By Carolyn Brown, MS, RD
Last weekend I went on a “business trip” to my favorite city and former home, New Orleans, to give a talk on healthy business travel. NOLA is known for a lot of great things – Mardi Gras, post-Katrina revival, amazing jazz music, and the Saints – but healthy eating is definitely not one of them. Prioritizing eating well and exercising on a business trip is a challenge on its own; doing so in one of the most indulgent cities on the planet? Double whammy.
We’ve talked eating healthy on travel days (part 1 & part 2), but once you’re out of the car or plane and at your destination, it’s a whole different story. There’s a reason why business travelers are more likely to be overweight and get sick. If you’re away for extended periods of time and you don’t prioritize eating well and exercising, it can have a detrimental effect on your health. So here are four food rules for anyone on the road, be it for business or fun:
1. Plan. Figure out your itinerary and incorporate a food and exercise schedule. What’s the length of your stay? Dining arrangements? Co-travelers? Have a say in restaurant choices whenever you can. Check out menus before you go out to dinner. There are tons of resources and apps for healthy restaurant eating.
2. Pack: Revisit our first aid food kits. Pack one in your carry on and one in your suitcase and avoid the fast food/candy trap. Also pack everything you need to exercise – make a checklist so forgetting one shoe or a sports bra is not an excuse.
Road Warrior Suitcase Essentials:
- Running shoes/socks
- Gym pants/shorts
- Tank or t-shirt
- Sports bra (men you can cross this off)
- Reusable water bottle
- Cap/goggles, swim suit (optional)
3. Exercise: Instead of complaining about jetlag, stress, or your weight, do something about them: move! Hotel gyms and nearby parks are great but your room can work just as well. Take advantage of fitness on demand, yoga podcasts and just about anything you can think of on the internet. And even if you don’t have time to sweat, do it anyway. Some great resources:
- Map My Run: walking/running routes
- Fit Magnet: for scoping out yoga/swimming/gym options
- The Schedule: for walking/running/cycling races on weekend trips
- Tara Stiles Yoga: simple/fun yoga instruction for stress, hangovers, insomnia
4. Shop: Set yourself up for a healthy trip before you have a second to think (or work). The minute you get to your destination, get to the local grocery store. Make use of that fridge, even if it means asking them to clean out the minibar. Stock up on perishables like berries, apples, carrots/celery sticks, Greek yogurt, single pack hummus/guacamole, string cheese or cottage cheese, and even a few pieces of grilled chicken or slices of deli turkey. Commit to being in control of your breakfast or snack every day, if nothing else.
This isn’t just for business travel, it’s true of vacation, too. A lot of things are out of your control (cough, cough, wailing child in seat 9B, annoying co-workers, delays). But don’t forget that no matter what happens, you do have say in what you eat and drink—even if it’s out of a vending machine. In case you’re curious, I was able to keep the food situation in control in NOLA. But exercise? I watched the Saints play… that’s gotta count for something.
Do you travel for work/fun a lot? How do you keep your health on track? Any other “road rules” for fellow travelers once they reach their destination? Share your thoughts in the comments below or in our Food and Cooking community.