Me and my little family don’t do a lot of traveling. Being small business owners, we try to get away for a few long weekends throughout the year, usually to places close to home, but we don’t have much experience with long trips, and we certainly have zero experience traveling internationally. So when we took a weeklong road trip last summer, the obstacles of eating clean when on the road were new to me, and I took it on as a challenge. Because that way of eating was still pretty new to me and my system, eating clean on the road was more of a fun experiment than a necessity.
This month alone, though, I’ve hopped on a plane to travel out of state on two occasions, both taking me out of my own kitchen and my usual clean-eating routine. After months of eating a pretty strict whole-foods diet, cooking most meals from scratch, my body and digestive system were not ready for the assault it would suffer after multiple nights of dining out and consuming overly processed food. On the second day of our first trip, I felt so terrible I could barely sleep. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice to say, my digestive system took a beating.
It was clear that I had spoiled my body with the clean eats I had been feeding it, and now, eating clean was not just an experiment but a necessity.
The remainder of that trip, I treaded very lightly and carefully, sticking to simple salads and vegetarian dishes, and I consumed an inordinate amount of water. I started to rebound, but I didn’t fully recover until I was back at home. Admittedly I felt like a bit of a sissy from getting so bent out of shape over the slightest thing, but the more I commiserated online, the more I realized I was not alone in this dilemma. It appears that for years, my body had built up a pretty good tolerance to processed foods, and when I finally stripped it all away, and then tried to reintroduce it, even for a brief period of time, it revolted.
While I used to see travel as a time to indulge, and in many ways mentally I still have that mindset, physically my body has a different point of view. I’m better served to listen to what my body wants, and not what my mind thinks it wants.
So when I took the road again last week for a weeklong blogging conference, I vowed to be better prepared to avoid the ailment I now assigned a hashtag to: #tormentedtummy. As a result, I came up with a handful of habits to help my body feel its best when traveling. Keep in mind that I was staying in a hotel with a very small mini-fridge, so I did what I could to make it work. But if you have the luxury of staying in a place with a kitchen the next time you travel, even better.
Here are 5 tips for clean eating while traveling:
1.) Be Prepared Before You Hit the Road Or Board the Plane
Visit your favorite health food store, and stock up on snacks that are easy to travel with. Kale chips, fresh organic apples, even little baby carrots are all wonderful ways to fill your tummy, keep your digestive system on track, and fulfill snack cravings. Raw, all-natural energy and protein bars are great to keep in your purse if you’ll be experiencing long stretches of time in between meals, and bringing along a couple of late-night indulgent treats help satisfy a sweet tooth, but stay away from expensive and overly processed room service food. I love Pure Bars and Justin’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups.
2.) Be Proactive & Stay Hydrated
Drinking loads and loads of water is the best way to flush toxins from your body and beat bloat. During this trip, I made sure to bring along my own refillable water bottle and filled it up whenever I found a filtered water source. How many times have you been parched by the time you get to your hotel room, only to find the water bottle in your room costs $10? Avoid that situation and travel with your own, and drink as much and as often as you can. Coconut water is also a great way to rehydrate when you’ve done a bad job staying hydrated in the first place.
3.) Don’t Forget Your Workout Clothes
Whether you’re traveling for business or for pleasure, try to make movement a part of your daily routine. Working out will help your body metabolize whatever type of food you’ve consumed, leaving you feeling better for it. Even if it’s just 20 minutes on the treadmill, be diligent, and it will pay off in energy levels and digestive function.
4.) Track Down a Local Health Food Store
Making separate trips to stock up on foods that are going to make you feel good when traveling are not a silly waste of time, but they’re one of the best ways you can take care of yourself. The day I got into town for my conference, I asked the concierge where the nearest health food market was and headed to Whole Foods. There, I stocked up on enough yogurt, granola, hummus & crackers, and even kombucha straight from the tap, to get me through the week. Each morning, I skipped the buffet breakfast spread of sugary, gooey muffins and croissants, and powdered eggs, and I ate a cup of yogurt and blueberries instead.
5.) Opt for Light, Veggie-Based Meals
The conference I attended was held at a 5-star hotel, but even still, I took the safer route and skipped the meat meals, and went strictly vegetarian on this trip. In its place I was treated to wonderful meals loaded with vegetables, which are much easier for our bodies to digest than meat.
While I could have done a much better job of resting more and drinking fewer cocktails, the changes I made to my overall diet this time had remarkable effects on my body. I felt lighter and slept better, and by the last night, I was even able to handle a few late-night French fries.
While eating clean may make things a bit more complicated and cumbersome when traveling, overall I wouldn’t trade it for the world. So tell me, how do you stay feeling your best when traveling? Do you have any travel must-haves?