Business travel can be exhausting, especially these days with the many delays and grunts at US airports.
But flying is just the beginning. After the time it takes to get to your destination (when stress can make anyone want to grab a burger and a beer at the airport), there are long hours at the conference or live entertainment, networking events, meals with clients and coworkers, nights out, and the list goes on — all of which combine to make it harder to intentionally consume healthy foods and beverages.
Unfortunately, Americans in particular are already prepared to eat quickly and easily, often unhealthily. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 85 million people in the United States eat fast food every day during their normal lives. And when your personal schedule and habits are disrupted by travel and the socialization that comes with it, it’s even harder to make healthy food choices. Here’s how to be more fuel-conscious when you’re on the road.
1. Bring your own snacks. Before you travel, head to the grocery store for healthy snacks and make-your-own ingredients. Dried fruit, low-sodium beef jerky, and make-your-own protein balls and trail mixes are easy to move around and quickly accessible while you’re waiting at the airport, sitting on a flight, or you relax in your hotel room between meetings. It’s cheaper – and often healthier – than taking whatever food is available when you arrive.
2. Limit alcohol, coffee and sugary drinks. Although alcohol tends to be prevalent on business trips, recognize that drinking it late in the day can disrupt sleep (which also impacts healthy eating decisions – see #7). Plan how much you will drink and set a time limit. Coffee is a great pick-me-up, but it can also disrupt sleep and be loaded with calories. Beverages like juices and sodas can also make it harder to get restful sleep, not to mention provide too much sugar.
3. Pack enough water. It’s easy to lose track of your water intake and become dehydrated for long days, sapping your energy and causing headaches. Pack lightweight glasses — or buy a recyclable style there and recycle it at the end of the event — that slip easily into your show bag and keep it filled. This will help you stay hydrated, avoid wasting multiple bottles of water, and keep you from turning to sugary drinks and coffee when looking to quench your thirst.
Almost 85 million in the United States, people eat fast food every day. (CDC)
4. Visit restaurants sparingly. While it’s tempting to stop at a restaurant for every meal, you’ll quickly find yourself overeating, often with high-calorie foods. If you know a client or co-worker is dining on a particular night, eat more lightly for breakfast and lunch that day. Find leafy greens, healthy fruits, and lean proteins, and when dining out, look for similar options on the menu. Bonus: if you order a salad, ask for the dressing on the side to control your calorie intake.
5. Use room amenities. If your room has a microwave and/or mini-fridge, use them to your advantage. Consider going to a local grocery store and buying frozen vegetables and chicken for an easy meal. You can also take fresh fruits and vegetables for snacks. Check your room features before you arrive and see if they will add a microwave and fridge if your room doesn’t have one. Also use the in-room coffee maker instead of ordering a high calorie gourmet drink.
6. Be careful with breakfast. Yes, it’s convenient and often included, but breakfast in the hotel lobby is usually full of high-calorie, sugary pastries, like muffins, bagels, croissants, and make-your-own waffles. But don’t skip breakfast either – take advantage of it by choosing protein like scrambled eggs and bacon, or mix in granola and dried fruit for a healthy cereal option. You can also grab a yogurt; just be sure to check the sugar content and go plain with a dash of honey added.
7. Get enough sleep. Yes, there is a direct link between lack of sleep and overeating. Gherlin, a hormone that stimulates appetite, increases when you haven’t slept enough, while levels of leptin, which decreases appetite, drop. And while more sleep makes healthier eating easier, it’s often hard to get a good night’s sleep while you’re on the road. Recreate your normal sleep routine as much as possible, avoid alcohol, coffee, and sugar at bedtime, and make sure the room is dark and cool.