Whether you’re heading out for a business trip or vacation with your girlfriend, your diet might take a dive. Between fast food stops, huge restaurant meals, and a general "I-can-eat-whatever" attitude, the result is often vacation pudge that lasts longer than you want. Follow these eating guidelines and you’ll have a good time on the road, minus the longstanding consequences.
1. Plan ahead.
Pack smart. That means stocking up on travel-friendly grub that’s nutrient-dense, non-perishable, and has sustaining calories, says Rikki Keen, R.D., director of sports nutrition at Florida Hospital and a consultant to NFL athletes. Fill your bags with snacks like beef jerky, dark chocolate chips, nuts, and individual peanut butter packets. Keen has her football players carry Caveman Bars because they’re made of mainly wholesome ingredients like nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.
2. Know where you’re going.
When you’re in a new city or on the road, avoid stopping at the first fast-food burger joint you see as soon as you’re hungry. Keen recommends using an app like AroundME while you’re on your way to the destination. It will let you locate healthier restaurant chains, like Chipotle or Sweet Tomatoes. (Here are 4 Chains That Are Fixing Fast Food.)
3. Eat every 2 to 3 hours.
It doesn’t have to be much—just a handful of nuts or dried fruit. This avoids a so-hungry-you-ate-a-gas-station-hot-dog situation, says Keen.
4. Carry your greens.
Look, you’re probably more focused on hitting that famous BBQ joint than getting your quota of seven servings of fruits and vegetables a day, says Mike Roussell, Ph.D., Men’s Health nutrition advisor. If that’s the case, Roussell suggests bringing powdered greens like Amazing Grass’ Amazing Meal along for the ride. You can buy the freeze-dried fruits and vegetables in small packets or in bulk and, mix them with smoothies or into oatmeal for breakfast.
5. Pop an important supplement.
Roussell advises taking melatonin if you’re traveling across time zones to help reset your internal clock faster, so you get better acclimated to the new location. From a weight loss standpoint, good sleep is key: A 2013 study in the journal Obesity found that one night of poor sleep drives up hunger hormones that make people purchase high-calorie foods.
6. Power up your coffee.
Get your day started off right with hunger-taming, quality protein. Baggie up some vanilla whey protein powder and toss it in your go bag, says Keen. When you stop and get coffee, add milk, stir, then mix in 1/2 to 1 scoop of the protein powder.
7. Back off booze.
Whether you’re at a business dinner with clients or a conference reception, stick with two drinks. The problem with going over is that you don’t think clearly with a buzz, so you’re more likely to stuff yourself with a tray of apps. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that guys consume an extra 433 calories from alcohol and food when they booze. Focus your efforts on networking instead of knocking back your fourth IPA.
8. Read the airline menu.
You don’t have to survive a long flight on Jack and Coke and free pretzels alone. Many airlines now offer protein boxes with hummus, olives, and whole-grain crackers, which provide a balance of protein, fat, and complex carbs, says Keen.
9. Scan the buffet.
On a cruise or in a hotel, buffets offer an unending amount of fare that’s fried, covered in sauce, or heavy in carbs. Make a beeline to protein-packed items instead. At the continental breakfast bar, your best choice is eggs. At dinner, visit the carving station with pork tenderloin and pair with vegetables or a salad. Eating high-protein meals can keep you fuller throughout the day and make you less likely to call up room service for pizza late at night, reports a 2011 study from the University of Missouri.
10. Practice the ‘one and done’ rule.
You’re allowed to cheat on your diet while on the road, but breakfast, lunch, and dinner don’t all have to be gut-busting affairs. Pick one high-calorie item a day, like ice cream from that local creamery for dessert. Eat it, enjoy it, then move on, says Keen.
11. Drink more water.
Always carry an empty glass or stainless steel water bottle with you and drink about 8 ounces of H20 every hour to prevent dehydration. Thirst often masquerades as hunger, says Keen.
Written by Jessica Migala