Planes, Trains and Automobiles: How to Eat Healthy on the Road

Thursday Jun 26 | BY |
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Do you remember the 1987 movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles, with Steve Martin and John Candy? I feel like that’s been my life lately, except for traveling in trains and the part about meeting an overly talkative, shower curtain ring salesman! (The John Candy character in the movie).

A number of business and personal commitments brought me to Austin, Denver, Vermont, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, and Mexico. All of that in just a few weeks!

Annmarie made me promise to stop traveling so much (and I agree, too much traveling is stressful!), but along the way I picked up a few tips that I’d like to share with you.

When you eat healthy diet, the question is always: how can you travel without compromising your principles and your health?

My first observation based on my travels is that traveling is always more enjoyable when you are healthy. Even common problems like jet-lag become much easier to manage when your body is healthy and strong.

When I travel I greatly simplify my diet and try to keep up with my running routine. This helps me minimize the impact that traveling has on my body.

Here are some tips, based on my experience traveling (with a few more from Fred).

Planes

Seasoned travelers know a trick that helps tremendously with jet lag: only eat fruit during a long flight. And this advice doesn’t come from raw foodists, but simply from road warriors who know how to stay healthy while traveling.

The reason this works is because meal times trigger circadian rhythms.

First, try ordering a “fruit plate” when book your flight, and then call to confirm about 48 hours in advance. I have done that many times with great success. And no, it doesn’t look weird to anybody and fact no one will think twice about it!

In addition to fruit, I also pack a few healthy snack bars from the health food store, or a bag of nuts.

Airports

I have no problems finding fresh fruits in some airports, especially in North America where you can often find smoothie bars in some places.

I know some people refuse to pay $1 for a banana, arguing that it’s overpriced. I find that rather ridiculous because $1 for a banana is still a better deal than anything else you can get an airport!

So don’t hesitate to spend a little extra to buy fresh fruit or fruit salads at airports, even if it’s “overpriced.” Remember, everything else is anyway. Make it part of your budget for the whole trip. I believe the extra $20 is not going to be something to worry about.

Trains & Buses

During all this travel, Annmarie, Hudson and I actually had to jump on an overnight train from Chicago to Pittsburgh, because our flight was canceled due to weather. We got a small sleeper room where the seats fold down into one bed and and additional bunk above. If we didn’t take the train we would have missed my grandfather’s funeral and ceremony. Luckily, we had time in the city beforehand to gather some food, because what was at the train station and on the train was inedible.

Trains and buses are a little more challenging, especially if you’re going to travel long- distances. Bus stations on the Greyhound network are notoriously devoid of anything edible for the most part!

If you’re going to be using these modes of transportation, I suggest packing in some fresh and dried fruit in advance.

By the way, even though I generally recommend avoiding eating much dried fruit, this is one circumstance when it would be okay to bring some with you.

Automobiles

When I travel for business, I like renting a car because it gives me the freedom to go independently choose where I’m going to eat, rather than being at the mercy of what’s available at the hotel.

I get great rates on car rentals by using the website www.autoslash.com

With my iPhone or my laptop, I locate health food stores in a new city, and bring back a stash of edibles to the hotel!

On long car trips across states, I like to bring a big cooler with ice to keep the produce fresh.

All-Inclusive Vacations

Fred, our editor-in-chief, says the following about all-inclusive vacations:

A lot of people enjoy booking all-inclusive vacations, where you get the flight, the hotel and the food all in one package.

I’ve been on a couple of those, and I’ve always found it easy to find something healthy in the buffet. You can often find a surprisingly good variety of fresh juices, smoothies, cooked vegetables, beans, simply grilled foods, guacamole, salsas, and other healthy foods.

If you really find yourself stuck, you can always sneak out of the hotel by taxi and ask the driver to take you somewhere where you can buy what’s missing. You’ll get to see the place even more and have fun along the way. What could be better?

Hotels

Many of the business meetings I attend take place in hotels. If possible, I try to get a kitchenette in the room. I will make some of my own food, and partake in the food provided by the business gathering (usually a buffet table), or eat at the restaurant.

