Tackling your nutrition when traveling

Updated: May 21, 2021



Now that the world is starting to open back up, most people are comfortable and anxious to get out and see the world once again.


As exciting as traveling is, it can be veryyyyy stressful at times. From flight delays, running late, traffic on the road, or any other unexpected outside factor that might pose as adversity in your travel plans, 9/10 something always comes up.


Since there are SO many things outside of our control when it comes to traveling, I always find being overprepared when it comes to food, meals, and snacks ensures I have at least one less thing to worry about if things don’t go as planned.


Plus, I’m not a huge fan of airport food or fast food on the road and find that it affects my digestion for days after (no one wants an upset tummy on vacation), so I tend to weigh on the side of caution and make sure I pack enough meals and snacks to last the whole travel day.


I even save a ton of money eating my own food either in airports or on the road that I’d rather spend on all the yummy food I’ll be having while on my trip.


Food shouldn’t be an added stressor when traveling. I always want to not only be set up for success during travel but also when I come home. The more prepared I am, the easier it will be to get right back on track, stress-free.


So whether you’ve got a big work trip coming up, or have a vacation planned anytime soon, today’s blog is going to be your go-to for travel tips in helping you navigate your nutrition whether you’re flying or driving.


Tip 1 Plan Ahead


As we’ve already established, traveling can be so unpredictable at times. There have been numerous times I’ve either been caught stuck in traffic on a road trip without any snacks or food or in the airport franticly searching for a Chick-fil-A because my flight got delayed and I didn’t pack any food for the trip.


I personally find that if I pack and plan snacks and meals for at least one whole day, even if it’s only a 3-4 hour flight or a 4-5 hour drive, I’m more prepared and know I at least don’t have to worry about getting food in the airport or on the road.


Also, those who know me, know that I get hangry when I don’t eat for a while, so I’d rather not make a scene in the airport :)


If you are going to be in the car on a road trip, or long commute, make sure you go to the grocery store the day before or whenever you can before hitting the road and buy supplies you need to make various meals and grab snacks.

Odds are you’re not going to be able to eat a full meal in the car, especially if you’re driving, so I always pack easy-to-eat on-the-go meals and snacks in a cooler. You’ll also probably not be able to heat up your food unless you use a truck stop microwave, so make sure you’re okay with eating that meal cold.


If you do need to stop to get food on the road, you can look for restaurants on the route you’re taking ahead of time, or plan to stop at a grocery store for something fast and fresh.


If you’re flying, you are allowed to bring your own food on the plane. However, you might have a little bit less wiggle room to work with because you won’t be able to bring liquids over 3oz in your carry-on bag. So this leaves food that would typically melt into a liquid off limits such as, yogurt, go-go squeezes, overnight oats, etc.


Again, I like to pack food and snacks to get me through at least one whole day in case of any emergencies or delays when flying. Just make sure your food is in an easily accessible location so that you can easily pull it out if asked when going through airport security.


If you’re not planning to bring your own meals into the airport and maybe just planning to bring snacks, you can always look up the restaurants in your terminal on your airport’s map.


Some of my go-to restaurants if I’m in a pinch either on the road or in the airport are Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, Jamba Juice, and Panera Bread. I can usually find something somewhat nutritious that won’t upset my stomach on the road or on my flight at one of these locations.


If your flight doesn’t leave out early or you’re not planning to start driving until later in the day, nourish yourself before you leave. Have a breakfast/lunch that is loaded with protein and veggies/fruit so you’re getting in some nutrients before you leave.


Tip 2 Hydrate


Next up, we have a tip that is often missed because it’s so easy to forget to drink water while driving or flying.


I always make sure I have water with me at all times in a visible and easily accessible location. Either in my carry-on bag or in the cup holder right next to me in the car.


If you’re on the road, you have a bit more flexibility in terms of packing liquids. I make sure I have at least a gallon jug of water that I can use to refill my water bottle and have some type of flavored electrolyte drink in the cooler as well. I love the low sugar Body Amors, LMNT electrolyte packets, or LiquidIV packs.


When I’m flying, I pack an empty refillable water bottle that’s at least 24-32oz in my personal item or carry-on bag to fill after I get through security. I sometimes even pack two refillable water bottles depending on how long the flight is and how big my water bottles are.


Since you can’t pack electrolyte drinks for the flight, I pack the powder electrolyte packs in my bag to put in my water bottle and drink on the flight. Again either the LMNT electrolyte packets, or LiquidIV packs, but I also like the FitAid powder packs as well.


I know no one likes stopping every hour to pee on a road trip, or wants to be the person crawling over the people next to you on the plane to use the bathroom, BUT it’s so important to stay hydrated while driving and flying. It’s especially easy to get dehydrated on flights if you’re not taking in fluids regularly.


Shoot to drink at least 20-30oz of water prior to getting on the plane or leaving the house for your road trip and then another 20-30oz of water once you arrive.


I’d rather be “that” person than have a headache when I land because I’m dehydrated.


Tip 3 Packing Meals and Snacks


As mentioned previously, I like to pack whole prepared meals if I can for the plane, or for the road. Since there’s more room in a cooler on the road, I can typically make meals in Tupperware containers to eat as needed.


