I originally wrote a post almost a year ago about my tips for eating healthy on the go and I wanted to do an updated version!
Since then I have a new job which requires me to travel frequently. When I drive, it is about a 2-hour drive, or I can fly across the country and work at one of our other programs. I often get the question, “how do you manage to still eat healthy and workout when you are gone all the time?” To be honest the answer is simple, you just have to plan and prepare. Of course there are times where it seems everything imaginable can go wrong and I end up in a drive thru line, but most times I am prepared and things tend to work out.
For those of you who may not know me, I am a flight nurse. I work on helicopters, airplanes, and sometimes ambulances. I work 12 and 24 hour shifts, and yes I get to sleep at some point during my 24-hour shift. Think of a fire station/EMS type work environment. All of the bases have a refrigerator and microwave at the minimum, and some are fully equipped kitchens, it just depends on where I am going. Due to the unpredictability of my job, I like to have most of my meals cooked and packaged, so if I need to eat in a hurry I can. Otherwise, you will be halfway cooking your omelet and get dispatched on a transport and never get back to that omelet.
So I hope you can take some of these tips and tricks and apply it to help making your life easier.
To start, and this may seem simple, but I have learned along the way that not all coolers are created equal. Right now I live in South Carolina and it gets HOT. I leave my house at 0345 and my food doesn’t make it to the refrigerator until after 0800. So I need something that is going to hold up. These are some of the coolers that I would recommend. Six Pack Bags , YETI, RTIC . If I am going to work for a few days without being able to come home, I will pack everything in a Styrofoam shipping cooler, like the ones from Omaha Steaks or Icon Meals, and bring that with me. Excessive? Maybe? But where I work sometimes the only other options are Hardees or Taco Bell…
Get some good containers.
I have tried a few different ones from Amazon, and I have also used some of the glass ones. I have found that if all of your containers are the same size, things will pack much better in your cooler. I have some of the glass ones that I will bring if I am only going for a day or so, but usually I use the plastic meal prep type containers.
Prep and pack your meals the night before.
If you are a Sunday meal prep person, great. Otherwise, prep and pack what you are going to eat the next day(s) the night before. The last thing you want to deal with in the morning is trying to figure out what to bring. You will end up grabbing random things in your fridge and then not wanting to eat what you brought. We have all been there, and then what was the point of packing food in the first place? I will even try to stack or put everything that I am bringing together in the fridge so I know exactly where it all is and I just need to put it in the cooler in the morning. Another thing to consider is what type of food you are bringing. For example, I try to bring meals that are just heat and eat, or things that travel well. One of the things I never get sick of eating are taco bowls. Pick a meat, black beans, rice, and other toppings and everything goes in a bowl. It travels well, holds up in the fridge, and easy to eat on the go if you have to.
Always bring snacks or extra food.
I have been known to get a little “hangry”, anyone else? So to avoid this, I always pack some extra snacks or an extra meal. For me it’s better to have too much food then be hungry or stuck eating out of a vending machine. Extra snacks: yogurt, string cheese, single serve packages or nuts, jerky, protein or granola bars, etc. I almost always have a protein bar in my pocket or purse “just in case”, most of the time I end up eating it instead of a meal during the day if we are away from base all day. What protein bars do I eat?
Heating up your food on the go.
If you are someone who is actually traveling all day or on the road a lot, you may feel like your options are limited to cold foods. Almost every gas station I have been too has a microwave. I usually walk in, put my food in, and then browse while its cooking. Sometimes I buy something, and sometimes I don’t, but I have only had an attendant say something to me once. They also usually have silverware and condiments that you can use if you need to. Just make sure you keep it covered and don’t make a mess in there, otherwise you might need to find a new gas station.
Another option are meal prep services. If I am staying in a hotel with a kitchen, I will go buy food and cook it once I get there. If I am staying somewhere with just a fridge, then I will sometimes have meals sent to me. I have been using Icon Meals for about 6 months now, and I have yet to have any bad experiences. When I have them sent to me at home I usually stock up and put them in the freezer to use when I don’t have time to meal prep. Currently I am in Texas for work and I am staying in a hotel with just a fridge and microwave. I had about 12 meals sent to me to get me through until I found out what the kitchen situation was like where I would be working. Thankfully they have a full kitchen, but if they didn’t, I was still prepared. If you follow them on snapchat they offer discounts of 20% occasionally, otherwise you can get 10% off all the time when you use code AMANDA.
Grocery store grab and go
Grocery stores have come a long way. A lot of them have a section of premade or prepped meals that look pretty good. When in doubt I pick up things like fruit, veggies, oatmeal, bagged salads, tuna packages, hard boiled eggs, and rotisserie chicken. Some places have just the meat already shredded for you, but you can also buy the whole chicken and pick at it. You can do a lot with just a microwave, just be creative!
Almost all hotels now are equipped with a fridge and microwave in each room which is really convenient. That is my minimum requirement for a room. What I try to look for are places with kitchenettes. Most of the time they are the same price or just a little more than hotels without them. I will pay more for that convenience. Most hotels also offer complimentary breakfasts, but have limited healthy options. Usually I end up eating hard boiled eggs, banana, and oatmeal.
Vacation Rental Properties.
If I am not traveling for work I like to try to find a vacation rental. I usually use Home Away or VRBO. You would be surprised on how inexpensive these places can be. When I traveled to California in August I spent less on 2 vacation rental properties for a week then I did to stay in a hotel for 3 days. These usually have fully stocked kitchens and washer and dryers. Both major bonus’ in my book.
Hotel gyms are hit or miss. I usually stay at Hilton properties and their equipment is very nice. They have a rack of dumbbells that go up to 50lbs, a multi-use cable machine, a bench, and various cardio equipment. Depending on the size of the hotel this can vary, but I have found this is the minimum. If you want to go to a full gym you can ask the front desk if they have any day passes or affiliations with local gyms in the area. If you are someone who travels more than they are home you may want to consider getting a membership at a gym with multiple locations: Planet Fitness, Snap Fitness, or Anytime Fitness just to name a few. I have planet fitness and it has worked out well for me so far when I travel. I do run into issues when some of them are not 24/7 on the weekends which can be frustrating.
If you need any travel recommendations I am your girl! I hope this has been helpful in some way to you! I am sure that I will still learn tips and tricks along the way, but if any of you have any travel hacks of your own I would love to hear them!
Until Next Time,