It’s simple to stick to your diet when you’re cooking at home, but when your schedule forces you to make food choices out in the real world, suddenly opting for fruit over fries gets a little more challenging. Action-packed vacations, holiday celebrations, those weeks when you’ve barely had time to go to the bathroom, let alone prep healthy work lunches—– yep, life constantly gets in the way of a balanced diet.
The key to staying on track when your schedule is out of whack? Get a game plan. “I’ve learned that if I plan ahead, I won’t be surprised or faced with temptations,” says health and wellness expert Dawna Stone.
Adapted from her new book, The Healthy You Diet, here are Stone’s top five tips for healthy eating on the go:
1. Pack healthy meals and snacks.
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A delayed or canceled flight, which is so common these days, is enough to make anyone want to rip into junk food while stuck in an airport terminal. When traveling on a long flight — say, coast-to-coast — take along a healthy salad with a small container of dressing (no more than 3.4 ounces, per Transportation Security Administration regulations).
If you’re taking a long road trip, picnic with your own nutritious food — fresh fruit, nuts, cut-up vegetables and a small container of hummus or other dip — instead of pulling into the fast-food restaurants, full of unhealthy choices, that dot the interstate highways. If you’re facing a busy week at the office, make sure you have some fresh fruit on your desk to appease that afternoon sweet tooth.
2. Plan your restaurant meals.
Almost every restaurant now posts its menu online, so you can decide what you’re going to order even before you leave home. By narrowing your options ahead of time, you won’t be tempted by unhealthy offerings or worried that the restaurant doesn’t have something that you can enjoy.
Today’s restaurants offer many choices. You can order grilled chicken without the sauce, roasted fish with a choice of vegetables, or a salad topped with grilled shrimp. When dining out, feel free to tell the server that you want your dressing or any sauce served on the side. Ask for brown rice, a plain baked potato, or a sweet potato instead of french fries. Explain that you would like your vegetables steamed rather than sauteed. Restaurants are in the hospitality business, and that means making you feel welcome and eager to return to establishments that are willing to accommodate your needs.
3. Party smart.
Whether you’re going to a neighbor’s dinner party or a holiday meal at your aunt’s home, offer to bring an appetizer, salad or side dish. Contributing a platter of chilled shrimp or a quinoa-vegetable salad will guarantee you at least one healthy choice. When I’m invited to a party, I always offer to bring a vegetable platter with homemade hummus or guacamole. The hostess is thrilled; it’s one less thing for her to worry about. And I always take home an empty platter.
4. Drink water.
Water is an essential nutrient for good health. As I mentioned earlier, many people mistake hunger for thirst, and drinking a glass of water can often quell food cravings. Keep a bottle of water on your desk or in your car and drink from and refill it frequently. When traveling by air, take an empty water bottle and fill it from a fountain after you pass through security.
5. Eat two healthy meals a day.
Before I developed the Healthy You Diet, weeklong vacations and business trips would set back my weight-loss efforts. These days I return without having gained an ounce. By following a few guidelines, I can keep my weight in check and still enjoy my vacation. If possible, ask that the minibar and basket of snacks be removed from your hotel room and replaced with an empty refrigerator that you can fill with large bottles of water and healthy snacks.
Everyone wants to take a break from everyday routine while on vacation, especially when it comes to wining and dining. Though I take pleasure in eating and drinking while traveling, I make sure to eat healthy meals on most days. In the morning, I have oatmeal and fruit or some scrambled eggs. At lunch, I enjoy a big salad with grilled fish or sliced flank steak. This way, I can occasionally order something indulgent at dinner. If I allow myself to splurge at every meal, then I pack on the vacation pounds.