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Stay Healthy on the Road: 7 Tips for Healthier Business Travel

“Do you want fries with that?” This is a common phrase most of us hear when we are scrounging for last minute meal options while traveling for business.

Finding healthy options on the road is the last thing on our minds when we are dealing with airline delays, rental car lines and maneuvering around unfamiliar cities to squeeze in as many meetings as we can.

I had a trip to Atlanta last week that had it all: flight delays, GPS problems and extra long work days. I was even forced to find something “nutritious” at a fast food drive-thru at one point; I was deep in “suburbia” and nearly everything was closed after I finished work. Ahh the horror!?

Surprisingly, keeping up my nutrition was easy though. How? I simply stuck to my habit of making smart nutritional choices.

The trick is finding foods that will not leave you feeling bloated, tired and depleted. I train my clients with an “athlete’s mindset,” by thinking in terms of training and nutrition so that healthy habits ensue no matter what the circumstance is.

Your food supply should be thought of as fuel. Making the right choices will keep your body energized, strengthen your muscles and keep you hydrated to recover quickly from your travel woes.

7 Tips For Healthy Eating On The Road

1. Think outside the box: just because something is presented a certain way, does not mean you have to eat it like that. I could have easily ordered a super-sized #5 with extra cheesy sauce and the 5,000 empty calories that came with it during my fast-food drive-thru experience or I could get creative.

Fast food restaurants usually have unhealthy food choices that include white bread smothered with sugar on their buns (yes, on the very high end of the glycemic table) or deep fried nuggets they call “chicken.” However, most fast food chains thankfully now offer grilled chicken options as well.

Instead of opting for something off their numbered menu, order two grilled chicken sandwiches (hold the mayo of course) and toss the buns. What you are left with is just vegetables (usually lettuce, tomato and pickles) and grilled chicken. Ask for a super-sized cup with ice water in it too — the reaction is always priceless! Simple. Fast. Healthy.

2. Broaden your choices: My choices were limited to the availability of what was offered at a fast food drive-thru late at night due to my delayed flight, but if I had the time I should have gone to a grocery store.

Many grocery chains offer healthy to-go options now. You can load up on your veggies and proteins the smart way. Not waking up feeling bloated with a headache from a few beers and salty food options at a chain restaurant is a great way to start out your day.

3. Eat small meals throughout the day: when you are busy on the road, you can become ravenous by the time dinner comes around, realizing too late that you skipped lunch. Bad choices will ensue — the happy hour special of nachos and chicken wings is not the way to go.

When you eat large meals in one sitting, especially empty calorie meals, you not only become sluggish and tired, but you also store those calories as fat. Your body thinks leaner times are ahead due to the single sitting of mass consumption.

In comparison, when you eat small meals, your body sends signals to the brain that the food supply is plentiful so it burns those calories quickly. Think small meals = small waistline and big meals = big waistline.

4. Make healthy protein choices: you need to eat the right amount of complete proteins to stabilize your blood sugar to prevent energy lulls, not to mention keeping you lean and strong.

Remember a complete protein is any animal protein, dairy product or grain + legume (my favorites in the last category is seven grain bread with almond butter or a simple corn tortilla with black beans).

Most hotels offer some sort of breakfast options that can serve you well in this category too. Skip the sugary cereals and instead opt for a few hardboiled eggs and a piece of fruit with peanut butter spread on it. That was my go-to breakfast this weekend and it sustained me a lot better than Raisin Bran.

5. Bring along some healthy snacks: before you leave the breakfast buffet, grab a couple extra yogurts and a few pieces of fruit. Pair these with some raw or smoked almonds (get those at any airport kiosk) and you are good to go until dinner even if you don’t have time for a full sit-down lunch.

6. Skip your cravings: usually what we crave the most does not sit well after we have satisfied our taste buds. Avoid high glycemic foods like fruit juices, sodas, and sugary snacks. Say no to fried foods. Shelve the non-fat foods and artificial sweeteners that are loaded with chemicals and not easily metabolized by your body. And of course, avoid excess alcohol.

7. Hydrate with water: water makes up the majority of your bodies composition and is even more of a necessity when you travel due to the dehydration issues your body faces on planes.

I am smarter now and bring an empty water bottle to use at the water refilling stations available at most airports–usually they are located by the bathrooms. I figured this out last year when a clerk looked at me when I bought a bottle of water for $7 and said “you know that is $7 right?” She said they offered the same thing for free at the water refilling station next door…free is so much better than $7.

You see, keeping up your nutrition on your next business trip is easy. You just have to make the right choices.