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Marek Struszczyk

Co-Founder ManagerUp

Last modified: June 9th, 2023

If you are a middle or upper-level manager, sales executive, or a corporate trainer, frequent business travel is probably a part of your life. While the travel may provide a welcome change of scenery, eating healthy while traveling also poses significant challenges if you are trying to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle.

From high-calorie snacks and fast-food restaurants at the airport to the inevitable snack spread in the meeting room and the expense account dinners with clients, healthy eating when traveling can seem almost impossible.

The best way to eating healthy while traveling is to create a game plan ahead of time just as you do when preparing for an important meeting.

The following are our favorite tips for eating healthy while traveling you can follow the next time you hit the road for work.

General Tips to Eat Healthy  on a Business Trip:

1. Bring Your Own Snacks

When you travel for business, you never know when you might encounter an unexpected delay at the airport or a meeting that suddenly goes into overtime. The best way eating healthy while traveling is to plan ahead. Therefore, pack your own healthy travel-friendly snacks in your purse or carry-on.

Healthy Snacks to Pack When Traveling:

Individual packs of pretzels, nuts, and dried fruit travel well, take up little room in your purse or carry-on, and won’t make a huge mess if you try to eat them on the plane or in your rental car.


2. Choose Fresh Instead of Processed or Pre-packaged at the Airport

If you find yourself starving during an airport layover, try to steer clear of the ubiquitous airport chain restaurants. They typically have a scaled down version of their normal menu and tend to offer very few healthy items. Whenever possible, look for fresh options. Fruit, veggie cups, and yogurt are much lower in fat, calories, and sodium. You may be able to find a few healthy items, such as granola bars and packets of trail mix, at the airport gift shop or newsstand kiosk.

Healthy Food Options at Airports:

If you do have to resort to airport staples, such as Au Bon Pain, Panda Express, McDonald’s, or Starbucks, look for broth based soups and customizable salads and sandwiches. These options will keep the damage to a minimum and help you meet the purpose of eating healthy while traveling.

3. Choose a Healthy Breakfast

If you know your day ahead is going to be a hectic one with several meetings planned, you need to have a breakfast that is filling for your stomach.

You surely would not like your attention to be diverted to hunger pangs in the middle of the meeting. Also, the chances that you will get enough time between two meetings to have some healthy snacks are going to be less.

A Breakfast Idea for Business Trips:

For eating healthy while traveling, it’s advisable to eat a breakfast that can keep you full for longer. Oatmeal can is a great choice for your breakfast in such cases.

A research study published in the Journal of American College of Nutrition has shown that oatmeal contains a high amount of fibers.

This can create a sense of satiety and prevent hunger pangs for a longer duration.


4. Avoid the Pastries and Muffins Served at Meetings

Even a relatively small, healthy-sounding muffin can contain hundreds of calories and minimal nutritional value. They are also loaded with refined sugar and carbohydrates that will have you crashing by mid-morning.

Healthy Eating Strategies for Meetings:

Try to eat a sensible breakfast before a morning meeting so that you will be less tempted to reach for a muffin or doughnut during the mid-morning break. If that is not possible, throw a piece of fruit or a granola bar into your purse or briefcase that you can eat during a quick break.


5. Keep things healthy and simple at group meals

Most business travelers would probably admit that their favorite part of traveling for work is being able to enjoy a nice meal on the company dime. Unfortunately, you are likely to wind up at a restaurant with a menu featuring super-sized entrees that are smothered in sauces, gravy, or cheese that can leave you feeling bloated and sluggish for the rest of your trip.

At such instances, you need to make wise choices to ensure your platter consists of healthier options.

Healthy Options While Traveling:

Instead of opting for foods that contain a high amount of fats or carbs, you can stick to simple and healthy options.

You can begin with eating salads to satisfy the hunger pangs. And once you feel adequately satiated, you can move on to the main course. Choose foods that are steamed, grilled, and poached. Also, skip heavy sauces and gravies as they contain a lot of hidden calories. This will minimize your calorie intake and also allow you to stick to eating healthy while traveling.

6. Choose the Right Restaurant at Your Destination

Go online to locate restaurants near where you will be staying and look over their menus ahead of time. Not only will you be able to offer a healthy dining option when your group is trying to decide where to go for dinner, but you will also be able to formulate a game plan for ordering.

Dinning Tips While Traveling:

Look for simple menu items that are baked, broiled, poached, or roasted. Also ask for any dressings or sauces to be served on the side. You can also keep portion sizes in check by combining appetizers or ala carte items to create your own meal.

7. Avoid Fatty Foods For dinners To Sleep Well

Adjusting your body’s sleep-wake cycle based on the new time zone can be difficult for managers who have to travel frequently. However, making the right choice of food for your dinner can help you sleep well.

