Dreading Business Travel? Here’s How to Stay Healthy

Many of us commit to eating better, exercising more often, and eliminating unhealthy habits. But those best-laid plans often get jettisoned during business travel (or vacations).

Between long travel days, early client meetings, or late depositions that have you on the road, it is often difficult to keep your health in balance when you’re away from home. Here are some strategies I use to keep myself on track.

  1. Plan ahead. Leave as little to chance as possible. Check your flight schedule to see when you will be departing and arriving. Check the hotel website for healthy dining and fitness options. Review your schedule to see when you can take time to eat and sleep. Then, make a schedule for your trip, including when and where you will exercise, when you will sleep, and what you will eat.
  2. Bring your own food. I always take food with me when I travel. My favorite items are packets of protein powder shakes, easy-open packages of tuna, smoked oysters, protein bars, almonds, and cinnamon (to sprinkle on yogurt and oatmeal). If food options will be limited, I might also add fresh produce that travels well, such as radishes, carrots, broccoli, mandarin oranges, or grapefruit. Don’t rely on the hotel’s continental breakfast to start your day.
  3. Don’t forget the tools. I always travel with a shaker bottle to mix my protein shakes. In addition, I pack a small cutting board, a paring knife with a cover (be sure to pack that in your checked luggage!), plastic spoons and forks, and sometimes measuring cups. These items don’t take up much room and can transform your hotel room into a functional kitchen.
  4. Locate nearby grocery stores. Before you leave home, find a grocery store at your destination — and go there as soon as possible after you arrive. I treat myself to a nice, healthy salad before I shop, so I’m not distracted by hunger. Make a list so that you don’t succumb to the temptation of convenient junk food. I like to stock up on fresh fruit and veggies, unsalted nuts, Greek yogurt and low-fat salad dressing.
  5. Research restaurants online. If you will be dining out at your destination, take a look at local restaurants online. Look at the menus to see what sort of healthy options are available. Some online restaurant reviews include information on vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free options. Avoid the bread basket and dessert tray, and ask the server to put your salad dressing and sauces on the side.
  6. Scout out fitness options. Check out the hotel website to see what fitness opportunities are available. Local fitness clubs and community centers usually offer single-day passes. There may also be parks or running trails nearby. I started running because it is easier to throw my running shoes in my suitcase than to rent a bike. Plus, seeing a different city while running can be a great way to get acclimated and see new sights.
  7. Get a good night’s sleep. As much as possible, stay on your regular schedule so that you aren’t sleeping at odd times. If you need an eye mask or a white noise generator to sleep at home, you’ll probably need them on the road, so bring them along. Avoid the temptation to stay up late or rise too early. If you have to make a choice between working out and sleeping, sleep.
  8. Remember to hydrate. Traveling is hard on the body: flying, hot climates, high altitudes, soft drinks, and many other factors can dehydrate you. To be on the safe side, drink extra water a day or two before you leave home. While you are traveling, especially during your flight, increase your water intake.
  9. Watch your salt intake. There is more salt in restaurant food than you realize. When you order, request that the kitchen not add salt to your meal (restaurant meals are notoriously high in sodium and fat). I try to drink more water and eat more crunchy foods, such as raw veggies, because that helps cure the salt craving for me. Once you start reducing your sodium intake, you really won’t miss it.
  10. Keep moving. Find ways to stretch, walk, or otherwise keep in motion. On the plane, get up and walk the aisle at least once every hour. Walk around at the airport during layovers. Take the stairs at the hotel rather than the escalator. Don’t just sit. Recent studies have shown that even small movements can significantly increase well-being. The chair is your enemy!