by Jen Rawson, RD
Meal planning is one of the essential steps in achieving a balanced diet to fuel your running performance. Planning also saves you money, reduces food waste and cuts down on meal prep time. However, what happens when you’re away from home? There is nothing wrong with heading for vacation and eating out three meals a day and tasting the local cuisine. Sometimes you want a break from life and responsibilities like cooking and cleaning. But if you’re travelling frequently and want to stay on track for your goal race, these tips can help you maintain some balance and routine no matter where you go.
1. Ask about amenities when booking.
If you have access to a kitchen, staying in a normal routine can be a breeze. Instead of looking at hotels, search for apartments or suites. However, even if a kitchen is not available, having some amenities such as a fridge and kettle can help. Be sure to ask hotels if these are available, even if they are not provided in the room.
Quick Tip: Stock your fridge with healthy meal and snack options such as yogurt, vegetables, fruit, hummus and cottage cheese. Use your kettle to make oatmeal or hot beverages.
2. Look for grocery stores.
When booking your accommodations, check if there are any grocery stores in the vicinity. Having access to a full grocery store will make it simpler to maintain your healthy eating habits.
Quick Tip: Many grocery stores also have a prepared food section that offers a selection of roasted meats, cooked vegetables, sliced fruits and veggies, bean salads and so on. This allows you to find foods that fit your dietary needs even without access to a kitchen.
3. Start with breakfast.
Breakfast is the easiest meal to prepare for yourself and starting your day with a balanced, healthy breakfast will set you up for success.
Quick Tip: Some quick and easy breakfast ideas that require little preparation are fruit and yogurt with granola, a peanut butter and banana sandwich, oatmeal with berries, or high-fibre cereal.
4. Pack a picnic lunch.
Lunch is a great time to head to the grocery store and pick out something healthy. Aim for a balanced meal that contains mostly vegetables with a carbohydrate and protein source. Browse through the area offering on-the-go options like single-serving salads or containers of pre-cut fruit. Items like canned tuna, cottage cheese, hummus and cooked chicken breast are perfect as a convenient high protein source.
Quick Tip: Buy a spork, a must-have picnic tool that (as the name suggests) is a combination of a spoon and fork, and some even have a knife edge. With this handy tool, you can spread condiments to create sandwiches, cut up vegetables, or eat yogurt.
5. Find healthy fast food.
While travelling, if you wanted to eat. Something quick, your options used to be limited to fast food restaurants serving burgers and fries. Today, there are many more healthy fast food options. Wraps, pitas, salads, smoothies and power bowls are all available if you look past the closest drive-thru.
Quick Tip: If you do eat at a traditional fast food place, look for alternatives such as salads or fruit instead of fries. Or, try ordering a smaller kid-sized or “junior” portion.
6. Pack your own snacks.
Runners are constantly eating and while there is no perfect way to eat, eating every couple of hours can help keep your energy levels up. Whether you’re on a road trip or touring around the city for a day, finding healthy snack foods can be challenging. Plan ahead and pack your own fruit, bags of cut-up vegetables or trail mix.
Quick Tip: Taking snacks with you to the airport not only helps you avoid the expense of in-flight foods, it ensures you have nutrient dense food on hand whenever you need it.
7. Stay hydrated.
Hydration is a factor that is often forgotten when we’re travelling. Between stopping at coffee shops or heading out for a beer, water gets overlooked. But, as we all know, hydration is very important for our performance and recovery.
Quick Tip: Flying can leave you dehydrated. Take an empty water bottle with you through security and fill it up at a water fountain before you head on your flight.
Maintaining healthy eating habits while travelling can seem like an overwhelming task, but you don’t have to totally overhaul your routine. Focus on making one or two healthy changes and they can have an impact on how you feel and perform.
Jen Rawson is a Registered Dietitian from Calgary who works in a private practice specializing in intuitive eating, sports nutrition and gut health. She is passionate about running and travelling, often combining the two at destination races.