Eating Healthy While On The Go! Helpful Hints

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Travel seasons are picking up with spring break and vacation weekends approaching like Memorial Day and summer break.

When you are traveling and on the move, it can be challenging to eat healthy. But there are plenty of good options for choosing healthy food when you are on the go.

Many people eat food from restaurants and businesses that sell it in places located in the places where they are passing through on their travels. The trouble is, most of these establishments sell the most unhealthy, processed food imaginable – full of unhealthy fats, refined flours, chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, and sugar.

It may seem like eating this type of food only once in awhile is not really a big deal. But when you are traveling – even if you are on vacation – your normal schedule and way of doing things becomes interrupted, and it can be a strain on your body. Even eating these kinds of foods once in awhile, especially when you are not used to eating them, can cause health issues to occur.

You might rationalize that since you don’t eat those types of foods often, it isn’t a big deal. At the very least it can cause delays, inconveniences, and reduce the amount of enjoyment on your trip. But eating this way can place such a strain on your body that it can actually cause sickness and fatigue, which can ruin your vacation or trip.

There are some good ways to eat healthy foods and minimize your exposure to processed foods while you are away from home:

  • There are various foods from home that can be taken during travel.  If you are going by car, think yogurt, milk, cheese, fruits, vegetables, leftover meats from the night before’s dinner, sprouted nuts, meat or fish jerky and other dehydrated foods, hard-cooked eggs, and almost any hot or cold dish you can prepare at home.  When we travel to Las Vegas, Nevada to visit my in-laws from our home in Boise, Idaho we usually drive down through Utah and sometimes stay in a hotel room on the way. For dinner, I always pack a couple of hot thermoses with some hot meal I’ve made at home – examples are casseroles or one-pot meals with chicken, ground beef, or steak. I also pack a big salad in a portable container to go with dinner and bring some homemade salad dressing. This is usually enough food for my husband, son, and I for dinner that night. For snacks in the car we usually bring things like cheese, nuts, fruit, home-made granola, and sometimes popcorn. For breakfast the following day we bring our raw milk, hard-cooked eggs, yogurt, sprouted nuts, and fruit. Sometimes we bring some sprouted bread and our ghee from Pure Indian Foods – which is totally portable. The hotel we usually stay at (The Hampton Inn) has a continental breakfast area where we prepare our food and use the toaster, if necessary.
  • Make sure you have some good containers for carrying food with you such as small coolers, thermoses, and small containers for holding food. Small coolers and cold packs can be your best friend when you are on the move; I know I’d never go anywhere without mine. Although you can use plastic bags, there are some good alternatives to plastic and save money: depending on how long we are traveling, we use wax paper bags and parchment paper often. Other good containers, depending on how much room you have are recycled glass jars or small bottles for different types of drinks or foods. I try to reuse all glass containers that come into my house (as opposed to plastic) to save money and avoid BPA (the chemical found in plastics that can leach into food and drink). Although there is an upfront investment, stainless steel containers are also ideal because they are reusable and they don’t transfer dangerous chemicals into your food. You can find good stainless containers at the store or on the Internet. Here are some good companies that sell stainless containers: Reuseable Bags, The Tickle Trunk (a great multi-layered container for more than one type of food), LunchBots, or this great list of compostable food containers from LetsGoGreen, and GoGreenInStages for great items like bamboo cutting boards, portable produce bags, containers, and more.
  • Bring portable dishes and utensils for eating in and on if you know what you are eating will need that sort of preparation such as bowls or small plates.  Also include some cutting tools like knives and a few pieces of flatwear. If you want to clean your dishes, bring along some natural dish soap in a small container. If you use plastic, be sure to recycle.
