When a business trip is on the horizon, it’s time to pack: Do you have the right clothes? Shoes? A toothbrush? Caiti Nascarella, health coach at PartnerMD, says taking that packing process one step further can make a world of difference to your health. With a small amount of prep work, you can pack a simple meal and snacks in your carry-on or purse and avoid those gas station pastries and airport burgers.
“The big thing is, you need to plan ahead,” she says. If you’re flying, many airports have healthier options, like yogurt or salads, but packing a few snacks saves money and prevents you from having to search the terminals while ravenous.
“I stick to something easy,” she says. “Whatever won’t get banged up in my bag, like nuts and an apple or orange. Kind Bars are a decent option. Beef jerky packs a punch of protein.”
Hydration is pivotal while flying, so take an empty water bottle and then fill it up once through security. She says executives sometimes tell her they eschew water so they don’t have to use the bathroom on the plane, but that’s a mistake. “It’s incredibly important, because the body will confuse thirst with hunger, and especially during cold and flu season, you need to stay hydrated to fight off those germs.”
If your business trip involves travel by car, you have more options — and more temptations.
“Even in a gas station, you can make healthier choices,” Nascarella says. “You can find fruit, nuts, something to tide you over.”
If fast food is unavoidable, make the best choices you can, such as grilled Chick-fil-A nuggets and a side of fruit — but watch the sugar-laden sauces. “It’s not going to be perfect, but just make the best option you can given the situation,” she says.
Once you reach your destination, there are more nutritional minefields to navigate, especially if you’re heading to a large meeting or conference. The food tends to be sugar-laden and indulgent, with heavy breakfasts and steak dinners. Nascarella says the occasional indulgence is fine, but if you travel a lot, you need to decide when to indulge and when to make healthier choices.
She recommends tried-and-true ideas like substituting vegetables for starchy sides, ordering baked or grilled items, asking for a lunch portion and — perhaps most important of all — being careful with alcoholic drinks, which often flow freely on work trips.
“That’s a big trap at these meetings,” she says. When we drink too much, “we crave things we don’t normally crave and are less inclined to make healthy choices,” she says.
Try sticking to one drink and then moving on to club soda with lime. You’ll eat more healthfully, feel better the next day, improve your sleep, get the most out of your trip and return home feeling refreshed instead of depleted.