A healthy diet is critical for good health, but that does not mean it is always simple.
Along with exercise and stress management, a healthy diet lowers your risk of developing lifestyle diseases and aids in the management of existing health conditions.
However, the average American consumes a diet that is far from healthy. The USDA’s Healthy Eating Index gave the average American diet a score of 59 out of 100, based on the most recent data from 2015.
Healthy eating can present unique challenges when you’re away from home and on the go.
You might feel tempted to forego meals. Additionally, it may be challenging to determine where to purchase nutritious foods, what to pack in your lunch bag, and how to maintain a balanced meal while dining out.
This comprehensive guide details the steps necessary to maintain a nutritious diet while traveling.
The fundamentals of nutritious eating
Consume a variety of nutrients from the five food groups — dairy, protein-rich foods, grains, fruits, and vegetables — to maintain a healthy diet.
Each food group provides a distinct nutritional benefit, and by combining them, you can obtain a spectrum of nutrients that promote overall health.
Examples of foods from each category include the following:
- Milk, cheese, yogurt, lactose-free milk, and fortified soy milk are all dairy products.
- Seafood, meat, poultry, eggs, peas, beans, nuts, seeds, and soy products are all high in protein.
- Wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, and barley are all grains.
- Fruits: fresh, canned, frozen, or dried fruits, as well as fruit juices made entirely of fruit.
- Vegetables (nonstarchy): fresh, canned, frozen, or dried vegetables (raw or cooked), as well as vegetable juice made entirely of vegetables.
MyPlate is a nutritional guide and meal planning tool that aims to encourage healthy eating habits. It was developed by the USDA in accordance with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
It recommends that at least half of your grains be whole grains, that your protein sources be varied, and that you choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
To create a balanced plate — whether for a meal or a snack — combine foods from at least two food groups to ensure that you get a variety of nutrients.
How to properly fill your plate for a nutritious meal
- Half of your plate should be composed of nonstarchy vegetables such as spinach or collard greens.
- Then, depending on your preferences, fill one-fourth of your plate with protein-rich foods such as chicken, fish, or navy beans.
- Finally, fill one-fourth of your plate with grains such as rice or quinoa.
An example of a healthy meal: baked garlic butter chicken with stir-fried vegetables and rice.
A second example of a healthy meal is a cheese sandwich made with whole grain bread, cottage cheese, and sliced tomatoes.
Snacks that are nutritious
Combine a grain with a food that is high in protein, fat, or fiber.
Your body digests a combination of protein, healthy fats, and fiber more slowly than grains alone. This prolongs your feeling of fullness, which can aid in maintaining a healthy weight and blood sugar control.
As an example of a healthy snack, consider an apple and nut butter.
Example 2 of a healthy snack: yogurt with dried fruit and nuts
How skipping meals can work against you
You may be wondering why skipping meals is so detrimental.
While skipping meals is not harmful in and of itself, it can backfire by leaving you ravenous and causing you to overeat at your next meal or stock up on unhealthy snacks. When we’re hungry, we’re frequently not the best at making healthy food choices.
If this frequently occurs for you, you may find it beneficial to have preplanned food on hand to grab and go when you’re in a hurry.
Having said that, research indicates that skipping breakfast is not always detrimental to your health. If eating breakfast (or food at any other time of day) is not a regular part of your eating schedule, that is acceptable.
Additionally, some people abstain from meals on purpose, whether for religious or cultural reasons or as part of an intermittent fasting regimen. However, this is frequently planned and is not the same as accidentally skipping a meal due to a time constraint.
Here’s how to eat healthy on the go in five common scenarios.
Hastily exiting the door
You are not alone if you are constantly rushing out the door in the mornings without a plan for breakfast or even lunch.
This is a situation that I frequently encountered during my dietetic internship. Due to insufficient sleep, high stress, and a lack of meal planning, I frequently skipped breakfast without intending to.
We can see the value of meal planning and preparation in this situation.
Even if you are unable to alter your hectic schedule anytime soon, you can prepare yourself to nourish your body despite the rush.
Meal planning will assist you in becoming more organized and deliberate about eating nutritious foods in the morning. Additionally, it will assist you in avoiding unintentional meal skipping.
Preparation should begin the night before. The night before, prepare your breakfast and morning snack. For instance, overnight oats and chia pudding are quick and easy to prepare for a grab-and-go breakfast. Maintain hydration by packing a lunch bag with your meals and a reusable water bottle.
Smoothie containers. You can prepare bags of premeasured smoothie ingredients in advance to make a single serving of smoothie for a quick drink before heading out.
Purchase or create healthy bars. Protein or energy bars can be a quick snack on the way out the door or while driving until you can sit down and eat. Ensure that you purchase bars with a low sugar content and a high protein, fiber, and other nutrient content.
Making your breakfast and morning snack ahead of time can help you become more organized and deliberate about your nutritional intake. Additionally, it will assist you in avoiding unintentional meal skipping due to your hectic schedule.
Scenario 2: Having a meal out
Despite the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, eating out — or ordering in — continues to be the primary source of food for the majority of Americans each week.
American consumers will spend $659 billion on restaurant and food service sales in 2020.
Of course, dining out has a number of advantages. The food itself can be quite enjoyable. Dining with others is an excellent way to socialize, and now is an excellent time to experiment with new food cultures and flavors.
