9 Tips for Healthy Eating While Traveling

Good Morning May,

Hooray for warm weather and sunny days!  This time of the year is filled with end of the year school activities and preparations for summer travel.  Though vacations are filled with fun and relaxation, they can often be plagued by the stress of finding nutritious food while out of the house.  Thankfully I have met and began a beautiful working relationship with Kiran Dodeja Smith, an integrative health coach and author of the blog Easy Real Food.  Today she is outlining her top 9 tips for healthy eating while traveling.

Kiran Dodeja Smith
Kiran Dodeja Smith

But first, let’s find out about Kiran. 

Kiran Dodeja Smith is a mom of four kids ages 7-14, an integrative health coach, blogger and handles brand partnerships for other food blogs. Her site easyrealfood.com features recipes and resources for busy families, including those with food sensitivities. Kiran prides herself on getting healthy meals on the table every most nights; when she isn’t cooking or driving her kids, she can be found running, reading or spending time with family and friends.

9 Tips for Healthy Eating While Traveling

Do you eat healthy when traveling? Or do you come home stressed and mad at yourself for some poor choices that you made, perhaps because you were unprepared? If you fall into the first category, good for you! Keep up the good work, and no need to read on:). But if you want to know some tips on how to feel better without stressing while on vacay, stay with me. You plan the trip, and I’ll give you my tips on how to eat healthy when traveling. Let’s go!

Hotel Room with Kitchen
Hotel Room with Kit

1.  Seek out accommodations to suit

After having our first child, I realized that having a place to stay with a kitchenette is key. It all started the first time that we traveled to Walt Disney World. While you are able to find decent eating options at the most magical place on Earth (~.~), I wanted to make sure that we were well-nourished before heading out for our day without breaking the bank. At that time, we had a napper (and then another, and another, and another …) so we’d come back to our place in the afternoon anyhow. So why not make lunch while we are there, I figured?

Though we are out of the napping stage, I now know that I can not only feed my family breakfast in our hotel (with a kitchenette) but I can also pre-prep lunches to bring along with us. We save money, eat better and feel better, too! Important notes: ideally you have a suite, condo, Air B-n-B or otherwise that has a kitchenette. With that being said, it can still be done without (see below).


2. Find a nearby grocery store

You have two choices: schlep all of your gear along with you to your destination, or find a store nearby and pick your stuff up upon arrival. If we are driving, I’ll prepare, pack and take most of our foodstuff but sometimes even seek out a store for a few add-ons. If we are flying, I’m definitely hunting down the nearest Whole Foods Market or likewise upon arrival. This is a simple search in the maps function of an i-Phone, or via many apps.

Trip Advisor
Trip Advisor

3. Research restaurants ahead of time

I’m a huge fan of seeking out restaurants (ahem) ahead of time. Note my pause, because I typically do this while en route (I’m a work in progress here!). Whether you like to research ahead or on the way, find food places that suit your eating styles (offer gluten-free, dairy-free, local, farm to table, etc.). I’ve found Trip Advisor to be really helpful in this area; the ratings and comments are super valuable.


4.  Bring snacks

Whether I’m traveling with my family or going solo, I always have some sort of snacks on hand. A little planning goes a long way and ensures you have quality foods on hand to hold you over in-between meals, when hunger calls, and even in boredom situations for little ones. Here are a few of my faves:

  1. Bars like Health Warrior Pumpkin Seed Bars, Larabars, RX Bars, Raw Crunch Bars or GoMacro Bars
  2. Dried fruit (mango, apples or bananas)
  3. Organic beef or turkey jerky
  4. Homemade seed or nut trail mixes
  5. Popcorn
  6. Plantain chips
  7. Wild caught tuna or salmon (in a pack – not a can!)
  8. Coffee (these mushroom coffee packs are perfectly portable) or tea bags
  9. Applesauce pouches
  10. Whole fruit (apples, oranges, avocados and bananas travel well)
  11. Seaweed (in all honesty – my kids love this … me, not-so-much);)
  12. Dried oatmeal
  13. Dark chocolate. Because seriously – who doesn’t want a little treat here and there?!

blueberry muffin.jpg

5. Prepare food (when applicable)

I have a love-hate relationship with preparing food ahead of time to travel with. It can be a lot of work during an already stressful time to cook ahead. But girls – let me tell you how much I looooove having this in our refrigerator once we arrive! That makes it all the more worth it.

