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Top 8 Tips - How to Eat Healthy While Traveling

How to Eat Healthy While Traveling – Top 8 Tips

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Eating healthy while being on the road is challenging, especially if you travel frequently or with kids. In this article, I will share my top 8 tips and explain how to eat healthy while traveling.

How to Eat Healthy While Traveling

Eating healthy on the road
Sunset as seen from my airplane window

Eating healthy when you cook at home is relatively simple. Finding healthy food choices when you can pick the restaurant is usually also doable. But if you are traveling and can’t control when and where to eat, things get a little bit more dicey, especially in foreign countries.

I travel a lot, both domestically and internationally and cannot always rely on having access to healthy sources of food. That is especially true when I don’t have time for a proper meal. For instance, if I have to head to the airport right after a meeting. In such cases, it is all too easy to make unhealthy food choices, just for the sake of satisfying my appetite.

Over the years I have developed simple solutions to those problems that I would like to share with you. As a result of my strategy, I have not made unhealthy food choices for over a year while being on the road. So let me show you I eat healthy while on the road by following these tips:

Plan ahead

  • Research the hotel and nearby restaurants
  • Decide what exceptions you are willing to make
  • Look for nearby grocery stores you can leverage

Take the stress out of finding healthy food options

  • Bring meal replacement drinks
  • Consider freeze-dried meals
  • Leverage healthy snacks

Think outside of the box

  • Ask for substitutes
  • Embrace intermittent fasting

Healthy road trip meals

How to eat healthy on the road
Always in my backpack: Ample, Wild Zora, and RXBAR

Figuring out what’s healthy and what isn’t can be tougher than you may think. But below are some general rules that I follow when picking food and drinks.

When selecting food, I look for clean and simple options and usually stick to the following categories:

 Do Eat
  • Veggies and fruits
  • Meat and poultry
  • Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds

That sounds relatively straightforward, but more often than not, it’s a struggle to get just that and none of the “extras” that render food unhealthy, such as sugar-laden dressings or sauces, etc.

How to Eat Healthy While Traveling - Top 8 Tips
The Paleo Diet

PS: The above food categories happen to be the pillars of the Paleo diet. If you don’t know what that is, check out this beginners guide.

As a result, I try to be as specific as I can be when ordering my food. For example, if I decide to get a steak I make sure only to get:

  • The meat without any sauces
  • Steamed vegetables without any sauces
  • No other sides

Regarding drinks, I stick to water, tea, coffee or the occasional adult beverage (usually red wine).

Food I try to stay away from

Austrian Marillenknödel: A traditional main dish. Delicious but not very healthy
Austrian Marillenknödel: A traditional main dish. Delicious but not very healthy. Sorry, mom :)

Considering that my “do eat” list of foods is relatively short, it should not come as a surprise that my “do not eat” list is long because it contains everything else. On a high level that includes:

 Do not eat
  • Processed food, especially processed carbs
  • Anything containing added sugar
  • Legumes
  • Grains
  • Dairy (particularly lactose)
  • Anything with artificial ingredients

The list above represents hundreds of individual ingredients that I try to stay away from. Unfortunately, said ingredients are literally in almost every ready-to-eat meal and often also in the food you find in restaurants.

So what can you do to avoid making unhealthy food choices, either intentionally or unintentionally?

Travel tips for eating healthy

To make my life easier while traveling, I have developed an easy-to-follow strategy that includes these tips:

Plan ahead

The Bistro at Courtyard hotels by Marriott
The Bistro at Courtyard hotels by Marriott

When I plan a trip, I try to figure out in advance how the food situation might be at the destination. If I go to Las Vegas and stay at a hotel on the strip, I know that I won’t have any issues finding good food. But if I travel abroad or to a rural area, I try to find out if the hotel I’ll be staying has a restaurant, and if so, if it offers food that meets my expectations. If not, I’ll pack extra meal replacement drinks or snacks that can cover me until I find other food sources.

Pre-travel Tips

  • Research the hotel and nearby restaurants
  • Decide what exceptions you are willing to make
  • Look for nearby grocery stores you can leverage

I once stayed at a Courtyard by Marriott in Akron, Ohio last year while attending a conference. That’s when I learned that Courtyard’s don’t have an actual restaurant, only a snack bar. Fortunately, they had eggs for breakfast on the menu, but that day at 6:30 am their egg delivery hadn’t arrived yet, and the only alternative they could offer was a liquid egg mix that did not fulfill my “clean eating” requirements.

