It’s easy to lose track of what you’re eating when you're on the road, and holiday travel surely doesn’t help with the stress of airline delays, traffic jams and your whole family jammed into a small space for hours on end. Whether it’s munchies in the car, snacks at the airport, or a quick meal at the train station, traveling can make it tricky to eat healthy.
While it seems like 3500 calories (1 pound) is a huge number, these can add up fast when you're traveling. Meal-deals and coffee breaks weigh in at 1000-2000 calories, and coupled with hours of sitting, can be a recipe for hidden weight gain—and one you can easily avoid. With a little pre-planning, and some zip-lock bags (more on that later!), you can eat right, and save those extra calories for your holiday festivities.
Don’t get too hungry—be a grazer
Traveling is not the time to plan large meals on the road. Delays often make setting aside time for meals unpredictable, and skipping a meal can lead to overeating. You’ll wind up supersizing fast food or consuming a giant sandwich. Think smaller, mini-meals every couple of hours, to keep you energized and fueled during travel. When buying food, down-size to a kid’s meal and divide up servings. Limit calories every time you stop to eat. Whether it’s a protein bar, or half a sandwich, take along some snacks from home, or at the airport buy a large bag and divide it up for you and your family.
Think single-serve, individual portions
We’re all distracted when we travel, and often eat mindlessly, ignoring portion sizes. With single-serve portions you can eat the whole bag without worrying about racking up a lot of calories. Whether you pre-pack at home or buy food on the road, you can use small zip lock bags to bring your own 100-calorie snacks or buy them pre-packed.
It’s easy to get dehydrated on a plane. We either forget to drink or don’t have access to water. Dehydration leads to fatigue and overeating, since we often think we are hungry when we really just are thirsty. You can get both cold and hot water to make a soothing cup of tea, hot soup, hot chocolate or a cold drink from sugar-free powdered single-serve packets. Just add the contents to the water, directly.
Think portable easy-to-eat foods
Travel is not the time for messy sandwiches or squishy fruits and snacks. Instead try protein bars, small boxes of cereal, pre-packed raw vegetables, 100-calorie snack packs, dried fruits and mini cheeses in their own plastic wrapping (go for part-skim mozzarella sticks or a "light" mini-bonbel), paired with a 100-calorie pack of wheat thins. You can mix and match around 200 calories for a nutrient-dense mix of protein, fat, and carbohydrates to keep your energy up, and the calories down.
Carry some zip-lock bags
Zip-lock bags are handy whether you pack foods from home or buy them at the airport or highway service plaza. You don't need to eat a giant two-fisted turkey wrap all at once—eat half, and bag up the other half for later, or give to another family member. At the airport, where it’s harder to find single-serve products, buy a large bag of trail mix or dried fruit and divide into mini bags for multiple servings.
When in doubt, order a kid’s meal
Sometimes we’re stuck in a sea of fast food and giant cinnamon rolls at an airport food court or roadside service. Choose a kid’s-size meal, at any of the chains--there's that portion control no-brainer! Replace the fries with carrot sticks or grapes if available. Select water or diet soda to drink. Downsizing saves many hundreds of calories. No kid's sizes avaiable? Go "halfsies" with someone!
Keep your mouth busy with non-food activities
It’s so easy to eat from boredom or stress on the road, so take along some sugarless gum or mints to keep your mouth busy. The chewing action is also a stress-reliever for many people. Talk or sing (but only if you’re in the car!).