I have read about people packing a carry-on suitcase with some of these foods prepared and packed with ice packs around it. I haven’t personally done that, but I do always pack a cooler with some of these foods before heading out on car trips. I strongly encourage you to try this if you haven’t!! Here are some foods that I prep and pack:

  1. Hard boiled eggs
  2. Muffins (here is a good recipe, and another muffin recipe is here)
  3. Bread (or gluten-free banana bread)
  4. Chicken (use it on salads, stuffed in a pita or rolled in a tortilla)
  5. Roasted vegetables
  6. Pre-baked sweet potatoes (bring toppings on the side)
  7. Pans of enchiladas
  8. Lasagna
  9. Tortillas (the only thing you make for this one!), cans of black beans, a few avocados, shredded cheese and cans of organic chicken (optional) for a make-your-own taco night
  10. Homemade bars

6. Snacks for longer airline flights

Since mini packs of pretzels + a beverage don’t necessarily cut it on longer flights, here are a few tips regarding food:

  • For a long flight, bring quick cooking oats + raisins. Ask for a cup of hot water for tea, and mix in your oats + raisins for a healthy, filling, fibrous snack. Add in some nut butter for some added protein.
  • Foods other than liquids are fine to bring on board. Sidenote: soups don’t fly! Literally. I know from experience;). Sandwiches, pizza, salad with dressing on it, roasted vegetables, stuffed sweet potatoes and hard boiled eggs are all good foods to consider bringing. Don’t forget your utensils.
  • I like to pack the above foods in a container that I can wash out and reuse on the way home.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. And I’m talking water here, not the hard stuff!
cooler rental
cooler rental

7.  Bring a cooler (or two)

For car trips, we’ll pack our large cooler with food and with plenty of ice packs. We also bring a smaller cooler for day trips, or if I’m traveling alone, I’ll bring a personal-sized lunchbag/cooler.

If you are staying in a hotel room without a kitchenette, utilize the mini-fridge. Alert the hotel ahead of time that you won’t be using the foods within and have them clear the contents before your arrival. In addition, use your coolers to store foods that you purchase from the nearby grocery store. Simply fill up bags of ice from the ice machine to keep foods cold. We like to keep carrots and hummus, an assortment of fruit, hard boiled eggs, yogurts, cheese and cheese sticks and any pre-baked foods in the room for simple breakfasts and snacks. Round it out with shelf stable milk, cereal, oatmeal (heat water in the coffee maker to make) and you can definitely tackle breakfast and snacks.

temple kids jump.jpg

8. Stay active

When I’m at home, I exercise 5-6 days each week. Between running, TRX, HIIT classes, yoga and power walks, I like to keep it varied and challenging. So when I vacation, I like to keep moving … but without stress. If I’m with my family, I’ll generally get in a run or two – but I like to keep it active with my crew. We’ll walk whatever city we are in, taking the stairs when available, swimming in the pools, etc. Though I’m not seeking out classes and such, I feel good about us all being active together.

Wherever you go, aim to get outside and get some fresh air, some vitamin D and some good ol’ exercise – all good efforts to keep you healthy:).


9.  Set realistic expectations

Before you head out, try to get a mental plan for what your goals are for the trip. Are you okay doing like I do and skipping the gym but instead planning to walk the city? Do you wish to keep your 90/10 eating rules, or are you going to bend to 80/20? What are your thoughts on sugar for your trip? I’ve found that sometimes having a plan ahead of time helps you mentally prepare AND be okay (read: not beat yourself up) during and after your travels. And on that note – try to relax. You’re going on vacation, after all. And while I’m a firm believer that it’s a lifestyle, you’re not going to get “healthy” with a quick fix, I also believe in giving yourself a time to relax and rejuvenate. As long as you don’t veer too far off course, you should be able to get back on track easily.

What tips have I missed? How do you like to stay and eat healthy when traveling? Please share in the comments below. And happy travels!

– Kiran

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