Traveling can be a wonderful experience, but it can also pose some challenges when it comes to maintaining healthy habits. Being away from home can disrupt our routine and make it difficult to stick with our healthful practices, especially when exposed to new cuisines, cultures, and environments. Whether on a road trip, a flight, or a cruise, you may find yourself surrounded by tempting but unhealthy food options, struggling to find fresh and nutritious meals, or finding time to exercise. But keeping healthy while traveling is possible.

Get ready to learn some tips and tricks from the experts at the CDC,  American Heart Association, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics on how to eat healthy and keep your body moving while traveling.

Before you leave home

Prepare healthy snacks to eat on the journey. Before you head out, prepare a bunch of wholesome snacks for your travel ahead. Having healthy snacks at the ready will help you avoid unhealthy options like chips and candy when hunger strikes.

  • Cut fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Dried fruit
  • Freeze-dried vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds pre-portioned into snack-size bags
  • Whole-grain crackers and pretzels
  • Trail mix
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Popcorn
  • Hummus and vegetables
  • Fruit leather
  • Granola bars made with whole grains, nuts, and fruit

For breakfast pack pre-made oatmeal packets for a wholesome breakfast. Oatmeal is a fast and simple breakfast rich in fiber and nutrients, which can help you feel full for hours. You can prepare it beforehand, pack it in a container, warm it in a hotel room microwave, or make instant oatmeal using hot water from a coffee maker. Choose unflavored, plain oatmeal and flavor with your own toppings, like chopped fruits, nuts, and seeds to maximize the nutrition.

Airplane snacks like chips and cookies tend to be high in calories, fat, sugar, and sodium. If you can, bring your own food to keep your hunger at bay on the plane. Remember to pack your food in sealed containers to prevent it from spoiling. You might also want to use a cooler or insulated bag to maintain the temperature of your food.

Here are some examples of solid-food, healthy meals and snacks allowable to bring on the plane:

  • Sandwiches on whole-wheat bread with low-fat protein, vegetables, and a wholesome spread
  • Salads with grilled chicken or fish
  • Whole-grain crackers
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts

While in transit

At the airport terminal

Strolling around the airport before your flight? You can likely find plenty of healthy food options at your terminal. Look out for:

  • Part-skim mozzarella cheese sticks
  • Whole-grain sandwich with lean meat, vegetables, and mustard
  • Salad with lean protein
  • Vegetable soup
  • Fat-free latte
  • Fruit cup
  • Pre-cut veggies

Stopping on the road

Whether stopping at a sandwich shop, a market, or a drive-thru on the road, you can find something nutritious to eat.

  • Sandwich shops. Go for whole-grain bread, extra veggies, and mustard instead of oil or mayo on your sandwich.
  • Markets. Grab some ready-to-eat vegetables, hummus, yogurt, sandwiches, salads, and fruits with peels like oranges and bananas.
  • Drive-thrus. Choose foods that are grilled, steamed, broiled, or baked over fried or sautéed. Try salads with lean protein, a vinaigrette-based dressing, broth-based soups, oatmeal, and eggs with whole-grain bread.

At your destination

Traveling is a great opportunity to explore different cultures and their food traditions. You can taste new flavors and try new dishes, but you do not have to compromise your health and wellness while indulging in the local cuisine. Here are some tips to help you dine smart while dining out:

  • Choose dishes on the menu made with fresh, whole ingredients when possible. Avoid processed or preserved foods that may have added salt, sugar, or artificial flavors and colors. This looks like choosing dishes that are made with fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, seafood, eggs, nuts, beans, and whole grains.
  • Avoid fried or saucy dishes. This limits foods high in fat, calories, or sodium that can harm your health. To avoid fried foods, look for roasted, baked, or grilled dishes.
  • Ask for grilled or baked options. Choose cooking methods that use less oil and retain more nutrients and flavor.
  • Order salad or vegetables as sides instead of fries or chips. This will ensure you are full on fiber-rich and nutrient-dense foods that will keep you satisfied and nourished.
  • Beware of breakfast buffets. Buffets can be tempting but can also be a trap for overeating. To avoid this, start your day off right by looking at all the options available before grabbing your plate. This will help you plan your meal and avoid impulse choices. Remember to stick to mostly fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains when possible.
  • Stay hydrated with water or tea instead of sugary drinks and alcohol.
  • Make use of your hotel room’s mini-fridge by exploring the local market and stocking up on some grocery essentials.

Keeping physically active

Traveling can help you unwind from your daily stress - but it can also disrupt your exercise habits and make you feel sluggish and tired. That is why it is important to find ways to stay active and fit while you are on the road

  • Begin your trip on a healthy note. About to fly and have some time before your flight? Take a brisk walk to your gate instead of taking the train, people-mover, or moving walkway.
  • Check out your hotel gym and pool. Squeeze a workout in, even if it means an earlier wake-up time before the day’s activities begin.
  • Exploring the sights? Take long walks around town rather than hopping in a taxi. Or if your hotel offers it, rent or borrow a bicycle to explore around the city. Even getting in 10-minute walks between activities can help your steps add up throughout the day.
  • If you are at sea on a cruise, jog or walk around the track after meals, and make the most of the gym or fitness classes.

The bottom line

Traveling can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it can also pose some challenges for your health and fitness. You may have to deal with different time zones, unfamiliar foods, limited  access to gyms, and a busy schedule that leaves little room for exercise. However, these obstacles do not have to stop you from staying healthy while traveling. With some planning and creativity, you can find ways to eat well, move more, and enjoy your trip without compromising your wellness goals.


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