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How can I eat right on a business trip?

Asked by Amy, Washington

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Hi. I am being sent away for travel for two weeks. How do I eat healthy, knowing I will be eating out every meal?

Expert Bio Picture

Diet and Fitness Expert Dr. Melina Jampolis Physician Nutrition Specialist

Expert answer

Hi, Amy. This is a terrific question that I frequently get from my patients. Without knowing where you are going (domestic or international), the best advice that I can give you is to do a little homework, plan ahead and make smarter dining out choices.

First of all, if you are traveling domestically, find out whether the hotel serves breakfast and what kind of options are available (continental breakfast versus full breakfast menu). Also, find out whether your room contains a microwave or mini-fridge. As soon as you arrive at the hotel, find a nearby market and stock up on healthy essentials such as fruit, nuts and low-sugar energy bars that can serve as breakfast on the go or a healthy snack between lunch and dinner, so you don't arrive at restaurant meals famished.

If you have a fridge, include yogurt or milk and whole-grain cereal for an easy in-room breakfast option if the hotel choices are not healthy.

Be sure to pack a few plastic sandwich bags in your luggage so you can portion out nuts and whole-grain cereal for an easy, on-the-go snack. If you want to shop ahead of time, you can bring a few packets of low-sugar instant oatmeal (with added protein if possible), since most hotel rooms have coffee machines that allow you to heat water.

If you will be attending breakfast or lunch meetings, try to find out what will be served and whether there is any way you can order a healthier option if you feel that the choices are not terrific. If not, eat breakfast and do the best you can with less-healthy lunch choices. You can also bring a couple of healthy snacks with you to eat before and after lunch so you can have a smaller lunch without feeling ravenous.

When dining out, do your best to choose lean protein, vegetables and whole grains at meals. Limit high-fat preparation methods including frying, sautéeing and breading, and watch for hidden calories in sauces and dressings. I always recommend getting any sauce or dressing on the side so you can use a smaller amount or simply dip the end of your fork in the side dish before each bite. You may also want to consider getting two healthier appetizers for dinner, since restaurant portions are often much larger. Finally, try not to indulge too much in bread, dessert and alcohol, which are often much more readily available and appealing when dining out.

And don't forget trying to squeeze in a little exercise each day, even if it is just running up and down the hotel stairs for 10 minutes and doing 10 minutes of calisthenics in your room if the hotel does not have a gym.

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