  • If traveling by plane and you know you won’t have access to a substantial meal while in the air for several or more hours, you can pack certain types of foods in a cold-pack in your carry-on. Choose foods like hard-cooked eggs that you prepare in advance, peel, and place in a wax paper bag. Cut up food into bite-sized chunks for ease of eating with your hands and fingers. Leftover meats, raw cheese, sprouted nuts, and certain fruits such as  grapes, apples, oranges, whole strawberries, and even dried fruits work well. Raspberries, pears, and bananas are not a good choice unless you eat them within an hour or so because they tend to soften quickly in containers and can make a big mess in your carry-on. I normally carry a paper bag or sometimes a cold-friendly lunch pail with a place for a small cold pack for our food. All foods you bring on the plane should be eaten within a few hours because carrying these while flying is more difficult than in a vehicle and your options are more limited for space and keeping your food cold. A trick I learned while traveling to the Weston A. Price Conference one year was to take my thermos and put it in the freezer the night before my trip with the lid off. This makes the thermos cold on the inside to keep foods fresh for a few hours while you travel.
  • If you eat them within several hours, you can also carry fresh vegetables in plastic bags in your cold pack. Broccoli, cherry tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, peppers, and even spring greens can be good choices. If you bring greens of any kind, try to avoid packing them directly against your cold-pack or ice pack of choice, and eat them within a couple of hours. Extremely cold exposure can cause greens to blacken and become slimy.
  • If you want to bring jerky, you can find good quality organic or grass-fed meat or selections containing no nitrates or other chemicals. You can find beef, fish, and turkey in jerky varieties now in most health food stores. You can also make your own at home with a dehydrator.
  • Good-quality water is difficult to come by since airlines do not permit bringing water from home. I always bring my own filtered water from home either in a recycled glass container or stainless steel canteen. If you don’t bring a container from home, you will likely have to purchase bottled water in the terminal after you check your luggage and go through security. When you reach your destination, look for good-quality filtered water from a local store.
  • If you must eat food on the plane, try to avoid anything sugary or processed. While this may be difficult since airlines don’t tend to provide much of anything in the way of healthy foods, saying no will benefit you in the end. Traveling can be stressful and you will be less tired and short-tempered because you have provided your body with the healthiest possible choice to keep going. In the airport, choose salads, cooked vegetables, and proteins as much as possible while avoiding processed foods.
  • When do do eat out, avoid as much as possible sweets and simple carbohydrates, alcoholic and sugary beverages, processed foods, and anything that might otherwise be suspect. Eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, and healthy proteins if available.
  • If you know you are not going to be able to find the usual type of food you are accustomed to eating, it may be a good idea to consider taking probiotics, hydrochloric acid, and digestive enzymes. These substances will help minimize gastro-intestinal distress and digestive issues from foods you may eat that are unfamiliar or less than optimal. Remember that the more naturally-fermented foods you eat (such as lacto-fermented vegetables and naturally fermented dairy like yogurt, kefir, and raw dairy), the better your digestion will be as these foods afford natural sources of important digestive enzymes and friendly bacteria. As you are able, be sure to bring any foods you normally consume that are portable such as fermented cod liver oil and other foods that provide good essential fatty acids (i.e. coconut or olive oil), and  any important items you take for health.
  • When you reach your destination, find local health food stores or other good sources for healthy food through the help of people you might be staying with, local recommendations, the Yellow Pages, or an Internet search.
  • Try not to eat when you are rushed or stressed-out, such as when you are on the move or trying to go from one place to another. Hydrochloric acid production goes down during stress and it will prevent your food from properly digesting which can make you feel less than optimal and give you digestive distress later.

It’s difficult at best to eat as healthy when you travel as you do when you are at home. Following these tips will save you money and help ensure that your health survives your traveling experiences the best way possible.

Looking for a great guide to restaurants in areas where you travel that serve healthy food? Look no further, Holly Hickman’s Healthy Eats Here provides fantastic recommendations of restaurants in local areas where you travel that serve delicious sustainable, local, organic, and in some cases, traditionally-prepared foods!

