Smart Food Hacks to Help You Stay Healthy When You Travel

Eating healthy while traveling is definitely not easy. While we do think it is okay to splurge once and a while on vacation, there are times that our diets shouldn’t be on vacation mode just because we are. We have some smart food hacks to keep you healthy while traveling—and you’ll be surprised how easy they can be.

Airplane and Hotel Hacks

Bring a reusable water bottle

Fill up a reusable water bottle before your flight, during your flight and while on the go. Proper hydration helps you feel energized and prevents overeating. Opt for an insulated model so it can be used for both hot and cold liquids.

Meal prep for flights

Many people leave it up to the airlines to make their meal decisions, but this is a huge risk. What if the meal is only carb-based? What if there are only fast food restaurants near your gate? Instead, make a meal the night before or morning of your flight. As long as your food is properly cooked, it should be okay to bring on the flight—but don’t make soup or smoothies. Want to know for sure if what you make is safe to bring on board? The TSA website suggests you send them a picture or reach out to AskTSA via Facebook or Twitter.

Always keep emergency snacks in your carry-on

A protein bar, a pack of nuts and protein powder packets all store well in your purse and can help you get a bite of something healthy when you are hungry on the plane—so you can pass on those cookies the flight attendants pass around.

Book a hotel near a grocery store and stock your mini fridge

See if you can find a hotel walking distance to a grocery store. Before booking, ask the hotel if there is a mini fridge in the room so you can stock it with some easy meals and snacks. We’re not suggesting you have all your meals in, but let’s be honest, most “complimentary” breakfasts aren’t particularly appealing. Instead, opt for fresh fruit, yogurt or cottage cheese cups, rotisserie chicken, baked tofu and cut veggies.

Use your in-room coffee maker for more than just coffee

Want an easy-to-pack breakfast idea? Bring some instant oats or grains and use the coffee maker to add hot water. Bonus? Pack a bag of dry chia seeds or hemp seeds and protein powder too. Healthy fat, fiber and protein make it a full balanced meal.

For longer trips, book an Airbnb or a hotel suite

When staying on longer vacations or work trips, eating out even one meal a day can get old and expensive. We recommend booking an Airbnb or a hotel suite with a full kitchen. Bring all your meal prepping skills on vacation with you!


Restaurant Hacks

Mix and match

Never feel like you have to stick to a restaurant’s menu; sometimes it’s better to adapt entrees to build a healthier meal. This can even mean getting a few healthy appetizers in place of an entree. For example, the ceviche that may be an appetizer can pair nicely with a side of roasted vegetables versus a large burrito or enchiladas that are typically the mains.

Do your research

One important thing to do before traveling to any new place is to research what is popular. See if you can find healthy restaurants in the area or ones that will be easy for you to build a wholesome meal. Want to do it very fast? Put a question up on Instagram or Facebook and get suggestions from your friends on places they’ve enjoyed or experienced. It is like an instant Yelp search catered to you.

Halve your portions

One of the biggest threats to healthy eating while dining out is the large portions. Restaurants want to ensure you are happy and try to cater to the need of the masses, not to you. Sometimes portion sizes may be upwards of 2-3 times more than what you need. Instead, eat to the point in which you are satisfied. Once you start to get that full feeling, ask the waitress for a box and use the leftovers as an afternoon snack or a dinner. Listen to your body and feed it what it needs.

Order a salad or side of vegetables as an appetizer

Instead of filling up on bread and chips before your meal, have some low-calorie and high-fiber vegetables. It can be hard to get your 5-7 servings while on the road, so choose them when you can. When you first get to the restaurant, immediately ask for no chips or bread, and instead ask what kind of salads they have for starters. This will prevent temptation.

Don’t feel guilty

Remember, if you don’t often get the opportunity to travel to amazing places, opt to experience it! Enjoy the good while you are there. Not having a croissant in Paris would be a travesty and skipping an amazing donut in Portland won’t derail all your hard work. It is about balance and knowing when and where it is worth it.

As you can see, with the right preparation and thought, eating while traveling can be an extension of how you do so at home. Next time you pack your bags for your next destination, remember to add your food checklist too.


Gabriella is a registered dietitian living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She currently works in corporate wellness as a dietitian and overall wellness coach. She also runs a food blog called Macrobalanced, where she shows people that healthy and balanced eating can be interesting and tasty! She enjoys all things fitness from lifting heavy weights in the gym to hitting the barre. Nothing is off limits as long as sweat is involved. When she is not cooking or sweating, she is playing with her dog Maui, a lively German Shepherd. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook.