28 March 2011

Tips on how to maintain your healthy lifestyle while traveling

While it can certainly be challenging to eat healthy at home, traveling presents a whole new set of challenges. I did quite a bit of traveling in the past few months, and since vacation season is looming, I figured it would be a good time to share with you some of my tips for keeping your waistline in check while on the road.

Be prepared. This is the single most important thing you can do when you're traveling. Carry food with you. Bring healthy, portable snacks with you whenever possible. I always travel with at least a few apples and some health bars. Other snacks suitable for traveling are bananas, pears, carrots (you don't even have to cut and peel them; just scrub clean and then bite into it Bugs Bunny style.. they even taste better that way!). Some of my favorite bars are Larabars and Organic Food Bars. Both are whole foods based, and travel well. I always bring more than I think I will need of these bars. They're especially helpful in airports when you're famished and faced with the barrage of fast food options. Succumbing to the temptation of greasy fries is much less likely to occur when you are armed with healthy snacks. (You'll also save yourself some money this way!)

Bring food on the airplane. The only exception I am aware of is that you cannot bring produce if you are traveling internationally (and of course the liquid rules still apply). Some of my go-to plane snacks are:
-fruit (hard fruits are best, in case they have to take a beating in your bag)
-pre-packaged food bars (once again, I like Organic Food Bars and lara bars)
-a homemade trail mix (some of my favorite ingredients to throw in the mix are almonds, walnuts, cashews, dried figs, dried cherries, dried cranberries, shredded coconut, pumpkin seeds, carob chips)

Eat super foods. You will maintain your energy while traveling if you make sure to add in some of the foods that pack a nutritional punch. Things like chia seeds can be added to water to stay hydrated and balance blood sugar. And dark leafy greens, such as kale and spinach will keep you alkalized and full of energy. If you don't have access to fresh produce, bring some greens powder, so you can just shake it up with some water in a pinch. But your best bet is to find a local health food store or juice/smoothie shop. Many of these places also make juices, and they can add some greens to your smoothies if you just ask. I recently found that the Whole Foods smoothie bar is happy to throw some spinach in your smoothie (for a price, of course!!)

Seek out local farmer's markets. This even trumps Whole Foods! There's nothing better, or more fun, than eating fresh, local produce straight from the source. Eating local while traveling may even introduce you to some new foods that you have never tried before. When I was in Mexico, I went to a farmer's market and found the most delicious heirloom tomatoes I have ever tasted in my life! This site is a great resource for finding local markets.

Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water. Look for coconut water, since it is nature's gatorade and will keep your electrolytes in balance. Coconut water is even being carried in many airports now. The only caveat being that they jack up the price. But if you have a long day of travel on your plate, it may be worth the extra few dollars.

Take advantage of portable technology. Some especially helpful sites that can be accessed on your phone include Yelp, Urban Spoon and Happycow.

If you have a hotel room with a refrigerator, take full advantage of it! Stock up on things like fruit, veggies, hummus, and guacamole. Fill up on some healthy snacks before heading out to dinner, if you know in advance that there won't be healthy options available. If your hotel doesn’t have a kitchenette or a refrigerator, many will be able to provide one for you, for a small fee, if you ask.

Don't settle for the limits of the menu when at a restaurant. When you go out to eat, don't be afraid to ask questions or make special requests at restaurants. You'll be surprised how many restaurants will cater to your requests. Some of my favorite meals while dining out have come from piecing together different portions of menu items, and asking the chef to be a little creative for me. Who knows, you many even inspire the restaurant to offer a healthy new dish!

Exercise. This does not necessarily mean that you should spend your time in the gym at your hotel. However, you should move your body and get in some physical activity every day. Take a long walk outside each morning, or take the scenic route and walk to a local shop or restaurant that you would typically take other transportation to reach. If you're on a road trip, stop the car every few hours and get out to do some jumping jacks, some running sprints, or take a brisk walk.

All in all, I am certainly not saying that you should deprive yourself...you're on vacation!! My tips are intended to help you feel fabulous during your travels, without getting too far off track from your healthy habits. So relax and enjoy yourself, even if this means having an especially decadent dessert, or an extra glass of wine with your dinner. As long as you're eating without guilt or regret, you're honoring your body and respecting your health. So bon voyage... and have a blast! Just don't forget about your trusty friend kale while you're living it up!

Lori Zito | @LoriZito
Lori is an animal-loving, life-loving vegan who is passionate about spreading the message of better health through a vegan diet. She works as a certified holistic health and nutrition coach, a yoga instructor, and a physical therapist. Learn more at her website Live In The Balance and follow her on Facebook.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/sinay