The least I can do is try...

Eating Healthy on the Road- Help!

In Nutrition Bliss on March 11, 2011 at 3:52 am

Eating healthy on the road is a challenge– and believe me– I am trying.  To some, this might seem like some psycho lady posting a food log online, but I am always interested to know how my fellow road warriors deal with this challenge. If any of you are out there (echo), I would love to hear feedback!

To further support my claim, I should add context.

Healthy: This refers to food that is healthy in regards to nutritional numbers AND content.

On the Road: This refers to business travel- in an airplane (limits to what can be conveniently transported) for 4-5 days a week. This also infers staying in hotels that have limited food prep and storage capabilities– think of your standard, non-extended stay hotel. Also, assume “on the road” does not necessarily have to be an urban environment– you could be in a suburb with fewer options.

So, this is my first week on the road for my current project, and I have quite a few more in my future. In the past, when constantly in this situation, I failed miserably and inevitably ended up fat and unhappy. I decided to make a serious, concerted effort on this project to eat as healthy as possible.

These are a few things I decided would help me this week:

1) Make the salad bar my best friend

I am lucky enough to have access to a cafeteria for lunch that has a decent salad bar. OK, so maybe it is not Wholefoods caliber, but it will have to do. For lunch, I will pass the hot entrees, avoid the sandwiches, and hit the salad bar for a clean lunch–I will  make sure to build a colorful salad with lots of veggies for nutritional balance- avoid the bad fats and processed junk (creamy dressing, croutons etc). This salad bar does not have too many healthy carbs (i.e. quinoa, brown rice)– so I will have to try to get those in at dinner and brecky.

For dinner, I am lucky enough to have access to a food market with a good salad bar as well.

2) Compromise!

There is so much nutrition info out there–sometimes it is too much of a good thing! At home I try to stick with green smoothies, organic, natural products, and as little processed food as possible. On the road, replicating a healthy pantry and kitchen is not a feasible solution– remember, business travel incurs actual work (unfortunately)– I am not on the road to be a traveling chef.

On the road, deal with the fact that many times, someone else will be preparing your food. This week, in addition to the salad bar, I primarily stuck with chains which have posted nutrition information. While they did not all have ingredient lists I swooned over, I did the best I could, and stayed within my calorie boundaries for the day. Examples below:

Taco Bell: They have a fresco menu which features items that are lower in fat and calories– I chose a bean burrito. This, along with a pile of carrot and celery sticks I picked up from a nearby grocery store did not make me feel totally disgusting. While I would not eat this every day, it worked in a pinch.

Starbucks: “Perfect Oatmeal”  (I think that is a stretch)– I felt like a vegan choice for breakfast and this fit the bill. I tossed the sugar and dried fruit, and stuck with the almonds as a lower sugar option. One day I was in the mood for a heartier breakfast and went for the spinach, feta and egg white wrap– also worked for me in terms of the numbers. I paired these choices with an orange from the grocery store. Again, while it is not the organic coop– I do feel that Starbucks has offerings that make being healthy on the road a little easier than some of the other eateries.

Subway: Siiighhh– I know this joint did Jared a lot of good– but it is honestly not my favorite. I usually get a veggie sub, and I never feel like it is particularly nutritious (iceberg, sad tomatoes, pickles). I give myself a C- for this choice, but hey, I think I could have done worse. I also got the baked Doritos….and I liked them.

Brueggers Bagels: Brueggers has pretty good salads– with the dressing on the side, many of them seemed like reasonable choices. I got the smoked salmon breakfast sandwich on pumpernickel– I asked the nice girl behind the counter to cut the amount of cream cheese in half and use the low-fat veggie instead of the regular plain. She obliged and it was awesome! While I do not think I will be making a daily habit out of a yummy, loaded bagel- I did not feel awful about this choice– I ate lighter for the rest of the day to compensate (salad baaaar).

3) Plan

This week I found that a trip to the grocery store to pick up a few pieces of fruit, cut veggies, some whole grain crackers and hummus made a big difference in my week. I also had the luck of being in a hotel that happens to have a mini fridge that is not dominated by little liquor bottles so I could store the food safely.

I think next week, I might try planning a bit better. I will definitely put a few of these organic almond butter packets in my suitcase- squeezed on some apple slices they would probably make a a good breakfast or snack. Yesterday, I found out that the little peanut butter packets in the hotel contained FULLY HYDROGENATED oils (really? really?)– so glad I flipped the sucker over before I smeared its contents on toast and happily ate it.

I am sure there are other things I could be doing- but baby steps!

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