Want to support green-friendly hotels on your travels? Here are links to environmentally-friendly accommodations:

Best Green Hotels

istayGREEN

Green Hotel Reviews

Interested in eating healthy, but on a budget? Read these ideas for lowering your costs of food and overall health costs at the same time.
This post is part of Kelly The Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays Carnival. Please visit her site and read all the other great real food posts there.

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10 Comments

  • April 7, 2010 - 12:42 PM | Permalink

    great ideas! I also rediscovered shopping at grocery stores when I travel. I love it if the hotel I’m staying at has a microwave and refrigerator.

  • April 7, 2010 - 12:57 PM | Permalink

    Wendy – I especially love the refrigerator in the hotel room. When we drive on through to our destination, we can just use the refrigerator when we arrive. We have saved so much money and sickness from eating our own food when we travel, it’s great! It does take some planning and organizing ahead, but so worth it!

  • Jen
    April 7, 2010 - 2:03 PM | Permalink

    Great information! We will be traveling in May, and I’m already thinking ahead to prepare nourishing food. Thankfully we will have the use of a full kitchen in the vacation home where we will be staying, so that will really help!

    Do you have any recommendations for good quality, whole food, organic vitamins? I’ve tried to research a bit, but it’s overwhelming, and I’m not sure I believe everything I read when it comes from the companies making the products. Thanks Raine!

  • April 7, 2010 - 2:38 PM | Permalink

    Hi Jen – here is a link to a post I wrote about good supplementation. It’s tough to wade through all the information.

    http://www.agriculturesociety.com/?p=292

    The reason good supplements (which you may already know) are so important is because synthetic nutrients produced in a lab without co-factors and enzymes and other elements present in the state of natural nutrients will not allow the body to absorb the nutrients, and can actually cause health problems. Synthetic vitamins are a waste of money and can actually harm your health. It makes more sense to buy something that will actually help your body and give you real nutrition, rather than something artificial that can make problems worse. I believe taking synthetic vitamins has actually been one of the reasons why health care professionals are always warning consumers about overdosing on certain Vitamins and Minerals. When you are taking something synthetic, it’s easy to overdose, as opposed to when you are eating the natural food containing those nutrients, it’s nearly impossible to overdose since your body will let you know when you’ve had enough by telling you that you feel full. That can’t really occur with vitamin supplements as you are swallowing them with water, and there can be more milligrams or micrograms of something in a vitamin tablet, alongside the fact that it’s also synthetically produced in a laboratory.

    Here’s the criteria I use to choose a supplement:

    It must be produced from real food or real food sources – organically or sustainably-produced supplementation. Check the labels, and if you have to, contact the company or discuss the origin of their products from someone you trust like a knowledgeable health care practitioner. Biotics Research, Standard Process, and Apex Energetics are three good brands I trust, also Radiant Life & Green Pastures for fermented cod liver oil, Bio-Kult, Biotics Research, and Advanced Naturals for probiotics. Digestive Enzymes I use Digest Gold and those are all natural, originating from plant sources.

  • April 7, 2010 - 8:15 PM | Permalink

    Very good post Raine with the approaching travel season.
    We haul all of our food when traveling. Mainly because I have to have gluten / dairy free from my husband. But now I take for me almost 100% for when we are on the road. Fermented foods is a must – it seems to actually be the most important since traveling can change your digestion just from the sheer tiredness of driving.
    Last Fall when we traveled north to visit our mothers and other relatives I was not feeling well, like a cold or something coming on. We had already delayed this trip by several months so I chose to take foods for me like ferments and make them my almost exclusive food while we traveled there. I had amazing results doing that, eating a lot of kimchi. And enjoyed the whole trip with out ending up in bed upon arrival. And because I knew we would be having foods in homes we don’t normally eat I made sure there was plenty of ferments on hand through out the visits.
    So besides taking along wholesome nutritious foods so supplement during travel / visit times….ferments should be on the top of the list.

