9 Tips for Eating Healthy During Travel
Exactly how I pack ahead and eat on the go from planes, cars, and RVs
Forgive me from straying from my usual Friday post, “I Was Scrolling and Saw” but I wanted to share what I was genuinely up to this past week! I was totally immersed in my bikini show and then immediately flew out to L.A. to see friends, so eating healthy while on the go was what I was focused on (I don’t think I scrolled the interwebs once all week, actually!)
Travel is an escape from the routine for most. For me, it is my routine, and there are certain things I don’t want to escape from, anyway.
One of these? Healthy eating.
My travels have taken me to 20-something states and 9 countries in the last three years ago, and I fly or drive to a new state or city every single month, with many one or two months off since 2016. I’ve traveled while sober, while in bikini show prep, and while living out of an RV.
So, take it from me when I say that some simple ways to still eat healthy no matter where on Planet Earth you travel.
And before you get the wrong idea, I’m not suggesting you eat the exact same meals you eat at home or deprive yourself of the local cuisine. I’m not a sadist, and often the main theme of my travels is the food I’ll get to try while I’m in the new city.
My approach has always been to enjoy the food scene of wherever I’m at, maybe for one or two meals a day, while still eating the rest of the time as healthy as possible.
Ever gone on a trip where you felt like crap, looked bloated in every single picture, or worse, ended up so run down you got sick and spent the trip in bed, instead of gallivanting around Disney or getting to try the London pub scene with everyone else?
I have! And it sucks.
One of the best self-care tips I ever got was while I lay in bed with a fever of 104 in Surrey, England, on a month-long Europe trip with my high school friend and her mom. She told me, after I’d contracted what turned out to be swine flu (!) “learn to know what your normal and healthy feels like.” The truth was, I was so in the habit back then as a 19 year old of trashing my body, eating and drinking all the things and slacking on sleep, that I’d lost touch with what healthy to me actually felt like. Meaning, I hadn’t even noticed how sick I was feeling until I was suddenly physically unable to move, and had to be taken home to fitfully sleep off my raging fever for two days.
This advice has served me well, and I’ve learned my own body, taking note of what it needs to feel good (7 hours of sleep minimum, light on the drinking, and regularly daily exercise.) I do all these things while no the go, which doesn’t detract from my “vacay mode,” and in fact lets me enjoy the trip all the more, since I’m feeling energized, healthy, and well, vs burnt out, bloated, and stressed about all the damage I’ll have to undo when I get home.
1. Pack your staples
I’m not kidding when I say I typically have an entire carry-on bag devoted to food, or a couple grocery bags and coolers full, when driving. I know myself and my daily menu, and I go ahead and bring with me things like baggies of uncooked rice, coffee, oats, bread, spices I know I’ll want like cinnamon and turmeric, my superfood shakes, vital wheat gluten to add to oats, my chocolate protein powder, my pre workout…anything I don’t wanna waste money buying again or know I’ll want immediately upon arrival or en route. Here's me with my sweet potatoes I just took through TSA - hah!
2. Hit up a grocery store immediately
After we’ve checked into our Airbnb or wherever we’re staying, a grocery store is the next stop. I love shopping in other cities and countries and have a ton of fun comparing the local offerings and finding new things. It’s a great way to feel like a local, even if you’re only passing through a city.
My fave grocery store experiences were in Iceland, Paris, and England, where we found so many bougie vegan treats and brands we don’t have back home. I mentally go through my days in that place, pick up fresh produce and anything I may have forgotten that I know I need, and grab ingredients to make a few dinners and lunches in, for the times we aren’t going out to eat.
3. Do your research ahead of time
Before we even leave, I’ll have thoroughly done my food scouting ahead of time. Check out my post here all about how I use a few different tactics to find bomb vegan food wherever I am.
Nothing’s lamer than when people assume because they’re vegan there’s no restaurants they can go to—I guarantee you there are, you just gotta find them ahead of time. I don’t like to spend vacay time doing research and looking on yelp, though inevitable we stumble upon a few spontaneous gems or get recommendations from locals.
For the most part though I have a mental or actual “Must eat” list in every city before I get there.
4. Strategize your treats
On that note, since I’m trying to keep healthy and especially during times my diet is stricter, like when I’m in prep for a show, I choose my treats wisely and know which days and which means I’ll have out vs. in. This allows me to plan for these treats and pass on anything else that’s not a must.
For example, when we went to LA this week, I knew I’d want a Monty’s Good Burger meal, but could pass on the vegan donuts since I’d had them before and didn’t feel the need to have them again.
5. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
This isn’t exactly a food tip, but it’s critical.
I drink 1-2 gallons a day at home and that doesn’t change on the go. Keeping hydrated is key for about every possible reason, and not the least of which is that it keeps you fuller and less likely to binge.
Pangs of “hunger” is also your dehydration speaking, and when you’re physically running around, eating salty foods, or when you’ve been on a plane, your body is more dehydrated than usual. there’s nothing cute about alcohol or sun poisoning while on vacation…I’ve seen it happen after days out in the sun or skiing.
6. Fill in the gaps with supplements
I don’t leave home even overnight without my pre-workout, superfood powder, protein powder when on prep, and BCAAs. I also always bring with me Goli gummy ACVs (a shot of ACV plus B vitamins, and tastes like a Dot candy!), vitamin D since I tend to be low, and just in case things like raw garlic and activated charcoal for inevitable out of whack travel-digestion, which can happen despite your best healthy efforts.
7. Own It
You and only you are in control of your food choices, so don’t let friends/fam who don’t get it or are in full-on binge mode pressure you to keep up. I’ve been in this boat and eaten/drank way more than I wanted to after succumbing to the pressure to order things just cause “everyone else was.”
It comes with time and experience I think, but being able to say “nah I’m good, you enjoy though” when you truly don’t want to partake, and not care about what other think, is a skill that will serve you well.
8. Prioritize protein and produce
I think of certain foods as the keystones of my diet –everything else would crumble without them. These vary depending on my goals or the season, but in general, I start with protein and produce and build around that.
If we have a long road trip or flight, that means I’m bringing pre-made salad or macro bowls with protein like beans, lentils, vegan sausage, or veggie burger on top. I know even if worse comes to worse, I’m good on my protein and produce for the day, and can fill in the gap with carbs and fats which are easier to come by as a vegan than the protein is (pretzels in airports or granola bars in gas stations. Or maybe fries with dinner or booze, which are both mostly carbs, or ice cream at dinner.)
In other words, pack with you what you know will be harder to find, and fill in the gaps from there with spontaneous finds.
9. If you need to, track ahead of time
Following a meal plan with set meals or macros? I currently am. So, I take a couple hours or so before I even leave to go ahead and log my macros for as many days of my trip as I can, so it’s done. I log the meals I know I’ll be having, and know that it’ll probably end up changing, but I do my best.
I don’t get too anal about what meals are what, but for example if I know at some point each day I’ll definitely have a bowl of oats, a scoop of superfoods, a banana, a certain protein bar, and my pre-workout, that gets logged into my fitness pal before I’ve ever left home. I can quickly rearrange and add/subtract things on the fly, but no sense in not making it as easy on yourself as possible ahead of time, right?
Bonus tip: Maybe this is the most important thing on this list, but leave the guilt at home.
There’s just no room for it in your luggage.
Seriously though, if you’re like me, you can be pretty hard on yourself with your food choices, and may internally be beating yourself up for having that gelato or third cocktail or generally enjoying yourself more than you would at home. Stop that!
All of my tips are here to help you be as healthy as possible while traveling, but they’re not here to encourage deprivation. I have trip memories that are predominantly about all the foods I deprived myself of. You know what are happier memories? That amazing chocolate croissant we had in Paris, or the late-night fries and aperol spritzes.
No, you don’t have to gorge on straight junk to enjoy travel –the salads we had in Paris or the simple bread and cheese lunch we had in the car in Iceland stand out in my memory. The point is though, if you have some more decadent meals while traveling, don’t feel guilty. That actually releases cortisol in your body, which is the arch-nemesis of fat loss. So, if you’re beating yourself about your food choices, you might as well have had two pieces of chocolate cake not one, or four instead of three cocktails. Put your phone down, taste the flavors, notice what you’re eating, and don’t lose your head about it.
Even the most binge-packed trip (here’s looking at you, Austin trip where I ate double mac and cheeseburgers and BBQ all day for a week) isn’t going to do permanent damage.)
I hope these tips were helpful! As my friend’s mom advised a 19-year-old me, learn what your healthy and normal is, and make food decisions that will help you feel your best, while enjoying the heck out of wherever your travels take you.
Wanna check out what I ate in London, as a vegan? Also peep the vegan gems we found in Iceland - including the best burger and best beer of my entire life (who would have thought!?)
If you find articles like this helpful or have any specific questions/subtopics you’d like to read about, in terms of travel dining (or anything) just leave me a comment, and I’ll get right on it!
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