How to eat healthy while traveling for work (11 strategies that work)


Nagina Abdullah


February 4, 2019

How to eat healthy while traveling for work_Feature

I’ve always traveled a lot for work. Business travel can be exciting sometimes, and exhausting at other times. But now that I know how to eat healthy while traveling for work, I see being on the road for work completely differently from how I used to. I still have fun, but I feel fit and fabulous the whole time, too.

It’s not easy to eat healthy on business trips. We’re off schedule, tired, and being offered free unhealthy snacks on airplanes, on trains and at dinners and networking events.

It’s also easy to fall victim to thinking that traveling allows you a loophole from your healthy habits. The “this doesn’t count” mentality. But if you travel even somewhat frequently, you’ll quickly find out that it does count as your love handles start to bulge out more and your tops tighten in the sleeves and tummy area.

Ugh! What an awful feeling. But read on to find out how to keep that from happening.

How do you stay healthy while traveling for work?

It’s not just you struggling with all the fast food smells wafting into the airport corridors and the complimentary cookies in the train car. According to Lisa Drayers there’s research showing that people who travel two weeks or more every month have higher obesity rates than those who don’t travel as much. (1,2)

How to eat healthy while traveling for work is really a challenge at first.

But there are some very specific and completely overlooked strategies that I’ve developed to help myself stay light, strong, and healthy while I travel for work (which I do A LOT).

In this post, I’ll share with you,

  • Action items that you can try on your next business trip to stay trim or lose weight
  • The one lightweight item I always pack for a great workout in my hotel room
  • Specific foods to pack, keeping you in control of what you eat so you feel 100%
  • My exact strategies and hacks for eating out, ordering cocktails, and ordering in when you’re on the road

Get my handy snack framework guide so you’ll always know the elements that make up a healthy, filling, flavorful snack in this FREE PDF.

How to eat healthy while traveling for work

1. Pack healthy snacks

This is probably the number one way to protect yourself against giving into unhealthy temptations at the airport or train station. (1)

When you have something handy already, you can say no thanks to the stuff that makes you feel bad, and stay satisfied and firing on all cylinders.

Foods to pack:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds

  • Sliced or small cucumbers

  • Bell pepper slices

  • Low sugar protein bars (I like Quest Bars)

How to eat healthy while traveling for work
Here I am getting picked up by a black car to go on a business trip. My bag is filled with healthy snacks! Check out the next picture for a glimpse of what’s inside.

How to eat healthy while traveling for work

2. Have a smoothie and pack your first day’s meals

This means eat breakfast before you go and pack for later. It’s tempting to skip breakfast before an early flight or to skip meals because you’re stressed and preoccupied. But it’s not a good strategy for how to eat healthy while traveling for work.

But skipping meals will dip your blood sugar levels lower then what is healthy and throw your schedule and calorie intake off. (3) Set yourself up for an easy and healthy morning by making a smoothie the night before and putting it in the fridge.

Prep and bring complete meals (not just snack food) for your first day of travel at least in BPA-free storage containers. That way you’re not relying on airport or train food or going hungry.

How to eat healthy while traveling for work

Here’s an example of a meal you could prep to bring on a plane or train. 5 oz. salmon, 5 asparagus sprigs, and 2 slices of toasted Ezekiel bread. It’s all anti-inflammatory food that nourishes you and it’s THE way to be sure you’ll have a satisfying, healthy meal when you reach your destination.

Foods to prioritize for weight loss and health, no matter where you are + easy, healthy breakfasts, lunches and snacks for travel here.

21 anti-inflammatory foods to free you of achiness and extra weight + eliminate disease

6 low sugar smoothies to start your day

How to eat healthy without cooking: 10 ideas!

How to eat healthy while traveling for work
Here’s the prep I did for a 3-day business trip so I would not have to go out and find lunch, I brought my own!
Protein (white fish)
Vegetable (asparagus)
Black beans (healthy carb) or Ezekiel bread (healthy carb)
Protein Powder to make protein shakes for a daily snack with a shaker cup to mix it in

3. Have breakfast before you get to the office.

The best breakfast option for how to eat healthy while traveling for work is to order room service since it’s fastest and you can eat while you get ready. I recommend an omelet cooked in no butter and only cooking spray with fresh berries and tomatoes or fresh greens if they offer it instead of toast.

How to eat healthy while traveling for work
Here’s a breakfast I ordered from room service for myself on a business trip. It was delicious and filling, but not heavy.

The reason for this is if you wait to get to the office you will be at the mercy of what is offered at the meeting you are attending or the office you are going to – and most often this is a lot of carbs that will make you feel tired – think bagels, donuts, etc. and minimal protein options.

Stay in control by ordering while you can, which is BEFORE you get to the office.

Healthy Travel Food Ideas for Restaurants

Eating at restaurants is a major stumbling block for how to eat healthy while traveling for work. But unless you spend every mealtime cooking in your extended stay room, you’ll likely have to eat out at some point.

In fact, you want to be out networking and building relationships with work colleagues, so here are some tips for eating healthy in restaurants.

