Stay in the Driver’s Seat

Eight tips for eating healthy and keeping fit on a business trip

By Carmen Cusido

Challenges to healthy living crop up everywhere on business trips: from fast-food options at the airport to lackluster gyms at hotels. But there are tactics frequent travelers can use to keep up with their diet and fitness goals. Diversity Woman spoke to frequent travelers and fitness experts, who offered the following tips.

1. Research restaurants at your destination beforehand.

Eating is the biggest health challenge when people travel, says 27-year-old Megan Niño, a Philadelphia-based fitness coach. Most restaurants have healthy options. You can also ask the chef to modify your dish, she says.

“Naturally everyone wants to splurge when they’re away, but the easiest way to avoid straying from your diet goal is to eat moderate-size meals, limit carb intake at night, and avoid binging on alcohol,” Niño adds.

Emily Moss, who works in the college admissions office at a private university in Connecticut, travels up to eight weeks out of the year, mainly between late August and early November. Most of the time, Moss is sent to southern states, home to scrumptious barbecue. But she has found ways to keep herself on track when she’s not home.

Before she reaches her destination, Moss makes sure to research healthy restaurant choices in the city where she’ll be staying. If she plans to indulge in greasy or fattening foods, she’ll start the day with a sensible breakfast and have a light lunch so that “it’s not a total loss of a day.”

2. Pack a yoga mat or gym shoes.
When leaving home, Khadijah Salaam always brings her yoga mat and running shoes. Salaam, a Denver-based full-time veterinarian who also teaches and takes belly-dancing classes, often goes on business trips for work or personal reasons. 
“I bring my mat so I can do seven-minute workouts. I have an app for that. I always make room for my mat in my luggage because some hotels don’t have the best gyms,” Salaam says. “If I’m with a colleague, I ask them to go for a run with me as we explore the city. But if I’m on my own, 
I go running by myself.”

Moss also tries to keep up with an exercise regimen while away. If she has a layover at an airport, she will walk rather than sit to burn some extra calories. “And if the weather is warm enough, I try to find parks. It’s better than staying in a hotel. If I can’t head out, I try to keep track of the daily exercises for my CrossFit gym back home. I can do parts of the cardio—push-ups, squats, and some gymnastics movements—back in my room.”

3. Don’t forget your vitamins and supplements.

Between the jet lag and the temptations at different airport food kiosks, it’s challenging to keep a regular eating schedule during a business trip. That’s why Khadijah Salaam remembers to bring her backup. “Sometimes it’s hard for me to keep up with my diet when I’m away,” she says. “I bring my vitamins so that I don’t miss out on a day’s worth of nutrients, and so I won’t feel sluggish.”

4. Use portion containers.
Valentina Cordoba, a health and fitness coach from Roselle, New Jersey, recommends that travelers bring portion-size containers, especially if they’re eating a meal at a restaurant.

“Don’t be afraid to tell servers to go easy with [calorie-laden] seasonings and skip the dressing,” Cordoba says. “And stick with veggies or clean carbs like sweet potato.” Cordoba likes to remind her clients to ask themselves if caving in and eating a certain treat is worth it. “Always connect your choices with your commitment to your health. I always tell my clients to ask themselves, ‘Does this cheesecake align with my goals? Does skipping my workout align with my goals?’”

5. Connect with your fitness family while away.

Cordoba urges her clients to check in via Facebook messenger or a challenge tracker app when they do their daily workouts remotely. Some post sweaty selfies after they finish exercising.

“It’s very important to stay accountable when you’re on the go,” Cordoba says. “And it’s a good way to stay motivated if you can’t get to a gym. Some folks will even text a picture of the menu of the restaurant they’re at and ask me or the fitness group for suggestions on what to eat.”


6. Ground yourself before you go.
That’s the advice Johanna Krynytzky usually gives her clients. It’s something she herself has done for years.

“It can be hard to stay centered and calm when you’re out of your routine. But the best thing to do is to take a minute before getting on the plane or going to a business meeting to take stock of your day and ask yourself what you’d like to accomplish,” says Krynytzky, who owns a yoga and belly-dancing studio in St. Petersburg, Florida.

She tells clients even if they can’t participate in a high-intensity workout, it’s still important to go for a walk or a run while away. “Set an intention, whether it’s to do yoga in your hotel room or to stay away from the dessert bar,” adds Krynytzky.

7. Stash healthy snacks.

Take along snacks like nuts, seeds, and trail mix and pair them with dried fruit, says Marissa Sweeney, a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) with clients in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
“Arming yourself with options is important,” says Sweeney. “I also would try not to go into the airport hungry. But if you’re left with no other choice, go for individual single-serving snacks.”
When eating at a restaurant, be sure half the dinner plate has vegetables and fill up on those rather than starting first with carbs like rice or pasta, Sweeney says. Her advice for those who have hunger pangs in the hotel room: Bring packets of plain oatmeal and healthy energy bars (check the label for calories, carbs, and sodium content). But the best option is to pack your own mix, as that way you can control the ingredients.

8. Forgive yourself.
Did you indulge in a bag of potato chips or a handful of chocolate candies? That doesn’t have to lead to poor food choices the rest of the day, Marissa Sweeney says. “The moment people slip because they’re hungry, they tend to throw the whole day away. Don’t have an all-or-nothing mentality. It’s important to look at each meal as its own individual choice.”

Guilt is the biggest diet saboteur, and Sweeney says it’s important to forgive yourself for giving in and eating a high-calorie or high-fat meal. “Everything in life is a balance, including eating healthy. Nothing is ever worth throwing the day away.” DW

Carmen Cusido has written about immigration, education, and eating disorders, among other topics. She lives in Union City, New Jersey.

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