These 25 easy tricks, tips, and hacks will help you eat better and healthier no matter where your journey takes you.
HACKS AT THE HOTEL:
Choose wisely from the free hotel breakfasts.
Staying at a hotel that offers a free breakfast? Usually they’re packed with pastries, bagels, and sugar-covered cereal, all of which you want to avoid. Instead go for fresh fruit (there’s usually at least a banana or an apple), eggs, plain greek yogurt (fruit-flavored has tons of sugar), or whole grain cereal, suggests Regina Basterrechea, nutritionist for The Biggest Loser Resort Palm Desert.
Use the coffee maker to cook instant oatmeal.
It is the most important meal of the day, after all. So if you don’t want to leave it to chance, try Basterrechea’s handy trick: Pack some instant oatmeal packets and use the coffee maker in the room to heat water to prepare it. You can also bring nuts and dried fruit to mix in.
Ask for a mini-fridge and make your own breakfast.
Most hotels will accommodate. Then you can buy some fresh fruit, nuts, and something like Greek yogurt and plan to eat breakfast in your room so you know you have one good healthy meal under your belt for the day.
Put plastic wrap on the stems of your bananas.
Want to leave stash of bananas in your hotel room to eat for breakfast or take as a snack? Carefully break them apart and wrap the individual stems of each banana in plastic wrap. It can help them last up to five days longer. (It hinders the release of ethylene gas from the stem, which is what promotes ripening and creates the brow color).
Buy a shaker bottle for shakes on the go.
A protein shake can be a great choice for breakfast on the go. And you don’t need a blender. Just add a packet of powdered shake (Basterrechea likes SFH Pure) and some almond milk or even water to your shaker bottle, close it up tight and shake your little hear out. Another trick? Add some powdered peanut butter (like PB2), which is made to be mixed with water or added to smoothies directly. It gives great flavor but only has 45 calories (a regular serving of peanut butter has more like 200).
BYOP — bring your own protein — in the form of jerky.
Take a cue from gas station staple Slim Jims and pack beef, turkey, or salmon jerky — just make sure to pick a nitrate- and chemical-free brand (like Krave, suggests Basterrechea). Eating protein is one of the best things you can do to lose weight and stay fit, and jerky is so travel friendly. There are also meat bars if you prefer that.
BYOG — bring your own greens, in the form of real veggie snacks.
You don’t exactly think of veggies as road food, but they can be. Throw a few bags of things like seaweed chips, Trader Joe’s Crispy Crunchy Broccoli Florets (lightly fried but still low-fat), or Snapea Crips into your carry-on. Eat them with a couple of pieces of beef jerky and it’s the perfect on-the-go snack.
Know which bars are the healthiest.
There’s nothing quite as convenient as a protein or nut and fruit bar for fast snacking, but these babies are not all created equal. Many are packed with chemical and/or sugar you just don’t need. According to Basterrechea, three you can feel good about eating are Quest Bars, Kind bars (the varieties without added sugar), and Lara bars. (It’s a good idea to eat the largely fruit-based Lara bars with a few nuts to get some protein.)
Carry flavored stevia for your coffee.
The chemical-laden sweeteners popular in the U.S. are not good for you, and because of that, if you travel abroad you may be hard pressed to find anything but sugar in certain countries. Instead, travel-sized bottles of flavored stevia (an all-natural plant extract) and some low- or non-fat powered milk. They can turn bad road coffee into a vanilla latte-inspired treat.
Buy squeeze chia.
Yes, it’s a thing, it’s portable, and it’s packed with healthy omega 3’s. Just don’t overdo it; too much chia can, er, back you up, according Basterrechea.
Use coconut oil packets in place of butter.
Not only is coconut oil (which is solid when cool) a healthy alternative to butter on your toast (studies show the oil helps promotes weight loss), but you can also use it as a handy-dandy, delicious-smelling moisturizer, too. Who doesn’t love a multi-use product when traveling? Just makes sure you buy a brand that is safe to eat and that comes individual packets for easy transport.
HACKS FOR EATING OUT:
Always start with a salad, dressing on the side.
Even if all you do differently is start with a salad (very lightly dressed with something healthy like a little olive oil and vinegar), it will help fill you up, so you’ll eat less of other things that might not be as good for you. One caveat: If you’re traveling in a foreign country where the water isn’t fit to drink, skip salad and veggies like lettuce or tomato where you eat the skin. Cooked veggies and peeled veggies are safer.
