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The Role of Nutrition in Travel Health: A Complete Guide

Editorial Team
Updated Mar 07, 2024

Any highly experienced registered dietitian-nutritionist is more than familiar with the role of nutrition in travel health. They’ve worked with clients who’d made tremendous strides before a trip abroad, only for everything to fall apart during the vacation. 

This guide can help you enjoy the splendor of travel while maintaining optimal health and nutrition. 

Why Is Nutrition Important During Travel?

The data from Science Daily implies that–on average–people gain 0.7 pounds when traveling. However, weight gain and optimal nutrition are not always synonymous. Gaining or losing a pound here and there isn’t the end of the world.

We must consider other factors beyond weight gain during a getaway, like alcohol intake. To that point, over half of American adults claim they drink on vacation. 

It’s only natural to fall into habits less conducive to optimal health during vacation. Yet, maintaining healthy habits during your getaway can help ensure you enjoy traveling more and keep the good times rolling when you return. 

How To Harness Nutrition And Optimal Travel Health

Here, we’ll offer practical tips that will optimize your nutrition and health while traveling:

Nutrition At The Airport And On The Plane

If you’re going overseas or staying domestically but traveling far, you will need to take a plane to your destination.

Adding further context to this section, did you know that up to 40% of all airplane travelers experience anxiety in some form? In addition, 60% of these people have generalized anxiety before and during the flight.

Flying is scary enough, but the whole airport experience isn’t pleasant. You need to wait in lines, check bags, and hope you don’t miss your flight, etc.

On top of that, airports don’t typically have healthy meal options, and unhealthy foods can worsen your anxiety.

Here are some strategies to ensure your trip gets off on the right foot nutritionally:

  • Have healthy snacks (nuts, granola, and dried fruit all travel well)  in your carry-on luggage if you’re traveling during mealtime. This will ensure you sustain energy and avoid overeating.
  • Avoid dietary choices that leave you bloated and sick, like the food in airports filled with salt, refined sugars, and other processed ingredients.
  • Find a sit-down restaurant in the airport with healthy alternatives on the menu balanced with veggies, whole grains, protein, etc. Use the same approach if you’re eating off the airplane menu.

Nutrition On The Road

You could be on a full-on road trip without air travel or flying somewhere, renting a car, and hitting the freeway. Either way, maintaining optimal health means relying on something other than the food at gas stations and fast food restaurants during pit stops.

Here are some helpful tips on maintaining optimal nutrition during a road trip:

  • Bring healthy picnic lunches. Snack on berries, beans, and pistachios.
  • Easy-to-digest foods will satiate you without bloating like fast food would–think about having cheese, turkey sandwiches, apples, grapes, etc. These foods will also stop your blood sugar from crashing during the day.
  • Get out of your car to eat your lunches at a rest stop on your route. This break will serve you during long driving periods, and the added walking will help you digest your food.
  • Note that gas stations and fast food restaurants have healthier options. Walk past the potato chips and go to the trail mix. Say no to the Big Mac and say yes to the grilled chicken sandwich.

Optimizing Nutrition While Dining Out During Your Trip

One of the best parts about traveling anywhere is experiencing the local cuisine. However, these eateries and restaurants can lead you down a primrose path with your nutrition if you’re not careful. Below are tips on how to balance your dietary choices while dining out during your getaway:

  • Plan your eating accordingly on the days you’re dining out on calorie-heavy meals. Eat lightly that day until it’s time for the main event–then indulge like you deserve to. Of course, this means knowing where you’re eating in advance.
  • Even if your meal is more decadent than usual, you can still balance it with vegetables and lean proteins. Read the menu and seek out those options.
  • Don’t eat too fast. Talk with your tablemates so you can hear your fullness cues to prevent overeating. 
  • Also, don’t fear leftovers–save them for later. The chances are the restaurant meal is much larger than your usual portion.

A Nutritious Breakfast Is A Must

Like any day of your life, a healthy breakfast is integral to getting a travel day started off correctly. Plan your breakfast in advance on the day you go to the airport to ensure no hiccups. Some great options are low-fat Greek yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, whole-wheat toast, and overnight oats. 

During your trip, ensure your breakfast consists of nutritious whole foods to give you the energy you need to fully enjoy your trip. The buffet table at the hotel is bound to have sliced fruit, low-fat yogurt, eggs, and other healthy options–and be sure to stick to appropriate portion sizes.

Final Thoughts:

This guide can be a massive help if you’ve been working hard to maintain a nutritious diet and are afraid your travel plans can turn it all sideways.

Also, you can work with a nutritionists near you to design a strategic nutrition plan to keep your habits on point during your getaway. All you need to do is quickly fill out Top Nutrition Coaching’s matching quiz, and we’ll pair you with a nutritional specialist tailored to your needs.

Take TNC’s Matching Quiz Today!

Editorial Team
By Editorial Team
Our Editorial Team, made up of seasoned professionals, prioritizes accuracy and quality in every piece of content. With years of experience in journalism and publishing, we work diligently to deliver reliable and well-researched content to our readers.
Editorial Team

Editorial Team

Our Editorial Team, made up of seasoned professionals, prioritizes accuracy and quality in every piece of content. With years of experience in journalism and publishing, we work diligently to deliver reliable and well-researched content to our readers.
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