A friend travels extensively for his job: grabbing breakfast in airports on the way to the gate, eating meals on airplanes, having lunch ordered in by other companies, and indulging in heavy dinners – and sometimes nightcaps – with clients.
This friend runs and bikes and maintains a healthy weight. But when we get together for weekend tennis, he says his game suffers after a work week on the road. “I always feel like I have to get back in shape when I get home,” he says.
When you’re on the road for work, and work is calling the shots, how can you keep the healthy habits you practice back home? We asked Karah Stanley, registered dietitian with St. Elizabeth Weight Management Center, for some advice.
“When you’re out of your routine, like when you’re traveling, it can be hard to know what to do,” Stanley said. “You should try to maintain control of your intake as much as you can.”
Start with breakfast. If you’re at a conference and there’s a breakfast involved, try to find out in advance what’s going to be available. Many will offer a fresh fruit or oatmeal option. If it’s too carbohydrate or egg-heavy for your taste, “you can always bring your own protein shake,” Stanley said.
Controlling your own destiny at breakfast makes it easier to make up for meals over which you might have less control, like an on-site lunch. If it’s a buffet setup, don’t let a slow-moving line compel you to sample each dish. “You don’t have to eat everything there,” Stanley said. “You don’t have to gorge yourself.”
Group dinners can pose challenges. Say your host picks a pricey steakhouse and your group is indulging after a long day of work. Do you stick to your guns or join the crowd?
Try making your choices within the context of your daily meal plan. If you settled for something less than ideal early in the day, maybe go fish or dinner salad here. If you opt for red meat, get a lean cut of a reasonable size; just because a restaurant serves steaks that are 16 ounces (roughly your weekly red meat allowance in one meal) and even larger, doesn’t mean you can’t get something smaller. Also, watch filling up on bread and starchy sides; consider a second vegetable in lieu of a potato.
- If you’re flying, make every effort not to eat one of your meals onboard. It’s always been easy to pick on airplane food. But if it isn’t particularly tasty, isn’t particularly good for you and isn’t even always complementary, then why not eat before or after instead and get what you want?
- Pack a few snacks yourself to tide you over and keep you away from vending machines between meals. Almonds have fiber, protein and healthy fats, can lower cholesterol and make you feel full. Granola bars can be good, too, but watch the sugar. Bananas don’t need to be refrigerated and are high in potassium.
- Watch what you drink. If your meeting or team-building extends beyond the dinner hour and into the hotel lounge, be mindful of your alcohol intake for any number of reasons, including the empty calories, dehydration and making you hungry all over again.
In case you missed it, it’s also possible to stick to your fitness routine when you’re on the road. Check out tips here.