  • April 7, 2010 - 8:46 PM | Permalink

    What great timing! We just took our trip to Portland for a few days. Though it was a little different this time since it was just my husband and I and not the three kids. I packed a cooler with homemade soaked muffins, raw cheese, raw milk, fruit, homemade granola, the homemade almond joy candies and tuna wraps. I made them using a sourdough starter crepe recipe stuffed with tuna mix with soft raw cheese and organic alfalfa sprouts.

    My phone with internet access and google maps came in EXTREMELY helpful through the trip. At any point I could search my maps for health food stores, co-ops, organic places, ect. We were able to find the small local food joints and eat pretty darn good! One of the nights we went to a small pizza place that had wood fired free range chicken. I ate what I could and wrapped the rest up. The next day it proved to be a life saver. We were stuck on the highway in a snow storm (I was super paniced!) We had no idea how long we would be stopped. While tim was out trying to figure out if he needed to chain up I was in the car making a sandwich out of Dave’s Killer sprouted wheat bread (we had visited the actual bakery and I bought a few loaves to bring home), the leftover chicken and some raw cheese. When Tim got back in the car I was able to hand him a healthy sandwich.

    Just call me super wife. ;) LOL!

  • April 8, 2010 - 11:04 AM | Permalink

    Pamela – yes, the fermented foods are so important! I did mention it in one of my bullet items, but probably should have impressed it more throughout the post. It’s great to hear testamonials from people who eat good foods while traveling and avoid illness. Yay for real food!

    I’ve made fermented dairy foods a number of times, but haven’t yet tried the lacto-fermented vegetables. That needs to be next on my list. Oh, and sourdough bread! :)

    Tara – I am glad you made it back safely from your trip! Those roads to Oregon and Washington can be hairy in the fall, winter, and early spring months. But I love that drive and I love western Oregon and Washington.

    The Internet is great for finding good local and sustainable places to eat while traveling. I’m a person who tries not to rely on technology too much – I’m not a video gamer nor a person who watches much television…but I do find myself on the computer a lot doing research and reading. Guess that’s why I’m a food blogger! But it’s so nice to have those tools at our disposal to find the resources we need. I think eating in the car is so great because it saves time and money. We rarely have to stop much except for gas and bathroom on our trips because we bring all our food with us to eat.

    I’d love to see some of your recipes for the foods you talked about here…especially the sourdough, even though I don’t do grains much. But sourdough would probably be fine since it’s fermented.

  • Amy Love
    April 15, 2010 - 2:23 PM | Permalink

    Great tips! I have also found that when flying to one place that you will be staying for a few days to a week, as opposed to traveling in a car, looking for a traditional foods minded personal chef is a great option. I am going out of town next week for a conference and I will be staying in a hotel for 6 days. The hotel thankfully has a fridge, oven and stove, along with pots and pans and utensils. I will be making some food on my own (the personal chef I found will bring me groceries from Whole Foods) and I will have several dishes, like soups (with homemade broth, etc all made to my specs) that I can easily reheat on some of the busiest days of my conference. The cost is actually a lot more reasonable than I ever would have guessed, and the savings in stress is immeasurable! It did take calling quite a few people before I found someone who I felt could handle my strict eating requirements, but it paid off- I met someone who is just phenomenal and I am very thankful to not have to worry too much about what to eat during my trip.

  • April 15, 2010 - 3:07 PM | Permalink

    Amy – That is great you were able to find a good solution for your traveling situation! I think it’s amazing just how many options people have for healthy eating now, even though there are a number of restrictions and limitations to deal with – people are becoming more and more aware of changing to healthier foods and just how damaging their old eating habits may have been on their overall health.

    I had never thought of a personal chef, what a great idea! Someday when our business gets going, I hope to have even more options like this one to enable healthy eating in a variety of situations. :)

  • July 10, 2010 - 9:57 AM | Permalink

    nice that will be healthy :) hehehe

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