The moral of the story is to plan and to look at the menu of the hotel’s restaurant you’ll be staying before you leave home. If your hotel room offers a minibar, you could also plan a trip to a nearby grocery store and load up on perishable items that are easy to consume, including:

  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Fruits
  • Pre-cut vegetables, including carrots, broccoli, and celery
  • Pre-packaged Guacamole

Some folks buy these things at and bring it on their trip in a container or even a small cooler. But frankly, I don’t want to go through that hassle. If worst comes to worst and I don’t find any decent food at my destination, I rely on non-perishable snacks, meal replacement drinks or freeze-dried meals.

Exceptions

However, I do think, ahead of time, about the exceptions I am willing to make on my trip. For example, I may make an exception with rice if I can get good Sushi at my destination but I will stay away from wheat and other processed grains, especially if they have gluten. By deciding ahead of time, you reduce stress and are less likely to make bad choices when having to decide on the spot.

Bring meal replacement drinks

Suitcase full of Ample for a trip to Europe
A suitcase full of Ample for a trip to Europe

Ample meal replacement drinks have dramatically transformed my travel experience in the last few years. I discovered Ample when I compared Ample to Soylent in the summer of 2017 as part of an article I was writing. Since then, I always bring Ample when I leave home for a trip because it means, I don’t have to worry about what food I may or may not find at my destination.

Unlike a protein shake, meal replacement drinks, such as Ample, can completely replace a meal because they contain just the right mix of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

As a result, I always have a couple of bottles of Ample in my suitcase for those cases where a regular or healthy meal might not be an option. What I like most about Ample is their ingredients and that it comes in the form of a powder, yet pre-bottled, so I only have to add water.

 Benefits of Ample
  • Exceptionally healthy
  • Delicious
  • Easy to carry and mix
  • Also available in Keto and Vegan
  • Completely replaces a regular meal

The ingredients of Ample are clean, healthy, and Paleo compatible, with the only exception of the Whey (milk) protein concentrate. I follow the Paleo diet relatively strictly, but I am OK with Whey as a source of protein as long as it is of high quality.

The significant advantage of Ample meal replacement drinks for travelers is that they come as a powder, so you can conveniently take the bottles through airport security. As a result, it only takes a few ounces of water to get a bottle of Ample ready to drink.

I regularly skip meals when traveling by plane and instead ask the flight attendant to pour water into my Ample bottle so I can shake it and have my meal ready to drink. On countless occasions, the flight attendants were curious and asked what I was drinking. So I explained to them the concept and told them where they could buy Ample.

Ample is available in three formulas:

  • Original – Good balance of protein, fat, and carbs
  • Keto – Ketogenic formula with more fat and fewer carbs
  • Vegan – Pea and brown rice protein instead of Whey

Ample has been a lifesaver for my family and me on countless occasions. And I even use it at home sometimes when I have an early flight or before a CrossFit competition, because it is easier to digest than a full meal. I highly recommend giving Ample a try, especially for traveling.

Top 6 Tips - How to Eat Healthy While Traveling
Lucas enjoying my wife’s Ample

On a side note, the Ample drink is also one of the airplane snacks for toddlers I would recommend. Our two kids are two and fours years old and love Ample! If you want to give Ample a try, use discount code MK15 and get 15% off your first order.

Try Ample Meal Replacement Drinks

Consider freeze-dried meals

Paleo Meals To Go: Freeze-dried meals for backpackers and travelers
Breakfast: Cliffside Coconut Berry and Coffee

Freeze-dried meals are popular among outdoor enthusiasts, but most options you find at REI or similar stores are anything but healthy. The good news is, for those of you who prefer solid over liquid food, there is another option: Paleo Meals To Go! Founded by Dawn Anderson and her son in 2013, Paleo Meals To Go now belongs to the Wild Zora brand. I tested their meals on various occasions, including a transatlantic flight to Europe a year ago and found their freeze-dried meals both convenient as well as healthy.

Preparing a freeze-dried meal is simple! In a nutshell, you add hot water and let it stand for about ten minutes to allow the ingredients to rehydrate:

  • Open the pouch and remove the oxygen absorber.
  • Reseal the pouch and shake to distribute any seasonings that may have settled on the bottom.
  • Add hot water and let stand for 10-12 minutes to rehydrate the ingredients.
  • Stir well and serve.

On an airplane, ask the flight attendant to pour hot water into the pouch and then let it stand for a few minutes.

Since Paleo Meals To Go is now part of Wild Zora, you can leverage the same MK15 discount code and get 15% off your first order.

Try Paleo Meals To Go

Leverage healthy (non-perishable) snacks

Healthy snacks may sound like an oxymoron, but there are indeed healthy, non-perishable snack options that you can leverage if there are no other food sources available.

