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Whether you are traveling for pleasure or work, you do not need to leave healthy eating at home. It can feel daunting as you leave the familiar ground of your well-stocked kitchen and hit the road in an unknown territory of restaurants and grab-and-go food options. Your selections may be limited, but this doesn’t mean that you cannot adhere to your whole food, plant-based, heart-healthy approach to eating.

One key to healthy eating on the road is being prepared by planning ahead

All it takes is awareness, a little planning, and a few good strategies to make eating on the road a healthy experience. Traveling demands your energy, which makes it even more essential to get the right nourishment in order to maintain vitality and get to your destination feeling well and energized instead of depleted and sluggish.

Grab And Go

There have never been more choices available at airports for healthy food. For example, many of the larger airports are opening restaurants and markets that offer healthy food. Denver International, for example, has Modern Markets and Etai’s, both of which offer delicious vegetarian options such as fresh produce salads, tofu, curry lentil soup, and more. Etai’s offers several heart-healthy and satisfying salads such as the Power Salad filled with quinoa, cranberries, onions, beets and beans. Chicago’s O’Hare Airport has CIBO Express and Healthy Grab and Go, which offers a collection of healthy salads packed with health-promoting ingredients such as kale, quinoa, and veggies. Starbucks can be found in most any airport including the smallest ones. Most Starbucks offer a selection of choices such as vegetable crudité with hummus. Starbucks vary in selection, but other coffee shops often offer salads to go. Many airport news stores carry dry roasted soy nuts that can provide a quick protein-packed snack or addition to a leafy green salad.

Stick with the Salads

Scout your options and look for the salad, but be selective because salads are not always a healthy option. With the wrong dressing, a healthy salad can quickly go from being heart-healthy to more fat-laden than a quarter pounder. Stick with the simple salads with greens and veggies and simply toss out the ingredients that don’t fit the Reversal guidelines such as cheese or olives. Keep in mind you are paying for your health, not those ingredients that don’t promote your health. You can buy small packets of nonfat salad dressing, just fill a small container of Ornish homemade dressing such as a Balsamic Vinaigrette or Simple Italian Dressing, or buy a nonfat bottled dressing to pack and take with you on the road. If you can, it’s best to bring your own salad dressing, or mix your leafy greens salad and veggies with some dry-roasted edamame and some fresh fruit for dessert. It may not be a big meal, but grazing on smaller mini-meals throughout the day is a great traveling strategy that keeps you energized and well-nourished.

Make and Take

One key to healthy eating on the road is being prepared by planning ahead. Bring your own stash of Ornish Lifestyle Medicine food to ensure that you always have a healthy choice. Invest in a set of reusable containers such as this handy set that can used for traveling and at home to bring your lunch to work or for local outings. These bento boxes are great because they have different sized compartments that can be placed in the bigger box, or if space is limited, you can use the individual containers for more efficient packing.

Getting Through the First Leg

To get a good healthy start, bring some low perishable choices that will last the first leg of a trip, such as:

  • Fresh fruit
  • Hummus or Edamole with veggies, whole grain low fat crackers, pretzels, or baked low fat pita or whole grain bagel
  • Whole grain Veggie wraps
  • Sliced apple with Vegan cheese slices
  • Baked or roasted sweet potatoes or other root veggies

Make your own grab-and-go salads, and add some plant protein such as garbanzo beans or edamame.

Get some snack and salad ideas from the Ornish Kitchen sample menu.

The Duration

To plan for the longer duration of the trip, stock your suitcase with a few non-perishables in some baggies or eco containers such as:

  • Dry roasted soy nuts
  • Dried fruit or veggies
  • Chopped veggies
  • Ornish trail mix with dry roasted soy nuts, dried fruit and whole grain cereals such as oat bran “O”s
  • Ornish Reversal-friendly instant soups such as Nile Spice. They just require hot water. They typically come in a bulky cup type container, so to save space pour the contents into a baggie and just add the soup mix with some boiling water in a to-go cup from a coffee shop.
  • Energy, snack or meal bars that fit the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine guidelines
  • ʺOrnish Reversal-friendly protein powder that you can mix with water or soy milk.
  • Small to-go soy milks in aseptic cartons
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Dining Out While Traveling

When traveling you become more reliant on dining out, unless you have a kitchen available. There’s no need to sacrifice healthy eating or feel deprived while eating out if you have the right dining out strategies and resources to find healthy restaurants.

Online Restaurant Search Tools

The Vegetarian Resource Group and the Happy Cow offers over 500 vegan restaurants and thousand more that offer many plant-based vegetarian meals across the US, Canada and the world. This healthy dining finder helps to narrow your search by identifying restaurants that are low in saturated fat, sodium and calories. Ethnic restaurants such as Asian, Indian, Italian or Mexican all can offer a variety of healthy selections once you know what to look for on the menu.

Other Tips

  • If you’re traveling on vacation, consider renting a place with a kitchen to do your own cooking, which will also help you save money. You can enjoy a few meals out using the resources and strategies noted above, but having your own kitchen allows you to have more control over your food choices.
  • If you’re traveling for work or at a hotel for vacation, request a refrigerator to keep a healthy stash of food.
  • Scout out a local grocery store to pick up precut veggies or bagged salad greens.
  • Buy or bring a nonfat salad dressing or balsamic vinegar.
  • The Happy Cow can help you scout a local health food store at your travel destination, however, most grocery stores will have all you need for healthy eating on the road.

What are some of your best travel tips for healthy eating on the road?

Contributed by

Carra Richling
Registered Dietitian

Eat well, be well!

Better Health Begins With You...

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