Nutrition on the Run: How Can You Eat Healthy on the Road?Chipotle or Moes? Sometimes we don’t get an option, we simply have to work with what’s available to eat healthy in the airport terminal, at the gas station, or on the menu. If you read enough articles online, you’ve probably already decided fitness that is too complicated. However, when you introduce the stress of travel coupled with an entirely new environment and less than ideal food choices, it can be a nightmare. Rather than make the situation even more difficult, here’s a easy to follow guide which will (hopefully) help you stay on track the next time you have to travel for business or leisure.
1. Keep It SimpleHaving worked in the food industry at some pricier establishments, I can tell you firsthand that no one is concerned with your health and body composition. Their main goal is turning a profit and ensuring their dedicated customers stay happy. As such, taste is the main priority, oil, sugar, butter, and salt reign supreme. This strategy keeps your taste buds happy and dopamine flowing freely but is likely not the best long term strategy for your waist line. Key Takeaway: Eat familiar foods that don’t require an extensive amount of processing, these are typically less calorically dense and more nutrient rich.
2. Eat Like an AdultThis is one of my favorite phrases to suggest to someone as they begin their fitness journey. The concept is fairly simplistic by nature but conveys quite a bit of meaning. Common sense: noun - Good sense and sound judgement in practical matters. As humans, we probably have a general sense of what constitutes sound nutrition - we realize that Fruity Pebbles are not a superfood and Reese’s cups aren’t a legitimate fat source despite what that Fitspo model said on Instagram. However, sometimes we’re all subjected to personal biases and cognitive dissonance gets the best of us. Key Takeaway: When you’re on the road, your best bet is to stick with whole foods (1 ingredient foods) and save your “treats” for when they count the most - with family and friends where they can be enjoyed together rather than consumed alone. Remember, food is more than just physical, it is also psychological. We downplay this component with all the discussions regarding macros and if it fits your macros (IIFYM), but it is a very important part of the process.
3. Salads and SidesIf you find yourself constantly bombarded with appetizers and snacks, consider a house salad to start your entrée and opt to order all your sauces on the side. The fiber in the salad will help to keep you full and you’ll also ingest a decent amount of micronutrients as compared to loaded cheese fries or jalapeno poppers. This is a simple and easy way to save calories without drastically altering the taste or composition of the dish. Simply dip your fork into the sauce before each bite to regulate your intake over the course of the meal. Key Takeaway: Having a lower calorie option (such as a salad) as a starter instead of a typical appetizer is an easy way to save calories and prevent yourself from overeating.
4. Plan AheadIf you know you’re going to have to eat out ahead of time, then take a minute or two to browse the menu. Psychologically, this gives you peace of mind to have a solid plan in place. Physically, this (hopefully) prevents you from making an impulsive decision driven by your environment and social setting. If you’re pressed for a decision and you don’t know the menu well, you’ll likely default to whatever is easiest and comfortable. “Fail to plan or plan to fail - what gets measured gets managed.” Protein is generally the hardest macronutrient to fill at the end of the day so if you can plan ahead and have extra options to supplement or complement a meal, you’ll be able to keep yourself on track in the long run. If you’re stuck at the airport and find yourself growing hungry, you can usually pick up protein bars or beef jerky at the nearest terminal. However, keep in mind that some gas stations and rest stops won’t always stock the options you want, so sometimes it pays to plan ahead, buy a few extra before you leave, and keep them in your glove box or carry on.
Last, But Not LeastThe most important factor in all of this is: YOU MUST CARE. None of this works unless you do. When you prioritize something, you dedicate time, financial resources, and mental energy. If nutrition is something you care about, you will work to progressively improve it with each subsequent choice (while on the road or at home). Each decision is part of a momentum shift - actively pushing you towards or away from your goal. However, that direction is entirely up to you. Choose wisely.
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