Before a trip, I usually fill my backpack up with my favorite road trip snacks, including meat and veggie bars from Wild Zora and chocolate and sea salt bars from RXBAR. Additionally, I often bring KIND bars, unless I travel by plane on Delta Airlines, because they recently started handing out KIND bars onboard!

Chosen Foods Avocado Oil Mayo Packets
Chosen Foods Avocado Oil Mayo Packets

Chosen Foods, the maker of my favorite avocado oil mayo recently launched travel-sized mayo pouches that don’t require refrigeration. You can get a pack of 8 for a few dollars on Amazon.

Wild Zora Meat & Veggie Bars

Lucas enjoying his Wild Zora snack
Lucas enjoying his Wild Zora snack

It’s easy to find snacks that are sweet and high in carbs, even if they are healthy. It’s rare to find healthy snacks that contain vegetables and that I don’t have to keep refrigerated. That is one of the reasons why I like Wild Zora meat & veggie bars so much. The other reason is that they are simply delicious!

 Benefits of Wild Zora Meat & Veggie Bars
  • Made from grass-fed meat
  • Contain organic veggies
  • Delicious taste
  • Easy to carry
  • Fully Paleo compatible

If you like to give Wild Zora Meat & Veggie bars a try, make sure to use discount code MK15 to get 15% off your first order!

Try Wild Zora Meat & Veggie Bars

KIND Bars

KIND Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt
Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt

KIND got some undeserved flak from the FDA last year because of outdated guidelines that say a snack food can’t have more than 3g of total fat or 1g of saturated fat per serving while using the word “healthy” on a label. Needless to say, those guidelines are factually incorrect when it comes to fat as scientists have long established the benefits of fat.

Instead, what you should watch out for are carbohydrates with a high glycemic index (GI) and mainly added sugar. Fortunately, KIND offers a variety of snack options that contain little sugar, have a low GI, are gluten- and dairy-free but are high in healthy fats (from nuts).

My favorite is the flavor Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt, and it has the following ingredients:

Almonds, dark chocolate flavored coating (palm kernel oil, chicory root fiber, sugar, cocoa powder, soy lecithin, natural flavor, salt), peanuts, chicory root fiber, honey, walnuts, glucose syrup, rice flour, unsweetened chocolate, sea salt, soy lecithin, sugar.

*Ingredients marked in bold are not Paleo-approved.

Top 6 Tips - How to Eat Healthy While Traveling
In-flight snack

As you may have noticed, not all the ingredients are compatible with our Paleo lifestyle but considering the small amounts contained in those snacks and the fact that snacking is the exception and not the rule in our household; I’m ok with that while being on the road.

 Pros
  • Mostly Paleo compatible
  • Gluten-free
  • Delicious Taste
  • Low Glycemic Index
  • Available on Delta flights
 Cons
  • Contains some non-Paleo ingredients
  • High in carbohydrates

Try KIND bars

An alternative to traditional KIND bars is pressed by KIND® fruit and veggie bars!

KIND bars - Healthy snacks for kids and adults
Goodies in a box: pressed by KIND

Unlike other KIND bars, the pressed fruit and veggie bars do not have any added sugar at all. Of course, they contain sugar from the fruits, but no more than what you would get when eating the fruits directly. And unlike when drinking fruit juices, the fiber from the fruits and veggies in those bars slows down the conversion of sugar into glucose. As a result, the bars have a low so-called glycemic index (GI).

 Pros
  • 100% Paleo Compatible
  • Low Glycemic Index
  • Delicious Taste
  • Contain only fruits
 Cons
  • High in sugar (from fruits)

Try pressed by KIND

RXBAR Protein Bars

RXBAR protein bars chocolate sea salt
RXBAR protein bar with chocolate and sea salt

I love RXBAR protein bars, specifically the Chocolate Sea Salt flavor. It’s one of our favorite “desserts.” What differentiates RXBAR from other snack bars is that they are 100% Paleo compatible while containing a lot of protein. Our favorite flavor, chocolate and sea salt contains only the following ingredients:

  • 3 Egg Whites (Protein)
  • 6 Almonds (Fat)
  • 4 Cashews (Fat)
  • 2 Dates (Carbs)
  • Sea Salt
  • Cacao
  • Natural Chocolate Flavor
  • No B.S.

The last ingredient is essential, and it’s what truly sets those guys apart from the competition! As a result, one bar has about 210 calories (80 from fat) and contains 12 grams of protein, 9 grams of fat and 24 grams of carbohydrates (15 grams of sugar). The source of the carbs, and specifically the sugar, are from the two dates.

