March 30, 2016 / Published 7:00 AM EST / Tamara George

Eating right on the road

Whether you’re on a family vacation or a business trip, healthy eating tends to take a back seat to convenience and “vacation mindset.” So how do you make good food choices when you’re eating out all the time? We talked to Maarika Arget, our in-house Wellness Consultant, for some easy tips on keeping the nutrient factor high (and the pounds off) when you’re on the go.

Pack snacks. Fresh fruits and veggies can be a no-no if you’re crossing borders, but dried fruit bars, almonds, beef jerky are nutrient packed go-tos that travel well. “And don’t forget to eat plenty of protein,” says Arget. “It will keep you full longer.”

Plan ahead. There’s nothing more frustrating than being hungry and trying to find food in a place you don’t know. Chances are, you’ll pick the first fast-food spot you see, which isn’t always the healthiest choice. Do a search on your destination ahead of time to check out healthy options. There are plenty of apps to help you find fare that’s health-conscious, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.

Drink lots (and lots) of water. Ever wonder why you get so thirsty when you fly? It’s because cabin air is notoriously dry, and can dehydrate you really fast. Bring a refillable bottle and fill it after you get through security. “You’ll be less tempted by sugary or caffeinated drinks,” says Arget. “I travel with a reusable bottle – I drink the whole thing before going through security to empty it, then refill it on the other side at a water fountain. It’s a lot more cost-effective, and I always have my bottle with me on my trip!”

Don’t deny yourself. Eating is one of the great pleasures of travel. But that doesn’t mean every meal should be a calorie extravaganza. Pick a meal, snack or dessert that’s your splurge for the day, and focus on healthier choices the rest of the time. And make an effort to be an active traveler – incorporate plenty of walking and other activities to offset those calories.

Shop at grocery stores. Hit the local market for some good-for-you fare. Go for things like pre-cut veggies, salad bar items, hummus and crackers, and raw almonds. “Pack a few containers or sandwich bags,” says Arget. “They make it easy to store the foods you buy.” Plus, grocery shopping can be a fun part of the travel experience – there’s no better place to discover what foods the locals love.

Get smart about restaurant food. Eating out is unavoidable when you’re traveling. But that doesn’t mean you have to settle for unhealthy options. Choose fish and lean meats and vegetables that are steamed, broiled or grilled. Ask for dressing on the side. Share the appetizer or skip it completely. And take a close look at the ingredients; most people equate salads with healthy eating, but when they’re topped with cheese, deep-friend items or creamy dressing, they can have more calories than a burger and fries.

Beware of the buffet. First off, forget the idea of getting your money’s worth. Go in with the intention that you’re not going to overeat. Look over everything first, then decide what you want. Grab a salad plate instead of a dinner plate – studies have shown that people who are satisfied with less because the plate size makes them feel like they’re eating more. Fill your first plate with salad, then pick lean proteins and items that aren’t fried or covered in sauce. And when it comes to dessert, take the one thing you really want, and leave the rest.

Food is a big part of the travel experience. After all, what’s a trip to Paris without a chewy baguette or a jaunt to Chicago without deep dish pizza? So don’t feel like you have to deny yourself at every turn. Enjoy what your destination has to offer. It’s really about moderation and making smart choices, at least most of the time.

Want to know more about staying healthy – on the road or at home? Check out these posts:

5 tips for eating healthy

7 tips to build immunity and stay healthy

5 strategies for a healthy heart

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