However, to save room in my luggage while flying, I put my food in plastic bags. You can use brands like ZipTop and Stasher that are reusable if you’d like, but plastic bags make it soooo much easier and save a ton of space in my purse or book bag on the flight.


As far as what foods/meals I typically make for the trip go, I go for meals I typically eat at home that have a protein, carb, fat, and veggie/fruit source. I personally don’t mind eating meals cold but keep that in mind when you’re traveling.


Some of my go-to meals include:


  • Sandwiches (turkey breast, avocado, lettuce, tomato, cheese, mustard, and bacon if I’m feeling really fancy)

  • Taco bag with ground beef, bell pepper, zucchini, rice, avocado, a little bit of salsa, and cilantro

  • Chicken nuggets with sweet potato fries and broccoli

  • Overnight oats bowl with almond butter, protein powder, fruit, granola, honey, etc. (only when driving)


You can easily mix and match the protein, carb, fat, or veggie source of any of these options to make it conducive to your preferences. These are all super easy to eat, and portable choices that I have found work well on the flight or the road. Just don’t forget your fork/spoon!


I’ll usually make sure I have two of the meals above packed and then allllll the snacks. I’m a snacking queen, so I always want to have snacks on hand to keep my hanger from even becoming aforethought.


Protein snack ideas:


  • Protein bars (RX bars, OneBars, Built Bars, Perfect Bars)

  • Jerky

  • Deli meat for cold cut roll-ups

  • String cheese

  • Protein powder

  • Fairlife protein drinks (driving only)

  • Hard-boiled eggs

  • Single-serve yogurt (driving only)


Fat snack ideas:


  • Dark chocolate

  • Nut butter packs

  • Trail mix

  • Almonds, peanuts, walnuts, etc.


Carb snack ideas:


  • Any pieces of fresh fruit

  • Dried fruit

  • Rice cakes

  • Cereal

  • Granola

  • Candy (Sour Patch Kids, Skittles, Gummy Bears, etc.)

  • Single-serve hummus for veggies

  • Pretzels

  • Crackers


Veggie snack ideas:


  • Grape tomatoes

  • Baby carrots

  • Bell peppers

  • Cucumbers

  • Celery

  • Any pre-cut veggies you enjoy



I usually make sure I have at least 1-2 of each type of snack list above just in case I’m super hungry or my flight gets delayed.



Tip 4 Decide if you’re going to track


Now that you’ve gotten some tips on how to tackle your nutrition while you’re on the way to your destination, what do you do when you get there?


Do you track? Do you not track? Do you just track calories and protein?


And the honest answer to this question is…


It depends (are you tired of hearing us say this yet?).


You first need to ask yourself what your goals are.


If this is your big yearly vacation, you might just want to delete MyFitnessPal for the remainder of the trip and enjoy the cuisine wherever you’re at without the stress of tracking. Your progress isn’t going to ruined or halted if you don’t track for a week.


If you travel for work often and you’re only going to be out of town for a few days and you have very specific goals, it might be worth you tracking most meals throughout the day with the exception of maybe dinner with your colleges.


If possible, try to get an Airbnb with a kitchen. You can go to a grocery store when you get in and stock up on staples for cooking simple meals. This way you can decide if you’re going to eat breakfast and lunch in, track those meals and snacks, and then enjoy a nice meal out to dinner.


If you’re staying in a hotel, you can still go to a grocery store and stock up on supplies for easy, no-cook meal options. Most hotel rooms have a microwave, so you can purchase microwavable rice, pre-cooked meats, microwaveable veggie steam bags, etc. to throw together for easy meals.


Just go into the trip with a plan of how many meals you’d like to eat in and how many meals you intend to eat out. If you are eating out frequently, look up restaurants and scroll through their menus ahead of time. That way you already have a plan of what you’re going to order.


If you’re going to be eating out once or twice a day, prioritize protein, veggies, and complex carbs leading up to those meals while you’re eating in the Airbnb or hotel. You can also order a side salad with dinner if your meal doesn’t include veggies at the restaurant. There’s always a way to order what you want while still getting in some nutrient-dense food somewhere in the mix. It’s all about balance.


Again, if this is a vacation for you, enjoy the trip without tracking. You’ll be much happier you did instead of worry about hitting your macros.



Tip 5 Set yourself up for success


And the last tip we have for you is to set yourself up for success on and after your trip.


Move your body when you can. Go for walks or runs, work out in your hotel’s gym, or drop-in to a CrossFit gym wherever you’re traveling to. I know I always feel better when I move and get a little sweat on at least once a day.


Have a plan for how you’re going to get back on track when you get home from your trip. If you’re going to have a few days off from work, go to the store and prep your normal meals when you get home.


If you’re not going to have time to go to the store, use a food delivery service to have groceries waiting for you when you get home. No one wants to come home hungry to an empty fridge.


If you’re prepared to get right back to your routine when you get home, it will be easier to keep getting after your goals.


Most importantly, allow room for flexibility when traveling! You’ll take the fun out of traveling if you’re worried about how you’re going to hit your macros, or what you’re going to eat the whole time.


So take the time to enjoy your trip, stay present, and eat the food that makes you feel good. You'll be happy you did.


Happy Traveling and enjoy exploring the world once again!


 

Resources and Coaching:

Online Coaching here.

[Free] Nutrition Guide here.

Recipe & Macro Guide here.

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