It’s all to easy to fall right into a nutritional pit fall at this time of year; running around the mall, hopping around the country, flying all over the world visiting friends and family, making merry, eating that extra piece(s!) of pie, maybe even racing but enjoying all other treats that come with celebrating the season in between. Indulging here and there is expected, and almost welcome. But there is no reason for good nutrition or eating well to completely jump the tracks just because travel gets in your way.
With years of experience racing and traveling internationally, then jumping across states and seas to cook for athletes, I’ve learned a thing or two about eating well while on the road. What does this mean for me?
I want to feel like whatever I’m eating is a healthy, mindful, delicious choice and never the only thing I could find.
I’ve gone to great lengths to eat well on the go and some of the things I’ve done could be classified as food-freak status (traveling with a sous vide machine to make the perfect poached eggs in a hotel room?! Been there, done that. And there was that time I made rice cakes in a hotel room before the Rapha Prestige.) Other measures are only mostly-fanatical; it goes without saying that I always scout out grocery stores and restaurants before I travel, if not so I know where the healthy options are, because I want to know where the delicious options are. (I mean, you wouldn’t want to go to Paris without eating exceptional croissants, right?) My third grade self would have made fun of my in-flight lunch box, but my adult self is really glad not to be eating a suspect airport hamburger before a 5-hour flight.
The nutshell is this:
Having the intention of eating delicious, healthy food, (instead of embracing that you’ll trip on all the snacking stumbling blocks,) is the first step to eating well on the road. If the desire to have good eats is there, then the forethought comes easily.
Below you’ll find a few of my best healthy food hacks for athletes on the go. They all require you to think a bit, prepare a bit, and be resourceful wherever you are.
1. Pack snacks.
This seems obvious, but the best way to guard yourself from eating pitfalls while on the go is to plan ahead and pack some healthy snacks. Carrot sticks, a piece of fruit, trail mix, beef jerky and popcorn are all TSA friendly snacks that just require some forethought at the grocery store before your trip.
2. Stash like a healthy squirrel.
I keep pouches of Untapped Maple Syrup and Justin’s Almond Butter in the pockets of my carry on at all times for when I don’t have the forethought to pack stellar snacks. They never perish and take lame airport oatmeal, plain old toast, random bananas or apples, lattes, and all the low-blood-sugar crashes associated with travel, to the next level. I also always have single serving sticks of Skratch Labs Rescue Hydration in my pockets, ensuring that I don’t dehydrate from long days in transit (and late nights celebrating with friends upon arrival!)
3. A Lunchbox.
Just do it. No one will laugh at you if you bring your Superman (or Superwoman!) lunchbox on the plane. In fact, your seat mates will likely be jealous because they’ll be resigned to eating the lame in-flight meal or whatever they could grab from the airport kiosk. Any reusable container will do (whether its a multi-tiered gourmet travel case, or a reusable plastic bowl with a lid.) If you’re a real fanatic, a collapsable freezer bag is a great option and will keep all your snacks just the right temperature until you enjoy them. (One of these once kept rice cakes cold all the way to Italy. Ahem.) A big glass jar will also do the trick. Now fill it with salads, a sandwich, whatever snacks you have on hand. Use that spork to eat leftover spaghetti or whatever strikes your fancy!
4. Ziploc bags.
Always. Don’t want to invest in a lunchbox? Ziploc bags are just about as good. Fill them with leftover salad greens, your favorite hot oatmeal or breakfast cereal, or even a proper sandwich. Use them to carry ingredients you’ll mix together with an empty cup, or pilfered bowl along your route. If they’re clean once they’re empty, stash them in your carry on; they’re super handy to have so you can fill them again for your return trip with fresh fruits, breakfast cereal, or grocery store snacks acquired on your trip.
5. TSA-Approved BYO Condiments.
Think those tiny squeeze bottles are just for inadequate amounts of shampoo? Think again. Pick up a couple of tiny plastic bottles and fill them with olive oil, lemon juice, or salad dressing. Pack them in your lunchbox to boost the flavor of whatever pre-packed or in-flight purchased snack. This is particularly handy to carry Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, rice vinegar and maple syrup in 3oz sizes to make…
6. Hotel Room Rice Cakes.
They will be yours, oh yes, they will be yours. IF you carry on and if you pack along the following equipment:
-a small rice cooker
-a rice paddle or spatula
-aluminum foil or better yet, Skratch Paper
Upon arrival, get yourself a disposable cookie sheet at the grocery store.
Rice cakes can be made in any flavor you wish. My favorite are the Bacon + Maple Almond Butter Rice Cakes, and to make them you’ll need the following ingredients: 2 cups of uncooked calrose or medium-grain sticky rice in a ziploc bag, 8 oz of precooked chopped bacon in a ziploc bag, 1/2 cup of almond butter in a sealed jar, and 2-3oz tiny shampoo bottles filled with soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid aminos, lemon juice, maple syrup and a small bag of big flake sea salt such as Maldon sea salt.
Cook the rice in the rice cooker. Season the rice to taste with the Bragg’s, lemon and maple in the bowl of the rice cooker. Then add the almond butter to the rice, mix to combine. Spread a layer of rice to cover the bottom of the cookie sheet, sprinkle with chopped bacon, then cover with another layer of rice. Cut. Wrap. High five self — you just made rice cakes in a hotel room.
7. Pilfer the coffee shop.
Empty coffee cups are great resources for wherever you’re headed, pack a ziploc bag of your favorite hot cereal ingredients (mine are oats, chia, cacao nibs and roasted almonds.) Hit the road. When you find a coffee shop in your airport terminal or along your road trip route, stop to ask for:
— two hot cups (one filled with hot water or milk, and one empty,)
-one coffee cup lid
-and a spoon (unless you have your spork on you. Genius! High five!)
Dump the hot cereal ingredients into the empty cup, fill with water, cover with a lid and let steep 5 minutes or so. Eat with spoon. Not down with hot cereal? Add granola and slice a banana into the cup, add milk. Eat. Give self high five — your breakfast is WAAAAY better than one of those gross muffins in the pastry case. You can also use those empty cups to mix together whatever ingredients you’ve been keeping in those little ziploc bags….
8. Hack your hotel room.
Chances are, you have a mini fridge, an ice bucket, and maybe even one of those single cup coffee makers. There might be a toaster in the continental breakfast set up. Get yourself to the grocery store and stock your mini fridge with boxed salad greens, fresh fruits, individual servings of hot cereal or soup, and good quality bread. You can mix up a big salad in the ice bucket, use the coffee maker to brew hot water for hot cereal or soup, and you can port sliced bread to the toaster to make lovely sandwiches with avocado, or ham or whatever you have on hand. Still have those Untapped Maple + Justin’s Almond Butter packets? Your toast just went beyond continental. Need a knife, bottle opener or other kitchen utensil? Don’t be afraid to call the front desk. Any hotel with a continental breakfast (much less a restaurant) will have what you need and they’ll likely be too curious to deny your request.
9 . Easy Eggs in Your Hotel Coffee Maker.
Remember that coffee maker that basically collects dust in your hotel room? You can make eggs in there. Simply place two eggs in the coffee pot, fill the reservoir with water and turn on the machine. Start a timer once the eggs are completely covered in water. Allow to stand 15 minutes for soft boiled eggs, and 30 minutes for hard boiled eggs. You can also use that coffee maker to make rice, steamed veggies and even poach salmon…(!!)
10. Prepare something portable.
And delicious. Emptying my refrigerator and making something truly tasty is one of my favorite travel rituals. Here are a few of my favorite recipes that are carry-on approved:
Photos from Kevin Scott Batchelor.