4. What to order at a Japanese restaurant

– Order a sashimi platter with salad on the side, if you really want a roll, order a small one.

How to eat healthy while traveling for work
Sushi is a great option when traveling for business, stick to sashimi or sashimi and one roll. Salmon is a wonderful option full of Omega 3s and burns belly fat.

5. What to order at a Mediterranean restaurant

– Order a platter with salad, kalamata olives, hummus, etc. It’s light.

6. What to order at an American restaurant

– Stick to one lean protein (salmon or other fish, chicken, turkey, mushrooms) grilled or baked. Avoid anything breaded or covered in creamy sauce and have it with greens. If you feel the need to splurge, splurge on an unhealthy appetizer because it’s a smaller portion, and then eat a healthy dinner.

How to eat healthy while traveling for work
This is a lunch or dinner you could have at the American restaurant. This is Pumpkin Soup, whole wheat toast with avocado. It’s a vegetarian healthy lunch. There are crushed red peppers for more spice, and a rosé drink.

Travel can be stressful. Read about how to overcome emotional eating and more healthy tips for when you’re on the go.

How I Stopped Emotional Eating & Lost 8 Inches From My Waist

The Ultimate Guide on How to Lose Weight Without Exercise

BPA Free Storage Containers For Your Prepped Meals

How to be healthy while traveling

7. Pack your own water bottle and stay hydrated

Bring a BPA-free water bottle with you and make sure you keep drinking from it and filling it up. (4)

It’s easy to forget to drink water when you’re traveling, which dehydrates you and leads to headaches, exhaustion, and might even bloat you. Your body constantly needs water to cleanse and refresh your whole system. (5)

With your own water bottle, you’re also sure you’re not guzzling BPA from cheap water bottles that could throw off your hormones. (6)

8. Enjoy these cocktails (or create your own with my framework)

Having one to three glasses of wine or beer is fine one to two days of the week.

When traveling for business, getting cocktails with colleagues is very common. Or maybe you could use a refreshing glass of something special yourself.

I always start with the “Delay Your Drink” strategy. I drink two full glasses of water before starting to drink alcohol, partially to hydrate and partially to pass some time before the drinking starts, because once it does it’s harder to switch back to water at that point. I do recommend one glass of water or more between glasses of alcohol as well.

Here’s my 4-part Cocktail Framework that lets you have fun cocktails without overdosing on sugar and calories.

  1. Light alcohol (vodka, gin, and tequila)
  2. Club soda or seltzer
  3. Splash of juice
  4. Herb (ex: mint, cilantro), spice (ex: cinnamon, cayenne) or lime or lemon

You can read more about my favorite standard cocktail orders and gorgeous drinks I made up myself here!

How to eat healthy while traveling for work
Great cocktail combos (the last three are the best)! Light liquor, a splash of juice, and a flavoring. Cucumbers, herbs, and fresh fruit and good signs of a healthy drink.

9. Go to bed at these times to decrease cravings

Making sure you’re well rested is huge for keeping your immune system and your metabolism roaring while you travel. If you don’t get enough quality sleep, you’ll end up craving a carb-bomb to make up for it.

7 hours of sleep is a good amount to have, but you can adjust based on your needs. Here’s what I suggest.

  • Go to sleep by 10 p.m. to be up by 5 a.m.
  • Go to bed by 11 p.m., be up by 6 a.m.
  • Go to bed by 12pm to be up by 7am.

 10. Sugar lurks everywhere. Eat this instead!

Being on a business trip can mean you’re subject to trays of free doughnuts, candy jars in offices, and friendly offers from people who are just trying to be nice. But if you give in to sugar more often than not, it’s going to show in how you feel and look over time.

Say, “No thank you.” to extra sugar from candy and pastries. But if you really want something sweet and sultry, allow yourself some 70% or more dark chocolate. It’s lower in sugar and truly satisfies.

11. Walk or exercise with resistance bands to quiet cravings

One way to curb sugar cravings is by exercising. Going for just a 15-minute walk or doing other exercises in your hotel room will stimulate your brain so that it stops thinking about food cravings. (8)

When you have a little break in the day, go for a walk. It’s also a fun way to check out the city you’re in. Or you could do it first thing in the morning near your hotel if possible.

You could also bring resistance bands and workout in your hotel room. Resistance bands are great because they’re light and don’t take up space in a suitcase.

Here’s a great 10-minute resistance band workout for travel.

What are your biggest obstacles to being healthy while you travel? Which of the tips I shared will you use in your next trip? Let me know in the comments!

And don’t forget to grab your FREE Healthy Snack framework with 3 no-cook snack ideas here!

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Nagina Sethi Abdullah, BA, MBA

Nagina Abdullah is a health coach for middle-aged women and professionals. She coaches women to boost their metabolism naturally, shed pounds and keep them off. Her work with weight loss clients led to the creation of Masala Body, an online weight loss platform that provides an easy and accessible system that helps women sustainably lose weight. She has helped over 1200 women successfully lose from 10-80 lbs and create a sustainable lifestyle change. Nagina earned her degree in Molecular and Cell Biology from UC Berkeley.

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