Order vegetarian — then add meat, poultry, or fish.
When trying to eat healthy, you want to load up on as many veggies as you can. An easy trick to do that when you’re eating out a lot on the road is to order a vegetarian dish and ask them to add a protein, like chicken, says Basterrechea. Or if you’re eating something like Chinese, ask for double broccoli or order a side of steamed broccoli and mix it into your dish. Broccoli takes up a lot of space leaving less room in your belly for the unhealthy stuff.
Order an appetizer for dinner or split a main.
Appetizers are usually closer to recommended serving sizes and main courses are usually enough food for two, especially in the U.S. So even if you eat something not totally healthy, you’ll eat less. Plus, it can save you money. Throw in a side salad or a broth-based soup if you think you’ll still be hungry.
Eat the protein first.
Protein fills you up and satiates you, which can help you eat less. So start with your meat, chicken, or fish, then eat your veggies, then if you’re still actually hungry, move on to complex carbs. It’s good way to cut back on starchy foods like potatoes or bread.
Blot the oil off pizza.
Pizza can be an easy and not completely unhealthy choice on the road (especially if you top it with veggies). Just blot the excess oil off your slice. It can save up to 50 calories, according to Cosmopolitan.com.
Use your hand as a guide for portion sizes.
If you’re trying to watch your portion sizes (which is key to losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight), you can use your hands as a guide: Two cupped hands equal 1 ounce (of dry snacks like pretzels or crackers); one cupped hand holds a half cup (of foods like rice or ice cream); a fist is the size of one cup (of chopped veggies, berries or cereal, for example); from the middle joint to the top of your thumb is equivalent to one teaspoon (for things like salad dressing, peanut butter, and mayo); from the bottom joint to the top of your thumb estimates 1 to 2 tablespoons; the palm is about the size of 3 to 4 ounces (of meat, fish, or poultry).
TSA-FRIENDLY SNACK HACKS:
Pack food in a plastic baggies if you’re flying.
Just no aluminum foil if you’re flying. It could set off scanner when going through security and then they will likely want to search your bag and you’ll have to unwrap your food.
Use TSA-friendly-sized spreads.
If you bring spreads like hummus or natural peanut butter, make sure they’re 3. 4 ounces or less. Justin’s makes individual almond butter and peanut butter squeeze packets that are 1.15 ounces.
Bring an empty water bottle.
It will make it through security and then you can filler up at a water fountain in the airport. Just don’t fill it up on the plane unless you can see that the water is coming from other bottled water. Tap water on planes (whether from the bathroom or the galley) is a no no.
HACKS FOR GAS STATION OR CONVENIENCE STORE FOOD:
Use food math to compare picks at the convenience store.
Which bar is better? Which snack more sense? Basically, when trying to find the best product to buy and eat in a pinch, you can calculate which one has the best balance of protein and “effective carbs.” You do this by looking at the carbs, fiber, and protein. Here’s the formula: Take the total grams of carbs and subtract the grams of fiber and protein. The resulting number is the “effective carbs,” which you’d ideally like to keep below 10.
Customize pre-packaged trail mix.
Trail mix can be an easy snack to buy on the road, but when it comes to eating healthy, there’s usually too much dried fruit and/or chocolate (which means lots of sugar). So Basterrechea suggests tweaking the ratio by buying a bag of trail mix and also a bag of nuts. Add the nuts to the trail mix to correct the protein and good fat to sugar ratio.
Choose dark chocolate over milk chocolate.
Though neither one is great in large quantities, the dark chocolate choice will most likely have a bit less sugar. Make it even better by choosing one with nuts for some added protein.
APPS THAT HELP HACK:
Use technology to help you find healthy places to eat, wherever you are.
Three to try: Food Trippin “locates the closest eateries, juice joints, farmers’ markets, microbreweries, and more,” according to iTunes. Eat Out Well provides nutrition information for menu item in restaurants around your location. Can I Eat This? is from the Center for Disease Control and helps prevent travelers’ diarrhea based on where you are and what you’re thinking about eating or drinking.
BONUS: EXERCISE HACKS
Learn some moves you can do anywhere, not equipment required.
There are actually tons of exercises you can do in your hotel room or even in the park or on the beach. The most you might need is towel on the floor or table, bench, or window sill for balance. Think: planks, lunges, squats, and push-ups for strength-building and jumping jacks and burpees for cardio.
This article was originally published by Leah Ginsberg