NAVIGATING NUTRITION DURING TRAVELBy: Emily Parsons, Pn1
I can’t believe I’m actually about to say this right now, but the holiday travel season is almost upon us. Woah woah woah. Somehow it manages to sneak up on me every year…until I get nice reminders when flight prices sky rocket, traffic gets even more chaotic and everyone either seems happy-go-lucky or right on the verge of a meltdown. It can be a patience-testing, crazy time full of twists and turns; however, one thing I do have dialed in is meal prepping and planning for long travel days on the road or in the sky.
I love everything about traveling. Yes- I’m the person that has their airport routine down to a science and still gets fascinated staring out the windows of planes. Since I travel frequently, I’ve been able to develop the below tips and tricks to make sure my nutrition doesn’t come off the rails…(pun fully intended.)
Airport food and airplane snacks can be expensive and less than ideal, so I like to come prepared with my own. Don’t let security cramp your style- there are still plenty of ways to prepare for long plane rides. I recently traveled out to California with a friend and our bag included:
o 2 empty water bottles to fill up on the other side of security
o 2 RX Bars (my favorite whole-food protein bar!)
o 2 chopped apples w/ individual packets of Justin’s Almond butter (*squeeze a little lemon on the apples to keep them from turning brown)
o 1 bag of air popped sea salt popcorn
o 2 servings of avocado egg salad (*bring an empty Ziploc bag and ask a restaurant on the other side of security to fill it with ice so you can create your own little cooler)
o 2 small bags of carrots and pita chips- for dipping out the egg salad
It took a little prep work the night before, but we had plenty to get us through the 7 hours of traveling without getting hangry or breaking the bank on snacks. If my travel days are going to be long, I always try to make sure I have balanced snacks and something for a small meal (sandwich, wrap, egg salad, etc.) This ensures I’ll be ready to roll when I land in my final destination.
Restaurants on the Road
KFC, McDonalds, Burger King, Long John Silvers…sometimes the restaurant choices on highway exits can be a bit bleak. That double whopper with extra cheese may taste delicious at the time, but I’m willing to be that a couple miles down the road you may not be quite as satisfied with your decision. There are a few habits that I’ve developed over time that have helped me stay on track no matter where my family or team ends up stopping:
1. Focus on your individual needs: Even though my best friend may be opting for a large value meal, I know that doesn’t have to throw me off track. I’m not saying I’m perfect, but I know the more often I achieve a good balance of protein, carbs and fats, the better I’ll feel (or perform in sports events) throughout the trip.
2. Build your plate around protein and vegetables: Often times fast food or casual dining restaurants make it easy to have a carb overload. Grab a sandwich with some fruit and chips, or pasta with bread on the side and you’ve probably had half of your daily carbohydrate needs. So I focus on making sure I have good portion of protein and vegetables first and foremost, and then add that side of chips or fruit in after. Think going bunless on the burger and doubling up the side of veggies, or having a salad with chicken on it and then adding a bag of chips on the side.
3. Don’t be afraid to modify menu items: I hold the opinion that if there are individual ingredients on the menu that I like, then I can build my own meal. Sometimes this just takes being bold in your requests in order to strike the right balance in your meals. For example, I was recently ordering a breakfast sandwich at a tiny little deli in downtown Atlanta. On the menu one sandwich had egg, ham, mushrooms & swiss on a brioche bun; one had sausage, tomtato & cheese on a crossaint; and another had egg, spinach and cheddar on white. What did I end up getting? Egg, swiss, mushroom, spinach & tomato on wheat- all because I simply asked. Of course this isn’t always going to be an option, but 9 times out of 10 I can tweak a subpar menu to make it work for me.
Planes, Trains & Automobiles
At the end of the day, a little planning and prepping can go a long way. Bring a cooler in the car, pack some quality snacks for the plane, and strive to find the balance when eating out on the road- the more you focus on your needs, the better your end results will be!