Learning how to maintain a healthy diet when ordering restaurant food or dining out is critical for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
The following are some pointers and strategies to help you stay on track:
Prepare in advance. Numerous restaurants offer online menus for review. Decide ahead of time which dishes you’d like to try. When creating meal combinations, keep in mind the fundamental principles of healthy eating.
portions sizesBefore you begin eating, request a takeaway container and pack away any food that will be in excess of what you can consume. Then, eat until you’re satisfied, not until you’re full.
Desserts are also acceptable. Healthy eating does not require abstaining from pleasurable foods. Consider, however, limiting your intake. This can be accomplished by selecting miniature deserts or by sharing deserts with others.
Americans continue to enjoy dining out — or ordering in. To eat healthfully while dining out, review online menus in advance and make a plan; be mindful of portion sizes; and opt for smaller or shared deserts.
Social gatherings (Scenario 3).
Potlucks and other family and social gatherings bring people together to share food and each other’s company.
Healthy eating is possible even with traditional dishes and soul food.
Consider the following suggestions:
Spare no calories. Consume food consistently throughout the day rather than avoiding food prior to the event in order to “save space” for later. This way, you won’t arrive at the event hungry, and you’ll be less likely to eat past the point of fullness and satisfaction.
Bring a nutritious dish. If you have special dietary requirements or simply wish to share a favorite recipe with family or friends, you may bring a dish that meets both requirements.
Experiment with a little bit of everything. Allow yourself a taste of everything you enjoy without overfilling your plate. Portion control and mindful eating are critical to avoiding the stomach discomfort associated with large meals.
Take pleasure in the conversations. Bear in mind that the gathering is about the people as much as it is about the food. Remove yourself from the food and refocus on others, on sharing stories and on enjoying their company.
Healthy eating is possible at family gatherings, even with traditional, calorie-dense foods. Consume calories throughout the day rather than saving them for the event, bring a healthy dish, and place a higher premium on the conversations and people at the event rather than the food.
Scenario 4: A Traveling Scenario
For some people, traveling can be a stressful experience. Many people struggle to eat healthy foods while traveling. It doesn’t help that the majority of food options at airports and other travel hubs are fast-food restaurants.
Whether you’re boarding a plane or preparing for a road trip, having a plan will alleviate the stress and struggle associated with searching for nutritious snacks along the way.
Snacking is a convenient way to pass the time while traveling. Additionally, it’s a chance to avoid becoming extremely hungry and then overeating at your next meal.
Because it is impractical to travel with a large quantity of fresh foods, we will focus on healthy eating with nonperishable snacks:
Fruit that has been dried. For a quick snack during your trip, you can pack raisins, dried cranberries, freeze-dried mango, or any other dried fruit of your choice. The best part is that all of these fruits contribute to your daily fruit intake.
Pistachios, pistachios, pistachios. These healthy fats and protein sources are another convenient and easy-to-pack snack for on-the-go healthy eating. Combine nuts and seeds with dried fruits to create a trail mix, and store it in small resealable bags.
Bars containing protein or energy. You can stash an energy bar in your handbag, carry-on luggage, travel essentials bag, or any other convenient compartment that’s easy to reach when you’re hungry. Select bars that contain little added sugar.
Travel can be stressful and make it difficult to obtain nutritious snacks and meals. Bringing dried fruits, nuts, and protein or energy bars with you helps you stay satiated between meals and prevents overeating later.
Scenario 5: Upon entering quarantine
As my son and I recently discovered upon our return to Trinidad and Tobago from the United States, quarantine has become a part of our “new normal.”
You may be asked to isolate yourself for a number of days in a hotel, a quarantine facility, or at home without contact with the outside world.
In any of these situations, access to food may be limited, and finding healthy options may be difficult. Although quarantine facilities provide meals, the menu may be limited.
It is critical to maintain an adequate level of nutrition and hydration during this time. Additionally, it provides another opportunity for healthy snacking, which is especially beneficial if you are traveling to quarantine with children.
The following are some nutrient-dense foods that you can pack:
Fruits of the sea. They’re a powerhouse of flavor, fiber, antioxidants, and additional nutrients.
Crackers Select whole grain crackers or any other crackers of your preference.
Nuts and nut butters are a good source of protein. Serve it alongside crackers or dried fruit.
Tuna or chicken in a can. These are protein-packed and available in a variety of flavors. They’re delicious with crackers or on their own.
Protein bars or granola are both acceptable options. These are nonperishable and varied snacks that are ideal to keep on hand.
Water in a bottle. If you cannot easily access a water fountain to refill your reusable water bottle, bring small bottles of water with you.
Tea pouches. During your quarantine stay, you may have access to a kettle and cups in your room to prepare your preferred tea.
It is critical to snack mindfully wherever you are quarantined. Because you’re likely to be less physically active during this time period, eat enough to satisfy but not excessively.
Pack dried fruit, crackers, nuts and nut butter, canned tuna or chicken, protein bars, and tea bags to maintain a healthy diet during quarantine.
While eating healthy on the go can be challenging, it is possible with adequate planning.
Utilize the fundamentals of healthy eating to get the most nutrition from your meals and snacks.
Whether you’re rushing out the door in the morning, dining out, attending a family gathering, traveling, or even entering quarantine, these tips can alleviate some of the stress associated with figuring out what to do to continue nourishing your body.