How do you eat healthy on holiday? Sure, eating healthy can be easy if you’re at home all the time, but what about when you’re traveling?
If you’re planning to be on the road this holiday season finding real whole food to fill up on, can be tough. You don’t always have easy access to good cooking facilities, and you can’t always plan your meals in advance. It can be tough to eat healthy and stay on track.
It can be done though. Here’s how to eat healthy on holiday…
The most important thing while trying to eating healthy while on the go is to be prepared. Set yourself up for success from the beginning and plan ahead. Know when and where your major pitfalls will come, so that you can plan to avoid them. Remember, eating healthy at Christmas and New Year isn’t “normal” to most people. If you go for a “business as usual” approach, it won’t happen. You’ll get sucked into everyone else’s bad habits along the way. If you want to stay healthy on the road, you’re going to have to prepare yourself and make your nutrition a priority.
Aim for 80% healthy eating
First of all, if you’re traveling, cut yourself some slack. You probably won’t be 100% perfect. Being on the road is tough, so don’t worry about perfection. Aim to eat healthy 80% of the time. A missed meal or a poor snack choice here and there won’t kill you. Just don’t let it become a habit. Instead of trying to be 110% conscientious while dealing with continental breakfasts, client dinners, conference parties, end of year functions and road trips, aim to eat healthy 80% of the time.
Strategies for hitting that 80% balance
Find a road side cafe, and grab some bacon and eggs or a vegetarian omelet and you’re good. If you’re offered pancakes, toast, or potatoes, sub them out for the fruit instead. For your morning drink, skip the orange juice which is too high in fructose, and have your tea or coffee black. That will definitely wake you up, and keep you shedding fat, or at least maintaining a healthy weight.
If you’re eating out, it’s probably easiest to choose your approach according to the types of restaurants you’re going to. The best advice is to find the healthiest main, and to either avoid the sides or to swap them out for vegetables (preferably) or fruit.
Appetizers & Sides – You can almost always substitute chips for a fresh salad. Take advantage of this option.
Healthiest Restaurant Choices
Mexican food is typically pretty healthy if you can avoid the tortillas and the chips. The best Mexican meal is fajitas because you can simply eat the vegetables, meat or beans off the tray, and leave the tortillas. Delicious.
Sushi is usually a pretty good choice too. While the rice is sometimes mixed with white wheat based flour and almost always contains sugar there are definitely worse choices. As a side benefit, with sushi, you’re going to stock up on your Omega 3 with all that fresh seafood. If you want to go fully raw and avoid rice altogether, grab the sashimi. Note: Large fish such as tuna and salmon may contain some contaminants such as heavy metals, so don’t stuff your face with it!
Seafood, notwithstanding the above cautions, is, as long as it’s fresh, not breaded and deep fried, a healthy option – so eat up.
If you’re entertaining clients, head to a steakhouse. Not only will you impress your clients, but you’ll also eat some pretty amazing food. Again avoid the chips, mashed potatoes, or mac and cheese and go for an extra portion of salad or veggies instead.
These are typically served with lots of fresh veggies, and salads with protein such as beef, lamb, chicken, or chickpeas in the form of hummus or falafel. Falafel though delicious contains wheat and is deep fried. So skip that and ditch the pita or wrap too. I usually will eat the filling and leave the wrapper.
You can do pretty well at these restaurants if you avoid the chips, and buns. As well as typical fish, meat, eggs and dairy based dishes dairy, these restaurants usually have decent vegetables as sides. You can usually get a solid burger (with the bun on the side, which you can toss to the ducks) or another solid protein choice with a side of veggies or fruit
Sorry for you Italian lovers! Stay away from Italian. If that’s not an option, get the chicken or the meatballs, and try to have a killer Caesar salad. Ignore the pizza and pasta. It’s not worth it.
Juice and Smoothie Bars
Proceed with caution and treat these as an occasional indulgence on a hot summer’s day. Most juices and smoothies have such a high proportion of sweet fruits and root veggies in them, they really need to be classified as dessert.
Road Trip Ideas
If you’re going to be on the road or driving for hours, schedule in a little prep work, and bring a chilly bin.
- Nuts – Almonds, walnuts, cashews, macadamia, Brazils and more. Watch the fat content. A little goes a long way!
- Dark chocolate –80% cacao or higher. Eat it in small amounts.
- Trail mix – Trail mix is a good pre-packaged easy snack. Watch out for the mixes which contain tons of sweets, dried fruit that has been drenched in sugar (read the fine print on the bulk bins at the super market) and/or peanuts (peanuts can contain traces of a mold called aflatoxin, which you definitely don’t want in your system). If in doubt mix your own.
- Biltong (South African dried beef) – Biltong can be a good snack as well, though it can get expensive if you choose it as your main snack item. Some brands also contain sugar, wheat, and soy (unless specifically stated most soy is genetically modified so stay away from it). If there’s any chance you have any allergies, be careful about overindulging in biltong. Store-bought biltong tends to have a high sugar content as well. A good alternative here is to make your own.
Fruits are your desserts on the road. Make sure you stock up on them when you can. These ones are good options:
- Oranges (in moderation, they have a high fructose content)
- Melons (ditto the comment above)
- Grapes (ditto)
- All Berries:
- Banana (A food in convenient self-contained wrapper!) high in starch though, but great after along hike, bike ride or surf session
If you want something even easier to eat, check out the dried fruits in the grocery store. They’re delicious and easy to eat with no mess or juice. Be careful of their high fructose content though! Definitely treat these as desserts rather than as main dishes. As stated before some, like cranberries, currants, and figs are laced with sugar.
Vegetables are basically portable snacks. Simply wash them and they’re usually ready to eat. You can easily eat most of these while you’re in the car or on the move. Here are our favorites (most of which you can try raw):
- Avocado is a personal favorite as it’s easy, portable, and tastes delicious.
- Baby Spinach
- Cherry tomatoes
Stock up at the Super Market
While it might be hard to prepare a meal if you don’t have a full kitchen in your hotel, or motel room, or camp site, you’ll probably be able to find some fresh or prepared food at a nearby super market.
If you’re driving, you can grab a chilly bin, and stock up on food. The cooler will enable you to have a fresh and portable “produce section” in your car to dip into when other healthy food isn’t available. You can also get a whole precooked chicken and munch on that.
Take away Food
While takeaways are a “last resort”, you can make them healthier, believe it or not here’s how: Salads.
If you start off with a base salad, it’s really hard to go wrong. The best part about this option is that most places offer salads these days. Even McDonald’s has them (although we don’t recommend McDonald’s as your first choice, especially as their idea of salad consists mainly of watery ice berg lettuce).
A Fresh Meal in a Bowl:
The formula for a sustaining salad meal is simple -three different greens, plenty of other non-starchy veggies, one or two starchy vegies like carrots and beetroot, some microgreens, fresh sprouts, seeds and nuts. A bit of fruit such as avocado, olives or orange slices. Feel free to add some grilled chicken, steak, chickpeas or other beans or another protein source as you like (perfect use for left overs!) and even a little cheese, (I love goats feta).
For a simple dressing add some extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon or a drizzle of toasted organic sesame oil and umbushi plumb vinegar. Always use cold pressed oils and store them in a cool dark place to preserve their goodness! Hint: to keep left over salad veggies fresh for the next meal, don’t dress the salad before serving. Let each person add dressing to their own plate, and avoid any waste.