A few years ago, my husband and I flew to Paris to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. It had been awhile since I’d had to endure a 10 hour flight, adjust to a 6 hour time change (I don’t think I ever did), and navigate through a foreign city with endless culinary options. I have always loved to travel, but I don’t love the way my body sometimes feels if I’m not careful to implement some strategies to keep things running as normally as possible so I don’t totally derail my digestion and sleep.
Whether your job requires you to be a frequent flyer, or you simply enjoy hitting the road (or air) to seek out a new adventure, traveling can present a challenge in maintaining nutrition and fitness goals, and disrupt the body’s sleep and digestive processes as a result of a change in routine, different foods, and time changes, to name a few.
Here are 5 things to consider before your next trip:
1. Pack More Snacks Than You Think You’ll Need.
Whenever possible, pack a variety of snacks that are high in protein and healthy fat to stay ahead of hunger and provide you with an option when you don’t have access to healthy choices. This will take the thinking out of what to get in an airport or at a convenience store on the side of the road and will save you money, too! The more control you have over your choices, the more on track you’ll be while traveling.
If traveling by plane, make sure your snacks are TSA compliant. Obviously these should mostly be non-perishable, unless you plan to consume them early on. Individual servings of nut butters are the perfect size to stash in a purse or carry-on luggage, and are convenient to use throughout your trip in a variety of ways. Even though they tend to be pricey, they’re still less expensive than buying an airport or gas station snack in the long run. Nuts and seeds, energy balls, Kind bars, and jerky are all good examples of “real food” snacks that will help keep hunger at bay while in transit and also serve as a stand in when you reach your destination.
I recently read an article about a news correspondent who travels frequently for work and has learned to pack baby food pouches of vegetables or fruit as part of her stash. This may sound strange, but it’s actually an ingenious idea! Fruits and vegetables are typically hard to come by when in transit, and sometimes even when you’re at your destination. The fiber and liquid in the pouches can help with hydration and digestion, which is often disrupted during travel.
2. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
Water is essential for all bodily functions. Dehydration is one of the most common pitfalls of travel, especially when sitting on an airplane for extended periods of time. Dehydration can lead to low energy levels, constipation, and increased blood pressure. When traveling to places where the climate is considerably warmer or the altitude is higher, your body will need to acclimate gradually, and hydration is key in this process.
Carry a reusable water bottle with you (keep it empty until passing through security if traveling by plane), and have it with you at all times as a reminder to hydrate. Vegetables and fruit, as well as other liquid based foods like soup, smoothies, and those good old baby food pouches, do contribute to hydration, but the best way to ensure you’re getting enough fluid is to fill up on water. A good rule of thumb is to divide your body weight (pounds) in half and aim for that number (in ounces) throughout the day.
3. Try to Maintain Your Normal Eating Schedule
One way to prevent overeating (and, therefore, weight gain) as well as to keep digestion on track when traveling is to stick as closely as possible to your normal eating schedule. If you’re on a flight that serves a meal and it’s not the normal time you’d be eating a meal (or perhaps you just had one before you boarded), it’s ok to skip it. On the other hand, if you are a nervous traveler and tend to lose your appetite when in transit, avoid skipping meals altogether (which might lead to eventual overeating) and rely on one of your packed snacks to get you through that portion of your trip.
If a time change is involved in your adventure, gradually ease into a new eating schedule that resembles your normal one by keeping meals and snacks spaced similarly to what you’d do at home. This can be a challenge, especially with business travel when you have less control.
4. Try to Incorporate Produce With Each Meal
It’s exciting to enjoy the local fare of the city you’re traveling to, but don’t forget to include vegetables and/or fruit with each meal. Besides the nutritional benefits they provide, they will also help to prevent you from overindulging on some of the other higher calorie foods that possess less nutritional value. Additionally, the fiber content is key in conjunction with hydration to keep things moving normally in the digestive process and prevent constipation.
Scope out menus that offer side salads or side dishes of vegetables so you can customize your meal. Oftentimes, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by a new way vegetables are prepared in different regions. (That being said, loading up on battered and fried okra or zucchini is not exactly what I’m referring to here!)
5. Plan Ahead and Scope Out the Scene
Whether it’s business or pleasure, the more you know about your destination ahead of time, the more success you’ll have with keeping on track with a reasonable eating and fitness routine that prevents you from derailing your health goals.
Staying active, even if you are more limited than you would be at home, is vital in maintaining good energy levels as well as preventing constipation. It can also help to offset some of those extra indulgences that you may enjoy. This may look like walking on foot through a new city, or waking up early to hit the hotel gym. It will all depend on the type of trip you’re taking.
Researching fitness options like walking or running trails, local fitness studios that offer drop in classes, local supermarkets where you can replenish snacks or pick up a quick on the go meal is a great strategy. Do the same for restaurants so you have a good grasp of places that offer healthy options rather than walking around and taking a shot in the dark when you’re already feeling hungry.
Thanks for reading! I hope one (or all!) of these tips resonates with you and will help you prepare for your next summer travel adventure!
Allyson Balzuweit MPH, RDN/LD