food for thought: staying healthy on the road

8 Apr

I’ve been in Chicago this week for my day job. This trip was super fun because I got to meet up with fellow blogger, Liz from DC. Liz and I met last summer at the Healthy Living Summit in Chicago. It was so great to see her again and get caught up in person about our similar passions – healthy living and fitness. She’s a rad runner and she was also in need of oatmeal sans dairy so we were a perfect pair. We met at Cosi where they have steel-cut oats made with water and you get to choose your toppings. I love toppings. I opted for granola and strawberries.

Hello squinty eyes!

Between my work travels and my personal travels, I feel I’ve created some pretty solid strategies for staying healthy while on the road.

I want to share with you what works best for me to stick to a healthy plan. Plan is the key word here. If you do not plan correctly, you are setting yourself up to fail. There is no way around that. You can’t expect that being healthy on the road is just magically going to happen. Most of the tips below are geared toward work travel. I am not nearly as diligent when I’m truly on vacation.

  • If you are traveling to a conference, let them know if you have any specific food needs. I actually did not do this this time (fail!), so no one new I was vegan. Thankfully, I work with awesome people and the hotel I stayed at was extremely accommodating. I find that if you let people know, they really do want to help. However, if you don’t ask and are rude about it, don’t expect them to bend over backwards for you.
  • Pack snacks. I always bring a pile of snacks with me on every trip. Typically this includes larabars, mini bags of almonds and dried fruit, apples (they travel well), baby carrots and other cut up veggies (mainly for the plane ride) and sample packs of protein powder or super food. These come in handy for your actual travel time and if you are attending a conference where the food does not fit your dietary needs.
  • Stay hydrated. I find that if I’m at a conference, it is difficult to get enough water in as the rooms I’m in are usually freezing. When I’m freezing, water does not sound good. However, I try to take advantage of hot water when it’s available and force myself to down water throughout the day. Staying hydrated will help you not attack the lunch buffet and will just make you feel better.
  • Many hotel rooms have fridges that you can store things in (call ahead and ask). Many times I will find a grocery store as soon as I arrive and pick up things like fruit, yogurt, etc. to ensure healthy options.
  • You will not work out unless you bring workout clothes. Pack them. To me it’s worth having to bring all the extra gear and check a bag if I need to.
  • Use the workout gear you have. Just having it in your suitcase doesn’t count.  Almost every hotel has a fitness center. It may not be as nice as what you’re used to in all cases, but hey, you have to take what you can get. I find that staying on my regular workout schedule makes me feel better during my travels.
  • If you are traveling to a nice climate, ask the hotel if there is a safe place to run or walk outdoors. You want to make sure you’re in safe area. Please carry a phone and ID with you.
  • Yoga podcasts are awesome. I’ve downloaded a few Dave Farmar podcasts (they’re free!) and done yoga right in my hotel room.
  • Explore on foot. The best way to get to know a city (most of them anyway) is on foot.  Throw on the sneakers and get some fresh air!
  • Most conferences I go to have big meals plus treats during the breaks. I fill up as much as possible on fruits and veggies when they are available. I do my best to skip the desserts. I mean, I don’t eat dessert for every meal when I’m at home, so why would I at a conference? I’ll cave if it’s something that looks fabulous and that I can’t live without. More often than not, the desserts served in hotels or at conferences are not that great.
  • Limit the alcohol.  For me, this is key. Having more than one drink messes with my sleep and it makes me want to eat more. Plus, it makes it harder to get up and workout in the morning. If  I am feeling the pressure (why is there so much pressure?), I typically sweet talk the bartender to make a club soda and lime look like a fancier drink. Or I make one glass of wine last a looooong time. Sometimes, I may not even finish it.
  • If you have free time to eat out, research great restaurants in the area. Don’t settle for a chain or even worse, fast food, if you don’t have to. This past trip, I totally took advantage of the salad and hot bar at a nearby Whole Foods. That was dinner for me two nights in a row as I was working in my hotel room. I know…I lead a super exciting life.

Traveling during vegan lent was interesting. The hotel I was at had great food and almost always had something I could eat at meals. The one plated meal was the only difficult one. I picked the cheese off my salad so that was easy enough. The main course was either chicken or the vegetarian option which was cheese ravioli. I asked very nicely if they would be able to steam some vegetables for me (seemed like something that wouldn’t be do difficult so maybe they’d be willing) and I was presented with steamed asparagus and carrots – score! That coupled with some bread held me until the next break where I grabbed my packed snack of almonds and dried cherries.

Breakfast was more difficult. I tried the nearby Corner Bakery and they down right refused to make oatmeal with water. Seems to me a funny thing to have such a firm stance on but whatevs. From then on I stuck with my standby, Starbucks. Starbucks make their oatmeal with water and it comes with nuts and fruit and they always have bananas. Thank you Starbucks. Vegans appreciate you.

I was lucky to be in a big city. Traveling to more rural areas as a vegan, or even a vegetarian would be much more difficult. I would to have to pack an extra bag just for snacks.

Do you have any tips on staying healthy while on the road? I’d love to hear them!

One Response to “food for thought: staying healthy on the road”

  1. anne April 9, 2011 at 3:24 pm #

    I think your tip about staying hydrated is the most valuable of all, especially during a flight. I ALWAYS pack snacks, even just for a short driving trip. (And a certain husband always gives me crap about it every time.)

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