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Is it possible to eat healthy while traveling?
For the longest time, I thought this was impossible.
I would be doing great eating at home. I would have my habits completely changed and feel good about myself, and then BAM!
Great eating habits I had for the last 6 months destroyed in one day all because I spent the night away from home.
And then I get home and crave the bad stuff again.
It was a terrible cycle to be in.
In fact, my husband and I stopped going anywhere because of the fact you can’t seem to find healthy foods ANYWHERE when traveling. We didn’t want to break my new healthier habits.
Now, I found a way to do it and we are looking forward to some traveling later this year!
Stop the Food Obsession!
I can’t tell you how many times I would be excited for a trip because of the new places I would get to eat at.
This is a dangerous habit to have.
Unless you are a food blogger or food reviewer, you are not going to visit places like Niagara Falls or Disney World to eat!
You are going for the experience, the sites, the fun. Not to eat.
In fact, eating should be the thing you are least excited about when traveling.
You eat to fuel. To keep your energy up so you can see all the things you want to see without feeling sluggish.
So get yourself out of the mindset that you need to eat out. Because you don’t.
Buy a Cooler
My husband and I bought a great cooler that keeps our stuff cold for days. We refill the ice every couple of days.
We wish we had a Yeti cooler, because those are even better than what we have, but that was a little out of our price range, so the one we found is almost as good and cheaper. We have an Ozark Trail cooler.
Whenever we go anywhere for more than 4 hours, we make sandwiches, grab some apples, bananas, carrots, or celery, and some bottled water, and put it all in there.
We will also put any prepped meals, meat, or microwavable meals in there as well.
Prep Meals/Spices Before You Go
I learned real quick that if I eat out even once, my good eating habits will be completely out the window. With that will come a whole lot of bad decisions about food. Because if I eat it once, I will make excuses how I can do it again “just one more time”.
So I have to eat meals I prepare if I want to stay on track.
I don’t like premade spices from the store. They are overloaded with sodium and many of them contain chemicals. So I will generally plan my meals for the week in advance. Then a couple days before we leave, I will sit down and measure out spices for each meal and put them in small bowls with a lid and a label. You can also use a baggie.
I will also dice any vegetables I think I am going to need. Like tomatoes, peppers, onions, etc and put them in separate bowls.
I will then pre-cook any meat, quinoa, lentils, or beans and put them in their own bowls.
This makes things a ton easier, because now, I don’t have to spend my vacation prepping and have things I can just throw together and cook at the hotel in under 15 minutes.
Tip: Chili is a really good prep dish we usually eat on vacation. You can prep pretty much all of it, and you usually have enough for the next nights dinner too.
Stay in a Place With a Kitchen
We found out real quick we needed some sort of kitchen, or a mini kitchen when we are out of town.
So now we only go through 2 places to stay:
Staybridge Suites (Part of IHG hotel chain)
They not only have a mini kitchen with stove top, microwave, dishwasher, large fridge, and provide you with plates, utensils, and pots, but they also have so many other great amenities beyond that.
They allow pets, which is HUGE for us. We don’t travel without Brownie. So we love that we get a kitchen/ stove / full refrigerator (minus an oven) and can bring Brownie. Those are pretty much the only things that are deal breakers for us.
They serve free breakfast, so although they don’t have a lot of healthy options, most of the ones we have been to do serve apples and bananas at breakfast. And depending on your diet, you may be excited to know they usually have eggs, oatmeal, and yogurt as well. Whether it is packet oatmeal or general oats is hit or miss. But you don’t really need to worry about breakfast while you are there unless you eat restrictive like I do.
I will usually bring bread and avocados and make general avocado toast when I stay at Staybridge and grab an apple and banana from the breakfast area. Then Aaron will go load up on pastries, waffles, eggs, bacon, and all the other stuff I don’t keep in the house, so he is pretty happy.
Staybridge also serves free dinner for 3 nights out of the week. Which nights vary by hotel, but we found they all do 3 nights. It’s usually things like pizza, burgers, tacos, or hot dogs, so not really healthy stuff. But Aaron loves having that option, so I will usually bring my dinner down to the lounge and get a side salad from the buffet to go with my dinner, and eat with Aaron while he loads up on the junk.
Staying at Staybridge makes us both happy and I love that it is the perfect compromise to give us both what we want.
