Eat Right: Don’t Let Healthy Eating take a Backseat While Traveling

by Laura Buxenbaum, MPH, RD, LDN

August brings many opportunities for travel. Whether it is fitting in one last summer trip to the beach, hitting the road to see your favorite football team in the first home game of the season, or simply checking out one of the great destinations in North Carolina, many of us will be on the road or in the air this month. While travel is invigorating, it can also be a challenge to maintain a healthy eating plan, leaving us feeling tired and sluggish upon our return home. However, healthy eating doesn’t have to unravel when you hit the road. With some planning and preparation, you can stay on track no matter what your itinerary. 

Snack Smart

If not prepared, road trips can end up in a feeding frenzy. Often, we hit the road without snacks in tow, causing a pit stop at the nearest convenience store once our stomach starts rumbling. Instead of filling up on unhealthy snacks, bring a cooler and pack your own nutritious noshes. Including snacks with protein and fiber throughout the day will help keep energy levels up and the urge to reach for sugary snacks down. As a Registered Dietitian, I often recommend dairy foods for on-the-go snacks. Not only are they portable, but dairy foods are an easy on-the-go snack that provide nine essential nutrients including protein, calcium and vitamin D. Some of my favorite protein-rich snacks include Greek yogurt, cheese and crackers, trail mix, nuts, string cheese and hummus. Pair these with fresh fruit such as apples, grapes or a banana and portable veggies such as carrots and celery sticks to add fiber that staves of hunger.

Stay Hydrated

Whether traveling by automobile, plane or train, hydration is important for staying alert and energized. Many studies show that mild dehydration can impair energy levels, mood and memory- leading to reductions in brain performance. To prevent this, have bottles of cold water or sparkling water on hand and if traveling by plane, bring an empty water bottle to fill up in the airport once you are through security. If looking for another healthy beverage, pack or purchase small chugs of white or flavored milk. The protein, electrolytes and fluid in the milk will keep you nourished and hydrated. 

Stick with MyPlate

Of course, traveling comes with opportunities to dine out. Ask the locals for their favorite restaurants and hip hangouts.  Restaurants don’t need to be a roadblock to healthy eating with these tips. First, decrease portion sizes. Consider ordering off the appetizer menu, sharing an entrée with your travel companion or save half of the meal and put it in the hotel fridge. Second, keep the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) MyPlate in mind when ordering. Pick entrees with vegetables, opt for whole grains such as brown rice when available, choose lean proteins such as chicken or fish and whether on the side as a glass of milk or on the plate such as cheese or yogurt, don’t forget the dairy. 

Don’t let healthy eating go on vacation just because you are. Planning wisely with protein in mind, staying hydrated and paying attention to portions using MyPlate will keep you healthy and full of energy throughout your travels. For more tips on healthy eating while traveling visit eatright.org. 

Laura Buxenbaum, MPH, RD, LDN is the Assistant Director of Food and Nutrition Outreach for The Dairy Alliance. She received her Master of Public Health at UNC Chapel Hill and has been working in dietetics for over 15 years. She can be reached at lbuxenbaum@thedairyalliance.com.