 Pros
  • 100% Paleo Compatible
  • High in Protein
  • Delicious Taste
  • Only healthy Ingredients
 Cons
  • 13 grams of sugar (from Dates)
  • Warm temperatures may melt the chocolate

The bars are so tasty that I could eat more than one, but we treat RXBAR protein bars like we treat fruits and enjoy them in moderation.

Try RXBAR Protein Bars

More snack options

The above snacks are my favorites, but there are a ton of other healthy snacks that I have tried over the years, including:

  • Macadamia Nuts
  • bRAW Superfood Bar Chocolate Espresso
  • Sunfood Raw Organic Coconut Wraps
  • Heavenly Organic Chocolate Honey Patties
  • EPIC Venison Bar
  • Jackson’s Honest Sweet Potato Chips
  • SeaSnax Original Seaweed Snack

You can find many of the healthy snacks above at Whole Foods, Costco, or Amazon. But there is also a more convenient way to discover new snacks and to get them delivered to your home with Paleo by Maileo! It is a convenient online store and delivery service I have used in the past, and if you want to try them out, use code SNACKATTACK to get $5 off your first delivery.

Try Paleo by Maileo

Leverage snacks offered onboard Delta Airlines

Gluten-free KIND Bars offered on Delta flights
Gluten-free KIND Bars offered on Delta flights

Unless I fly first or business class, I try to avoid plane food like the pest. The only reason why I might consider eating the food in business or first class is that Delta Airlines usually offers steak as an option. If so, I would have that but without any of the “extras.”

In economy, even the “plain” chicken is usually smothered in sauces that make me bloated before I have taken even the first bite. The good news is, thanks to Ample, skipping an onboard meal is usually not a problem.

On a side note, I would recommend buying a bottle of water after you have passed through security, and before you boarded the plane. That way, you can mix your Ample without having to wait for the flight attendants to come through with the beverage cart. You might even consider buying one of those collapsible water bottles and filling it up at the airport at one of the many water fountains.

I usually fly with Delta Airlines, and they offer bananas and KIND bars, at least when you fly in a Comfort+ seat. So I usually load up on both and save my snacks for later.

Ask for substitutes

Simple dinner: Meat with asparagus
Simple dinner: Meat with asparagus

I barely find a place where I want to eat a meal as-is. Instead, I almost always have to substitute side dishes or ingredients. The good news is, waiters in the US are used to patrons with special dietary restrictions. Waiters abroad are not always accustomed to that and may look at you funny when you ask to get steamed broccoli instead of potatoes with your Schnitzel.

One of the most important, yet easiest, meals for me is breakfast because a good breakfast can go a long way to keep me energized, even if I have to delay or skip lunch. Also, it is usually uncomplicated because I am entirely satisfied with eggs and a bowl of fruit and you can get eggs almost anywhere. Even in the crappiest places I have been, they had eggs. I only make sure to get actual eggs and not some liquid-egg-lookalike. I also make sure that the cook doesn’t add milk, cheese or anything else to my eggs – especially if I order scrambled eggs.

If I eat at a place where they prepare the eggs to order, I may even ask if they could use olive oil instead of whatever vegetable oil they would use otherwise.

The bottom line is, don’t be afraid to ask for exactly what you want. If you do it nicely, chances are the restaurant will try to accommodate you.

Embrace intermittent fasting

In those cases where I do not have access to healthy food options, I try to remember that I am not going to die because of skipping a meal.

Quite the opposite is the case! Intermittent fasting is healthy and should be part of your life anyway. For example, if I have an early morning flight home from a conference, I don’t have time for breakfast, and I have run out of Ample, I will skip the meal and won’t eat until I land.

That gives my body a break from food of over twelve hours. So I recommend embracing such opportunities from time to time; your body will thank you!

Staying healthy while traveling

ample and wild zora in my backpack
You’ll always find those two in my backpack

Staying healthy on the road, and especially when traveling for work or with kids, is not easy. But I hope the tips above gave you an idea of how to eat healthy while traveling and what food to pack for when you are on the road. I have successfully relied on a combination of Ample meal replacement drinks and Wild Zora Meat & Veggie Bars for over a year and highly recommend you give it a try.

Now I want to hear from you! How do you stay healthy while traveling? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

About the Author Michael Kummer

I was born and raised in Austria. I speak German, English, and Spanish. Since moving to the U.S., I have lived and worked in the greater Atlanta area. In my twenties, I was a professional 100m sprinter. These days I do mostly CrossFit. I'm a technologist and Apple fan. I love science and don't believe anything unless there is proof. I follow a Ketogenic Paleo diet and intermittently fast every day. I'm married and have two trilingual kids. My goal with this blog is to share what I learn so that you can spend time on something else. Check out my latest Diet, Fitness, and Technology articles.

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