If there isn’t a Staybridge in the area we want to go, we will usually book through VRBO. We have had great experiences each time.
Their prices range from anything you want and you can find some places as cheap as a low cost hotel.
But you will generally get a full kitchen. Which is my favorite part.
With me having an oven, I will usually make the chili and a casserole dish, and between the two, we have leftovers for the week to eat each night, so some nights I don’t have to prepare anything at all.
I thought it would be stressful to cook my own meals while traveling, but it really isn’t. We usually come back to the place we are staying for a few hours anyway for a breather in the evenings. Half the week we are eating leftovers, and the nights I do cook, it is ready in 15 minutes because I already prepped it all before we left.
We only require one extra suitcase and one cooler now. It doesn’t take up much space.
And I am happier because I am sticking to my healthy eating and don’t feel bad about myself.
If You Can’t Get a Kitchen, Bring An Instant Pot
I understand, a lot of times, you may have particular hotels you like to stay at, or everything at the other places are booked and you can’t afford the other options with kitchens.
In that case, I would recommend to invest in an Instant Pot.
You can keep your food in the cooler, and each night, make a new Instant Pot meal. All you have to do is plug it in and press a button. You just need to remember to pack bowls and utensils.
You can even have stews, chili, and soups cook all day on the slow cook function while you and your family are out having fun. Then dinner is ready when you get back to the hotel, and you barely had to do a thing!
You may need to wash out the Instant Pot in the bathtub, but that usually only takes a few minutes, and you have the benefit of knowing you ate healthy and can be proud of yourself.
Precooked Meals Are an Option
I try not to eat pre-cooked meals, but when I know Aaron and I are going to be sightseeing most of the day and don’t have any leftovers, I will usually have a couple of “backup” meals in the cooler.
The kind you can throw in the microwave and eat.
Things like Dr. Praegers Veggie Burgers, premade frozen meals from Veestro, Daily Harvest (get $25 off your first box with this link), or packets from Leafside that you just add water and stir. Those are my favorites and I highly recommend them.
What about Breakfast and Lunch?
I talked a little about Breakfast when I was talking about Staybridge.
Another thing I will do is buy Cranberry and Chia Oatmeal from Vitacost, and Aaron and I will both eat that with plant milk or water for the week. Sometimes I will even chop up a banana and throw it in there too. We choose this, because Aaron and I both love this oatmeal. Quick, easy, and it doesn’t take up a whole lot of space.
For Lunch, Aaron and I will typically pack peanut butter and jelly (the kind that has very few ingredients and not a lot of sugar) or something else quick that we can throw on a sandwich. Then we will eat that each day.
Before we leave, I will usually pre-make a few sandwiches, that way while we are driving, if we get hungry, we can stop at a park or rest area and eat.
Our vacations are so much cheaper and we eat way healthier doing it this way.
Staying With Relatives
This one was tricky for me for the longest time.
It stirred my anxiety like crazy staying with other people, because I have a lot of food restrictions ( I eat a mostly whole food plant based diet, which means I eat the exact opposite of the Standard American Diet.)
I didn’t want to make anyone feel bad that I didn’t want to eat what they cooked. And I didn’t want to make them feel like they had to do extra for me, just because I ate differently. I would be caught like a dear in headlights because someone would want to eat out, but the places we go has nothing healthy on their menu (even the salads are full of things I can’t eat)
Breakfast and lunch usually isn’t a big deal. We will usually do the same thing as I have mentioned before. However, now, when dinner rolls around, I insist on cooking at the relative’s house. This makes me feel like I can have options for me, and I can feel like I am not hurting anyone’s feelings or feel like I am being a pain.
Or if they ask me what I would like for dinner in advance, I will usually pick an option that I know everyone will like.
So it is a win-win for everyone.
Eat Healthy While Traveling
It can be hard to get into the habit of bringing and cooking your own food while traveling.
In fact, the first couple of times Aaron and I tried, we only halfway succeeded.
But we kept at it and now we are pros.
It doesn’t seem to take a lot of time with prepping most of it and bringing pre-made healthy options.
And in fact, we found we were spending significantly less money on food costs, so our trips are cheaper!
The biggest obstacle will be making it a habit and getting out of the mindset that you HAVE to eat out when away from home.
It is hard, but you can do it. Just keep doing it and it will get easier.
Soon you will wonder why you hadn’t been doing it all along.