As we continue to settle into our new normal after some big world shifts over the past 2 years, one of the things many of us may be getting back to is work-related travel. So, have you ever wondered how to fuel yourself for optimal energy, satiety, and brain power while you’re on the road? Are you interested in decreasing your chances of feeling famished, lightheaded, or hangry while you’re at an important meeting? Read on for some tips for travel eats as you get on the road again!
Whether you travel occasionally or are a full-on road warrior, you may be pretty sick of the typical hotel menu or restaurant dinner.
Here are some things to keep in mind during work travel:
Meat & potatoes: If lots of rich meals with colleagues (think steak, potatoes, and red wine) have you feeling sluggish, consider cycling in some lighter protein options like fish or chicken with a side of your favorite vegetable, as well as a grain like rice, pasta, or quinoa if desired. You’ll likely feel better with the fiber-rich vegetables and the variety, and you’ll also be more likely to enjoy that delicious filet mignon next time! Why are these things important? Well, research has shown that consumption of a variety of healthful foods is associated with lower incidence of metabolic syndrome and its various components, such as impaired fasting glucose, lipid dysregulation, and high blood pressure (1). When it comes to fiber from some added vegetables, the benefits are vast: regular digestion, increased intestinal health, and lower risk for certain chronic diseases are just a few of the benefits of adequate fiber intake (2).
Speaking of red wine… If alcohol is a main fixture of your travels, it may be worth reevaluating your consumption. Of course, alcohol can be enjoyed responsibly, but it is important to understand the risks association with consumption. First, overuse can leave you dehydrated (among other unpleasant symptoms like headaches and GI distress), especially if having alcoholic beverages gets in the way of you consuming enough water. Second, on the topic of risks, alcohol consumption is associated with certain health issues, such as high blood pressure and certain cancers (3). Therefore, keep in mind that consuming alcohol in moderation is considered 1 drink or less per day for women and 2 drinks or less per day for men; while this amount of alcohol consumption does not eliminate the risks for the health issues mentioned, it is a helpful guide to help ensure moderate intake (4).
Missing mealtimes? If you find yourself working through lunch or being unable to take breaks during meetings, you may end up feeling fatigued, irritable, sluggish, or unable to think clearly. Why? You’re probably hungry, even if your body doesn’t realize it! While it’s important to get your work done and participate in meetings, nourishing yourself properly is just as important. Research has even shown that when we skip a meal during the day, the overall quality of our diet decreases due to the choices we make in the following meals (5). With that in mind, here are some ways to make meals & snacks easier on those busy work days:
Bring a snack with you – If we can’t fit in a full meal, a complete snack is the next best thing to ensure we’re providing our bodies with energy to power through the day. Try bringing a snack that offers you a balance of the 3 macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) plus some fiber for optimal nourishment and satiation.
Examples: whole-grain crackers with cheese or hummus, apple and peanut butter, nuts with dried fruit
Pack or buy a nutrient-dense smoothie – When we’re in a pinch, smoothies are a very efficient way to get some quick nutrition into our day. When making your own smoothie or ordering one at a café, try the formula of liquid (water or milk/milk alternative) + fruit and/or vegetable for vitamins, minerals and fiber + protein & fat for blood sugar balance and a filling snack.
Suggest a working lunch – We can often feel like we are the only person who is hungry or wishing we could break for mealtimes, but most of us will start to feel some hunger pangs when we miss a meal or snack! When you’re traveling for work and your schedule seems extra busy, try suggesting a working lunch so everyone gets a chance to refuel.
Have these tips piqued your interest or gotten you thinking about ways you can optimize your health while traveling? Our dietitians at INC Nutrition are here to help you integrate these and other positive habits into your life. Reach out today!
Vadiveloo M, Parekh N, Mattei J. Greater healthful food variety as measured by the US Healthy Food Diversity index is associated with lower odds of metabolic syndrome and its components in US adults [published correction appears in J Nutr. 2015 Jun;145(6):1373. Parkeh, Niyati [Corrected to Parekh, Niyati]]. J Nutr. 2015;145(3):564-571. doi:10.3945/jn.114.199125
Lattimer JM, Haub MD. Effects of dietary fiber and its components on metabolic health. Nutrients. 2010;2(12):1266-1289. doi:10.3390/nu2121266
CDC - Fact Sheets- Moderate Drinking - Alcohol. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/moderate-drinking.htm
Alcohol in moderation: How many drinks is that? Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/alcohol/art-20044551#:~:text=Defining%20moderate
Zeballos E, Todd JE. The effects of skipping a meal on daily energy intake and diet quality. Public Health Nutr. 2020;23(18):3346-3355. doi:10.1017/S1368980020000683