What to Eat and What Not to Eat at Night:

You must avoid a heavy meal that contains a high amount of fatty foods for dinner. A study published in the Advanced Biomedical Research has proven that a fatty meal can worsen indigestion.

The symptoms of indigestion such as abdominal pain, and nausea can keep you awake.

You can, instead, opt for eating healthy while traveling by including foods that are easily digestible in your dinner. You can eat porridge, sandwiches prepared from Brown bread, fresh fruits and yogurts.

8. Keep Your Alcohol Intake in Moderation During the Business Trip

The last thing that you need while trying to power through an early morning sales presentation is the lingering effects of the previous night’s happy hour. Not only will a few too many drinks at dinner or the hotel bar leave you feeling fuzzy headed the next morning, but most alcoholic drinks are loaded with sugar and calories.

Healthy Choices for Happy Hour:

It is possible to enjoy unwinding with co-workers after a long day of meetings while also eating healthy while traveling. Choose low-calorie drink options, such as wine spritzers or a drinks on the rocks with club soda. It is also a good idea to drink a full glass of water in between each alcoholic drink to keep consumption in check.

Eating Healthy on the Plane:

1. Eat According To Your New Time Zone

The best way to eating healthy while traveling is to adjust your body’s internal clock according to the time zone of the destination country. Your body’s internal clock determines your sleep-wake cycle as well as meal times.

Once you are in the plane, you can set your watch to the time zone of the destination. You can have your meals to suit the time of the travel destination. Starting the same in the flight itself will allow your body to adjust to the meal times of the new zone much faster.

For instance, if you are traveling from New York to London and board the flight at about 5 PM, skip the dinner in the plane. The dinner served at about 6 PM in the fight based on the New York time zone will correspond to 1 am in London!

You can, instead, wait for the flight to land in London in the morning where you can have your breakfast. It will train your body to adjust to the new time zone faster.

2. Fasting

You can also try fasting to adapt your body’s internal clock to the new time zone. If you need to cross more than 5 time zones, you can fast for at least 16 hours during your traveling.

You can start your meals with a filling breakfast at your destination. This will allow you to adapt to the new time zone so that you can stick to eating healthy while traveling.

3. Limit Caffeine Intake

Your sleep-wake cycle is bound to get affected during your travel to a different time zone. Research published in the Science Translational Medicine has shown that caffeine can influence the human circadian timing.

Drinking a cup of coffee before your habitual bedtime can induce 40 minutes of phase delay of your circadian melatonin rhythm. Also, if you drink coffee at a time close to the nighttime at your destination, you may not be able to sleep well when you arrive.

An excessive consumption of coffee can also have a negative impact on the purpose of your business trip as well as your desire for eating healthy while traveling. A research published in Health Psychology has indicated that caffeine consumed while under occupational stress such as during a business travel, can worsen the cumulative stress response.


4. Drink Water to Avoid Dehydration

The risk of dehydration is higher during air travel. All aircraft have an air circulation system to remove the carbon dioxide released by all the passengers while breathing.

At the same time, the air circulation system also takes in breathable air containing oxygen from the atmosphere outside the plane.

However, aircraft fly at a height of more than 35000 feet from the earth’s surface. At this height, the air tends to be extremely dry with hardly 10 to 20% of humidity.

Breathing in a dry air can reduce the moisture in your body while traveling and thus, cause dehydration.

Effects of dehydration on your business:

 If the dehydration is not addressed by drinking plenty of water during the flight, you may feel uncomfortable during the meetings you have to attend after arrival.

Dehydration can also increase your risk of indigestion and constipation during business travel. This can reduce your work productivity and keep you from attaining the purpose of business travel.

Research published in The Nutrients has shown that dehydration can affect your moods adversely and make you irritable. These symptoms can pose a risk of you creating a negative impression on the client.

Keeping yourself well-hydrated is essential while traveling.

5. Avoid alcohol on the plane

Alcohol can be highly disruptive for your sleep-wake cycle and prevent you from eating healthy while traveling. This is specifically important when you have a meeting to attend within a few hours of landing.

Research published in Substance Abuse has shown that alcohol may make you drowsy only for a short duration. However, the later effect of alcohol on your nervous system will result in the stimulation of your senses that will keep you awake. Consuming alcohol while on a flight can prevent you from getting any sleep.

Also, not getting enough sleep while on the flight may keep you drowsy later once the flight lands at the destination.

That’s not all. Consuming alcohol can also increase dehydration during the flight and dampen your daytime energy. This will make you feel exhausted and prevent you from putting your best views forward during meetings.

Thus, alcohol can lower your productivity and focus during the meetings scheduled for the day.  And this is definitely not what you would like to happen during your travel for a business purpose. That is why; managers should avoid alcohol during a flight.


What are your favorite strategies for eating healthy while traveling? Let us know in the comments below.


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