8 Nutrition Tips for Road Warriors

Here’s a note we got from Carrie, a Fooducate community member.

LOVE your blog and your app! I’m so glad I found you — I don’t follow every “rule” every time, but it is important to me that the vast majority of the food I eat be — err, actually food.

I travel for business 4 days per week, every week.  While I can pack some things, I don’t have access to a refrigerator in my hotel so that very much limits what I can bring from home.  I can store things at the refrigerator at work, but of course, I only have access to that during the day.

Would love for you/your site to share any tips for how to eat well when on the road.  Thanks!

If you travel a lot for work, you can empathize with Carrie. Food in airports is usually crappy and very expensive. Cheap food in restaurant chains around hotels  and motels is usually a fast food chain, or ethnic mom and pop shops with heartburn written all over the menu. While it’s nice to eat out at $50 restaurants every now and then, most of us can’t afford to.

Suddenly, making and eating your own meals while on the road doesn’t sound like a crazy idea anymore.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Be prepared – Do some googling ahead of your trip to see what the food scene will be like where you arrive. Is there a supermarket nearby where you can get fresh food? What are its opening hours – many times it’s 24 hours a day, so you can pop in late after work, or early in the morning. Are there any healthy restaurant choices nearby? What hotels / motels offer some sort of a kitchenette , fridge, etc…

2. Refrigeration – While some hotels do not have a fridge, many do have mini-bars. True, the space is very limited, but you can take out some of the non-perishable beverage bottles and store your stuff instead.

3. Canned food – If you don’t have refrigeration in your room, you can still used many canned food products including fruit, vegetables, and protein sources such as tuna or sardines. Beans are fine too, but not a thrill to consume them at room temperature.

4. Extended stay hotels/ motels – some chains are made especially for people who want to eat home cooked meals. Each room comes with a full size fridge, microwave, and range. Pots, pans, basic cutlery and plates are also included. You can prepare a decent meal quite easily.

5. The jazz-it-up mini kit – includes a few miniature-sized things you can pack into a little box. salt, pepper, olive oil, lemon, small onion, tabasco sauce, and plastic utensils. Just these few things can help you turn  few sliced veggies into a salad, add flavor to a sandwich, and in general bum up the flavor profile of whatever you are preparing.

6. Always have water on you – no matter where you go, you need to drink. Have a bottle with you. Empty it before passing through security at the airport, but fill it up again at the water cooler before boarding your flight. You are always the most thirsty when there’s turbulence or the drink service is over.

7. Always have an emergency food stash – We prefer a ziplock bag filled with homemade trail mix – cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, walnuts and/or peanuts mixed with raisins, cranberries, or apricots. Dates are also very good,if sticky. You can also opt for a snack bar such as Kind or Larabar (They can hold for up to a year).

8. Apples and Bananas – abundant and cheap year round, they can be found in many places including airports, convenience stores, and supermarkets too.

Hope these ideas help. If anyone else has suggestions, please share in the comments below.

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  • Fran

    On a recent trip, I actually packed bread, peanut butter and jelly—all in separate containers. It made sure I had a healthy lunch (or dinner) while running from train to meeting to train again.

    • http://www.fooducate.com/blog Fooducate

      Hope it was whole wheat bread ;-)

  • Kim

    I travel for work all week throughout the fall. I pack Kind bars, almonds, and fruit with me. I also pack some Ziploc baggies of raw veggies and keep them in a small lunch-size cooler. Most hotels have a stash of fridges you can request if there is not one in your room. I eat out at restaurants at least once daily, and I tend to opt for soup and a salad (dressing on the side). So far, I have done OK this travel season, and my cardinal rule is AVOID FAST FOOD – no matter how desperate I am!

    • http://www.fooducate.com/blog Fooducate

      “stash of fridges” – didn’t know about that. Thanks Kim!

  • http://www.awakenedwellness.com Rachel Assuncao

    The tips in this article are really great!

    Depending on how often you travel, and how you are traveling (this is easier when you can pack a car), a small rice cooker is an amazing appliance to invest in.  They are easily portable and anything that simply requires heating can be cooked in it, not just rice.  Oatmeal, canned soups, steamed vegetables can all be prepared in addition to traditional grains.  A personal blender is also a great tool for whipping up fruit smoothies or green smoothies for an easy meal (and much more portable than a rice cooker, if space and weight are a consideration).  If you regularly stay at the same hotel, you can sometimes even make arrangements to leave these kinds of things there, so they are ready whenever you are.

    • http://www.fooducate.com/blog Fooducate

      Great ideas Rachel. Thanks.

  • Juliette

    I travel a ton and your suggestions are right on the ball. Packets of oatmeal (without additives) are easy to prepare, all hotel rooms have a coffee maker (use the hot water). Also, stock up at free breakfast with the fruit offerings!

    • http://www.fooducate.com/blog Fooducate

      Should have added tip #9: the coffee maker as a versatile hot food preparation apparatus…

  • Iaralewin

    We always travel, and bring with us our Crunchy N Yummy Freeze Dried Fruits, is great and the kids love it! grab and go snack!

  • Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD

    I always travel with nuts and dried fruit, to get the protein and fiber so often missing when you’re eating on the fly. Can’t get yogurt through airport security, so I buy one just before I get to the gate. Also carry whole grain cereal to have as a quick snack or as breakfast, and hard-cooked, peeled eggs to eat in the car or on the plane. 

  • Monica
  • Kathi Nunley

    Foil pouches of salmon (I love Sea Bear), tuna and/or chicken are great protein sources. Triscuit crackers, light organic string cheese & apples for airplane/car. Minute Rice Ready-to-Serve Brown Rice and/or Brown & Wild rice (need a microwave). Boxes of soup that can be heated in hotel room (add Minute Rice). Instant Oatmeal — just add hot water.

  • pit

    Thanks for the useful tips. I’d just like to add to be careful when maneuvering around the mini-fridge if using it for storage. Often times hotels will rely on a trigger in the fridge where an item is being kept, and if a item is removed, it’s marked as used. Even if you return the object to the fridge, you might want to double check with the front desk to make sure it’s okay to freely move things around the fridge.

    • Brooke

      Another word of warning about the mini bar fridges – they often times operate at a higher temperature than recommended for food safety purposes. 

  • http://www.gfedge.com Gfedgeblog

    If staying for several days and no fridge: I purchase an inexpense styrofoam cooler and use it to keep yogurt, milk, salads, etc.  Then I just leave it in the room when I check out,

  • IamEatonWright

    Pack some of Justin’s individual packs of nut butters.  There’s a variety to choose from –  almond butter, peanut butter, chocolate hazelnut, to name just a few.  Spread it on bread, crackers, an apple or a banana. 

  • Sara

    Most large grocery stores have a salad bar and if you are lucky enough to be near a Whole Foods thats even better. Last time I was out of town I went to Whole Foods for lunch and dinner. I got a good hot meal that wasn’t awful for me. I didn’t know if most people would think of eating at the grocery store for dinner.

  • http://profiles.google.com/capananda Georgi Skanderbeg

    “Emergen C” packets to fortify your water on the plane and for the room. Easy to stuff in carryon luggage.

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