Nothing can throw you off of your food and exercise habits as when you are traveling. This was never so clear to me as the time I took a business trip to a town in central Ohio, near Akron. I’d been to Cleveland before—many times—and the hotel I stayed in had fairly decent food and a pretty well-equipped gym. I assumed the same would be true where I was headed on this trip.

I knew I was in trouble when, after getting to the hotel … starving … the front desk told me that they didn’t actually have any room service (what???). My only options were a couple of nearby restaurants that would deliver: Tony’s Pizza and TGI Friday’s. If you’ve ever been to a TGI Friday’s, you know that it’s a lot of burgers and really fattening, rich, greasy bar food. Nothing under 600 calories and I didn’t see anything on the menu I could (or would) actually eat. Not unless I wanted to feel sick. Sooo not happening.

That left pizza. I thought… okay, I’ll get a thin crust veggie pizza. I can have a piece or two. The calorie count shouldn’t be that bad and at least I’ll be eating veggies. I placed my order and asked for extra veggies. Little did I know that there is a shortage of fresh fruit and vegetables in central Ohio. (I’d find out how true this really was when ordering breakfast the next morning). On my pizza? Canned mushrooms (gross!), olives (which I hate and had asked to be removed), a whole lotta onion and a few half-ripe tomatoes. Ugh. But I was starving, so I ate a slice anyway and threw away the rest.

There was no gym in the hotel, no room in the room to get in a decent workout and overnight, the skies had opened up, dropping a good foot of snow on the ground. Going for a walk or run was not an option!

I’m telling you this story because I’ve taken a ton of business trips. And I consider myself an experienced traveler. But this one totally changed the way I approached planning and packing for travel.  I learned two valuable lessons that I wanted to share with you so that when you’re away from home, you have a better chance of sticking to your exercise plan and healthier food choices.

shutterstock_134642639Choose your hotel wisely

Where you stay in important. Make sure that your hotel offers all of the amenities you really need. Three things I look for when choosing a hotel are 1) do they have a fitness center, 2) do they offer room service and 3) does the room include a mini-fridge.

You can still get in a great workout in your room using your own body weight, but it is nice to have the option of a gym with equipment like weights and a treadmill. Room service at least means that you won’t be completely out of luck in the food department like I was and, chances are, they will customize your order any way you’d like it.

A fridge is super important to me, especially if I’m staying more than one night because I can stock it with healthy options—that I purchase from a store nearby or that I bring myself from home.

Pack your own food

I bring a ton of my own food when I travel because that way I can make sure I always have something I can eat, and I’m less likely to make unhealthy choices.

All of the items on my list are pretty light, small and travel well:

  1. Instant oatmeal packets. A little hot water from the in-room coffee maker and I’m all set.
  2. Protein powder. I usually bring a plastic bottle that I can use to make these. But if you don’t have one of those, use a bottle of water (drink a little bit of the water, pour in the powder, shake).
  3. Crackers. Mary’s Gone Crackers are favorites.
  4. Turkey jerky. A great protein source that doesn’t need to be refrigerated.
  5. Cut up veggies. Carrots, cherry tomatoes and celery seem to travel best. Sometimes I’ll also bring red bell pepper and blanched broccoli or asparagus.
  6. Protein bars. Another great protein source that can be a snack or replacement meal.
  7. Fruit. Oranges and apples travel pretty well and apples will actually stay good outside of the fridge for a day or two if they are cut up.
  8. Almonds. Healthy fat, protein and very low carb.
  9. Starbuck’s Via instant coffee. I admit, I’m a coffee snob. And some hotels I stayed at had THE worst coffee. Plus, there was no Starbuck’s for miles. All you need is hot water and a little milk and you’re all set!

shutterstock_127375142When I do eat out or order room service, I always build my meal off of two things: a lean protein (grilled or baked) and veggies (steamed, sautéed dry, chopped). Or, I order a salad and add a lean protein if one doesn’t come with it or even the soup if they’ve got something broth-based with veggies and protein in it.

There’s almost always olive oil and balsamic vinegar on hand, or a light vinaigrette dressing option. If not, see if there’s an Italian option and ask for it on the side.

And if you see an entrée that looks good, but you want to modify it?  Don’t be afraid to ask! Restaurants are generally happy to customize your order any way you’d like.

I hope these tips help you the next time you’ve got to head out of town and away from your regular routine. And if you’ve got great tips, please share!

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