How to eat healthy when traveling

May 1, 2022


As the world opens back up, many are taking vacations long delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. And while taking a trip can be a lot of fun, it also can present more than a few challenges. One of the biggest? How to eat healthy while traveling.

Between pit stops at quickie-marts and fast food at the airport, traveling can unravel even the most nutritious diet plans. But with a little preparation and willpower, you can arrive at your destination feeling good about what you ate along the way.

Eating well in the airport

Airports and airplanes aren’t usually known for great food choices. So take the time to pack some snacks in your carry-on before you leave home.

Here are some ideas that can take you far:

  • Whole or dried fruit
  • Nuts, portioned into snack-size bags
  • Whole-grain pretzels or crackers
  • Homemade trail mix doled out in 1-cup serving containers
  • High-fiber granola bars
  • Peanut butter crackers

If you aren’t able to pack healthy snacks, you can find much of the above at stores in the terminal. Buying perishables like yogurt and packaged salads to take on the plane is another smart way to maintain good nutritional standards if the airline’s options don’t measure up.

Road trip snacks

One advantage of a road trip is you can pack a cooler with healthy travel snacks before you go. Fill it with fruits, pre-chopped veggies and hummus dip and whole-grain sandwiches.

Of course, you’ll be making pit stops to gas up and use the restroom. If you go into a convenience store, avoid grabbing the candy and soda. Instead, reach for low-fat mozzarella cheese sticks, whole-grain crackers and nuts or trail mix. Taking and refilling your own water bottle or cup is also a great way to stay hydrated and avoid waste.

At the drive-through, limit yourself to a single burger patty, kid-size sides and water instead of soda. Or look for a fresh fast-food alternative serving salads, sandwiches, bowls or wraps.

Hotel hacks for healthy eating

When you stop at a hotel for the night, ask for a room with a mini-fridge. Then stretch your legs by taking a walk to the local grocery store to shore up on staples. Does your room have its own coffee maker? You can use its hot water to make your own instant oatmeal in the morning.

If you’re lucky, your motel will offer a free continental breakfast. Take advantage of this perk by choosing a whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk, fruit or yogurt.

Make good restaurant choices

Restaurant meals are almost always higher in calories, fat and salt than those that you would prepare at home. But, remember — you’re on vacation! So treat yourself to a restaurant meal. Just keep these healthy eating tips in mind:

  • Review the menu before sitting down; If it looks too fatty, try another restaurant
  • Choose items that are grilled, steamed, baked or broiled
  • Avoid high-calorie pasta, burritos or stews
  • Ordering a salad? Ask for a vinaigrette-based dressing on the side
  • Survey the offerings at a buffet-style restaurant before grabbing a plate; Aim to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, one-fourth with lean protein and another fourth with whole grains

Get more smart travel tips

Being cooped up in an airplane or long car ride doesn’t do your muscles any favors. Check out these ideas for moving around when you’re on the move.