Healthy Eating Away From Home

If you have some type of “plan” when it comes to your eating, the biggest risk it probably faces is when you are away from home.

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photo credit: livememe.com

Whether you are at the office, traveling for work, or on the road for fun, if you don’t plan ahead, all of your food discipline can go right out the window. Between fast food, and the relatively shoddy fare at most convenience stores, derailing your healthy eating plan is just one impulse purchase away. With some proper preparation and planning, you can make sure that you are putting yourself in the best possible position to keep with your diet’s intentions.

At the office:

  • Stock your desk with some pre-selected snacks
    • Nuts – almonds, pistachios, and macadamia nuts travel very well. These are my go-to nuts. Always go with dry roasted. You don’t want objectionable oils and/or sweeteners added to your nuts. If you sprout your almonds – you’ll need to keep them refrigerated, or they will go moldy. Do not keep sprouted nuts in your desk for very long.
    • Bars – in 2016, the nutritional bar market was a $2.3 BILLION dollar business. You have to be VERY careful in the bars that you choose. Make sure they align with your dietary strategy. So many of these bars have rice/oat derivatives in them, and a metric ton of sugar thrown into them under 50,000 different names. A good rule of thumb is to find bars with a limited ingredient list. If it looks like a science experiment list, it probably is. I’ve spent a good amount of time narrowing my preferred bars to the list below. I have subscriptions (via Amazon) to all of these, and they are my desk/travel companions. I’ve picked these because they cover a majority of what I’m looking for in portable nutrition and least objectionable ingredients. As a matter of fact, none of the bars below have (what I’d consider to be) objectionable ingredients based on my dietary objectives.
  • Stock your desk with some pre-selected drinks
    • My office not only supplies coffee and tea, but also has Coke Freestyle machines installed. Having an unending supply of fizzy-sugary drinks on tap at all times for our associates makes me really sad. I’m firm believer that sugary soda is one of the major reasons we have an obesity and diabetes crisis in this country. While I do drink a good amount of water, I keep my desk stocked with a variety of decaf herbal teas to keep things interesting. There are so many flavors out there – I don’t know why people would drink soda. My two favorites are from Yogi Tea:
  • Pack your lunch
    • My wife does this a lot. She is awesome. We prep larger than needed portions for dinner (or lunch sometimes), and then she feasts off the leftovers for at least one shift, maybe two. I only live about 15 minutes from home, so I spend my lunch time coming home, eating leftovers, and letting the dogs out. If I didn’t have that luxury, I’d certainly be packing my lunch. I used to eat out 5 days a week at lunch. Not only is that expensive, it can be tricky to control the ingredients.
  • Keep a water bottle at your desk and empty it into your face frequently
  • Make good choices if you must eat out
    • Don’t be afraid to make special requests when you order your food. Ask for dressing on the side (actually – skip the dressing and ask for olive oil and vinegar). Most salad dressings (commercial ones anyway) are garbage and filled with awful polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Don’t be afraid to skip the starch with the meal, and ask them to double up the veggies (sorry – french fries are not a veggie). Its your food – you are paying for it. Alter it to fit your needs. If you are avoiding dairy, ask them to leave the cheese out. If you avoid nightshades due to the lectin concentration, ask them to hold the tomatoes. Customize! Ask for your food to be cooked with butter rather than vegetable oil (bad PUFA). If the portion is huge, take some of it back to the office for a late snack, or maybe even dinner.
  • Get up and walk around
    • Rather than mindlessly snacking between breakfast and lunch, or lunch and dinner, consider taking a quick walk around the office or OUTSIDE. Take your water bottle with you.

Traveling for work:

  • Stock your travel bag (or carry on) with some pre-selected snacks
    • See office tip above. I always rely on the nuts and snack bars when I travel. I don’t take the junk they give you in flight, and I try to avoid gorging at the airports.
  • Bring a water bottle and empty it into your face frequently
    • See office tip above. Once you get through security, fill that bad boy up. If you are not airborne, just keep a full water bottle in one of your bag’s pouches.
  • Try to plan your hotel around places with decent food selections
    • I like to check Yelp.com to see what the food landscape looks like around the hotels I’m considering. Google Maps does the same thing. I also like to check the online menus. If I can’t find anything I like, I might consider looking for a different hotel with better choices around it. If you get trapped with only cruddy fast food surrounding your hotel, you’ll either eat it, or you’ll be stuck with just your nuts/snack bars.
  • If you can, pick a hotel with a kitchenette and COOK your food
    • For multi-night stays, this is a gem. First of all, your money goes farther. If you are traveling for work, you might have a per diem. Going to the grocery store, and grabbing some eggs, bacon, butter, and some veggies can last you for multiple meals at a fraction of the cost of a restaurant. And, you know you are getting very good food.
  • Defer to snacks if the airport doesn’t have a decent place to get good food
    • Don’t be afraid to stock up on overpriced nuts and snack bars (good ones) at the airport newsstand if there aren’t any good food options in your terminal. The good news is that I can’t remember the last time I saw an airport terminal with no food choices that met my needs. But if I do, I’ll throw some almonds or pistachios down my throat before I buy the fried chicken combo meal.
  • Skip the continental breakfast (unless it has eggs and bacon)
    • In a pinch, I’ll try to find a Hampton Inn because 9 times out of 10, their breakfast has eggs and some type of meat (skip the home fries). And, its priced into the cost of the room already. If the breakfast spread only had grain based fare (donuts, bagels, bread, croissants, etc), and some fruit/dairy options, I might just grab an apple or banana and throw it in my bag. Avoid the yogurt – they are all the “low fat” types that are pumped full of sugar.
  • Try to do something mobile/active in the morning or at night
    • Travel with a jump rope. If you don’t have a jump rope yet, BUY A JUMP ROPE! If you aren’t a fan of jump roping (why???), consider walking or running the steps, or check out the fitness center and hop on the treadmill. Don’t succumb to the urge to sit at the bar and sloth. Get some work done, do something active for 10 minutes, then go grab that glass of wine. I like to try and keep my morning routine as much as I can on the road. I still get up early, and I still try to get my workout in (unless I have to be on the job site really early).
  • Don’t think that just because the company is paying that your waistline isn’t
    • Just because the company is covering your food/drink costs for the trip doesn’t mean you should go crazy and start eating/drinking stuff you normally don’t (or in portions you normally don’t). If you usually get the 16 oz beer with dinner, don’t get the 23 oz just because you have the corporate card. If you don’t normally get the cheesecake, why do it now? Senseless indulgences just because you aren’t paying are pointless and self-defeating. Stick to your plan.

Traveling for fun:

  • Stock your travel bag (or carry on) with some pre-selected snacks
    • See prior office/work tips. Make sure that you talk with your family about the plan, and bring enough stuff to satisfy everybody.
  • Bring a water bottle and empty it into your face frequently
    • See prior office/work tips. Make sure there are enough water bottles for everybody.
  • Try to plan your hotel around places with decent food selections and regional selections
    • See prior work travel tips. If your vacation is all-inclusive, aim to make selections that match your food plan when you are at home. No sense sabotaging your vacation by throwing a huge monkey wrench (cruddy food) into your well-oiled machine. Check your travel destination to see what the area is known for. If you are going to Maine – you better be seeking out some nice lobster dishes (if you aren’t allergic). It is a vacation, so don’t be afraid to indulge a little bit if something is really special. If in Boston, and you really want to try the New England Clam Chowder, get the cup instead of the large bread bowl.
  • Skip the continental breakfast (unless it has eggs and bacon)
    • See prior work travel tips. You might have to go offsite, but, aim for nice breakfast full of good fats, protein, and low glycemic index carbohydrates. You’ll set your day up for success. Avoid just eating a bagel and bowl of fruit – you’ll crash in about an hour.
  • Try to incorporate fun activities that get you (and your family moving)
    • Don’t go from sitting in the hotel room to sitting in the car to sitting in a restaurant to sitting at an attraction to sitting in a car to sitting in a restaurant to sitting in a hotel room. Schedule and plan for fun, family oriented activities that require movement. Walk, run, paddle board, rock climb, bike – do something fun, movement-oriented, and outside!
  • If you can, pick a hotel (or other lodging accommodation) that allows you to store and prepare your own food
    • See work travel tips above. If its a multi-day vacation, find a hotel with a kitchenette, and stock up. You don’t need to cook every meal, but maybe breakfast/lunch aren’t a bad idea to not only keep the nutrition plan on track, but keep your wallet from crying. Three meals a day between 3-4 people with tax and tip will add up quickly.

 

Do you have a special tip or plan that you implement to eat well away from home? Please be sure to share in the comments below. Also, if you liked the content in this article, please “like” the article and share on any social media that you use.

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