yoga, or Zumba) that you can drop into just for the day. Or multi-task and use a walk around town as a chance to get some exercise while exploring new sights.

Illustration by Karley Koenig

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