7 Tips for Eating Healthy on the Road

file3981235928931I’m back from vacation and feeling great! I’m rested and refreshed, but also perhaps a little stuffed and carrying a pound or two more than when we left. Yes, we packed healthy food for meals and snacks, but we still ate out quite a bit, and it’s pretty easy to overeat at the typical American restaurant. Towards the end of our trip, I got more intentional about eating well, and here are some of my ideas about eating healthy on the road (or at any restaurant really).

  1. Choose salad – Make salad your default choice. When you’re not sure what to get, get the salad. Or, make at least one meal per day a salad. Salads come in many different varieties now; it’s not all lettuce. They’re flavorful and filling. If get the dressing on the side, I find I can usually be happy with about half the amount provided.
  2. Skip the bread – Or the chips. Enough said.
  3. Limit alcohol – Go easy on the drinking or avoid alcohol all together. It adds many empty calories, and for me at least, lessens self-control and makes overeating more likely. Often I’ll order just one glass of wine along with a large glass of water, then sip the wine and “gulp” the water. Trying to slake your thirst with wine or beer is not a good idea. Have the drink, but have the water too.
  4. Control your portions – Few restaurants have reasonable portions. We did find a couple of places where a salad and an entree together were just the right amount of food, but most eateries are still serving way too much. A few ways to control your own portion sizes are:
    • Split it with a companion – There might be an extra plate charge, but your health is worth it. One evening, Sharon and I split a hamburger. (And we should have split the blueberry pancakes that we ordered at Cracker Barrel on the drive home.)
    • Split it with yourself – Get a box, right up front, and save half for dinner or lunch another day.
    • Have an appetizer as an entree – This is a great strategy for me, although some in my family think it strange.
  5. Have coffee for dessert – Eating out is enjoyable and it’s nice to linger at the table with your companions, but not at the cost of feeling bloated later. Let the others order dessert if they want; you can have coffee instead. (And maybe a bite of their desserts.)
  6. Skip a meal – It won’t kill you.  Sometimes it’s easier to eat nothing than just a little, especially if you’re eating out. Humans do not require “three square meals” a day, and I find I feel better with a little mini-fasting here and there.  Try it, you might like it.
  7. Choose the right restaurant – Where you eat matters. Menu selections portion sizes, and services differ between locations, making it easier or harder to stick to your healthy eating plan.   If we dine at a Panera Bread, I’m much more likely to order salad (featured on the menu), less likely to get a dessert (no wait staff asking me about it) and guaranteed not to drink alcohol (no liquor license) than if we eat at most “fast casual” chains.

It is hard to eat well when dining out, but it can be done. Yes, you’re thinking, but isn’t it strange to put half your meal in a box? Maybe. Remember that you’re swimming upstream against the strong current of American culture if you’re doing what you need to do to stay healthy. Don’t be afraid to be different!

What ideas do you have for healthy eating on the road?