Keeping up healthy eating on the road

One of the worst sabotages to a healthy eating routine is travel.  When traveling, I find that it can feel impossible to maintain the healthy habits I have worked so hard to implement into my daily life. 

What's a fire without Marshmellows?

What's a fire without Marshmellows?

Why is that?  Certainly fruits and fresh vegetables are available in places that I travel.  But I find that losing the automatic ease of a daily routine is the killer.  At home I have a routine where I’ve already put effort into planning meals and snacks and therefore I don’t have to put much thought into what and how often I’ll eat.  Being outside the home requires me to completely rethink how I’ll eat—and when I’m on vacation, the last thing I want to do is more meal planning.   My routine is quickly forgotten and while I have a couple of thrills of eating garbage that I don’t usually eat, the feeling of dread after the holiday is through sets in.  I often return home feeling ashamed of myself, unhealthy, and craving fruits and vegetables. 

If you’re like me and you’re not very good at making the spur of the moment decision between  fish and chips and salad - and I know this about myself- but time and time again I find myself winging it when it comes to healthy eating on the road. The really big issue is that once I choose that fish and chips, I’ll choose it again (because I already deviated from my healthy habits, so why not?).  When I finally return home it feels painful to get back into the good habits I threw to the wind on my holiday, and once I do it seems that we’re heading out of town again ...

Something has to change! 

My calendar is full of trips coming up over the coming warmer months and I’ve started to finally think about different ways I can keep my healthy habits going, while at the same time also not forget to enjoy myself. Balance my friends! Here are some ideas I have floating around inside my head:

1. Make a list of simple recipes. 

If you’re renting a holiday apartment and have access to a kitchen, doing your own cooking is probably the easiest way to ensure healthy eating continues on holiday. However, I often find it difficult to figure out what to cook without a fully stocked pantry, so having a list that you can reference to could help. When walking around a foreign supermarket, my brain is easily overwhelmed, and with this overwhelm my mind can go blank. Our upcoming trips will be here before we know it, so I’m going to start a list of healthy meals we can make that will not require many ingredients. Watch this space. 


2. Pre-plan a shopping list

You have your list of simple recipes, so now its time to pre-plan that shopping list so you’re ready for arrival. Don’t forget to include lots of fresh fruit and veg and nuts for easy snacking and on-the-go activities. Even if eating out is planned, healthy snacks in the backpack can be a lifesaver and a bit of extra nutrition in between a not-so-healthy meal (or two).  With a pre-written list, that overwhelming feeling of having to make decisions especially in an unfamiliar supermarket should be alleviated. At this point, I will also make sure I pop in a reusable shopping bag or two in my suitcase so that I can avoid using plastic, or paying for bags. 


3. Always bring a water bottle. 

Often we can confuse hunger for thirst, so drinking lots of water is important, especially on the road. I always bring a water bottle with me when I travel. If I fly, I bring an empty bottle to refill after the security checkpoint and continue to refill it throughout the flight.  Even if we go by car or train, I still bring our water bottles with us. Light weight bottles are ideal, so we use the lightweight aluminum Sigg bottles and I leave my heavy glass water bottles at home. 


4. Make rules for yourself. 

Mindfulness is one of the biggest keys to success when you want to change or keep habits.  Just going into my holiday with a conscious plan of when and how much I’ll deviate from my normal routine could be the key to success for me.  Have you read Gretchen Rubin’s book “Better than before”? A book about habits, one tip she discusses is the idea of Abstainers and Moderators.

 For example, over 2 years ago I decided it was better for me to completely give up drinking Coca Cola than to enjoy one once in awhile, because I knew once in awhile could quickly turn into weekly, and then maybe daily.  I now haven't had a Coca Cola for over 2 years and feel so much better for it - and I never have to decide anymore if I will drink or not - I just don’t. 

So with this in mind, make a plan. Give yourself a bit of slack and maybe enjoy only one treat a day, or share one dessert a day with your family. Or perhaps always order grilled vegetables as a side dish to share. Figure out in advance what could work for you and your family - you could even get creative and make a game out of it with the kids.  But the key here is decide in advance.  When that greasy, salty, and sweet stuff is staring you in the face, it’s no time to make a decision.

Sharing a naughty fish and chips and mixing it in with some fresh market produce

Sharing a naughty fish and chips and mixing it in with some fresh market produce


Do you have any tips and tricks that help you and your family stick to your healthy eating habits while traveling? I welcome you to share what works for you and your family.