In a recent podcast, Fred mentioned that he brings a tiny rice cooker to cook some healthy meals in hotel rooms. The rice cooker can be used not only for rice, but nearly everything. The model he uses is the Panasonic 1.5 Cup Rice Cooker . I haven’t tried this strategy yet, but I might if I go on a longer trip!

If you have a long trip abroad, where you might arrive after an overnight flight, most likely exhausted, call the hotel in advance and ask them if they could bring a basket of fruit and have it ready for you when you arrive in your room.

When you arrive somewhere, you will be hungry, and might have ran out of the food you brought with you on the plane. It might also be late and you might not have time to go to a store to buy something.

So call in advance. I’ve done that many times, and most good places are happy to accommodate, often without even charging extra for it.

By the way, some fancy hotels throughout the world often have a fruit basket for their guests ready when they arrive. So it’s not an uncommon thing to ask.

Cruises

On this, Fred writes:

For a health foodist, the thought of spending one week on a boat, away from the mainland where the produce is can be intimidating and scary.

After all, if no food is available, you cannot just hitch a ride to the fruit store! So what are you going to do then?

Back when I had my magazine Just Eat An Apple, I published an article called “Raw Cruising” by Natalie Michael. No, it wasn’t about raw dating, but about her experience spending a week or so on a cruise in Alaska, and staying raw the whole time.

During that time, she ate plenty of fruit at the buffet, fresh juices, salads and never missed out on anything! Her friends were even looking at her plate thinking it looked so much better and tastier than theirs.

I’ve always been tempted to go dive for a week on Cocos Island, 550 KM and 2 days away from the coast of Costa Rica. It’s supposed to be THE most beautiful island in the world (according to famous oceanographer Jacques Cousteau), it’s completely wild and uninhabited, and it’s one of the top-5 dive sites in the world.

When I was looking up trips to go there, I noticed one company explained that if you had any dietary need during the trip, to call them in advance and they could arrange things for you.

Remember companies are in business to make money, and in order to do that they need to make your needs met and make you happy. Don’t be afraid to make a few phone calls or send some emails beforehand to make that happen.

Fruit

You’ll notice a trend in my article: fruit.

Although I generally eat way more vegetables than fruits, when I travel, I rely on fruit for calories.

Why? It’s easy to find, refreshing, and helps me cope with the effects of jet lag and travel fatigue.

What to bring?

There are always a few things that are good to bring on a trip. Here’s a good list:

• A flexible, portable cutting board that you can roll up and store easily
• A cutting knife, a few spoons and forks
• One or two large 8-cup Tupperware containers, to use a fruit bowl and to bring food along. When it’s not in use and clean and dry, you can put some things inside to save the space.
• A portable blender. I like the “Personal Blender” by Tribest. Sure, you can’t really blend a large quantity, but it works for simple smoothies, and you can always blend more than once?
• A few plastic bags to put your fruit peels in the initial part of your trip (I always forget that!)
• Moist, pre-packaged tissues to wash your hands (remember fruit juice is sticky!)
• A few ziplock bags, to store things
• A couple bags of dried figs or other dried fruit. I don’t like to pack a lot of those but they can be very useful for “emergencies”.
• A small bag of nuts (optional)

Hope this was helpful! Share your travel tips below…

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog RenegadeHealth.com — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.

11 COMMENTS ON THIS POST

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  1. Isla says:

    Great article. I’m about to embark on a long road trip so these tips came at the right time. Very useful and some hadn’t thought of. Thanks!

  2. Susie says:

    Barlean’s Green Powder!

  3. Zyxomma says:

    OK post; sort of Travel 101 for me. I’ve been doing this for decades, and with the internet, it’s far easier to find out where the health food stores and restaurants are. One thing Kevin didn’t mention was my favorite travel fruit: the avocado. Health and peace.

  4. Dana says:

    Thanks, Kevin!
    I’ve looked at the Panasonic 1.5 Cup Rice Cooker: isn’t the Non-stick coated Aluminum Pan bad for your health?

  5. Michelle says:

    Thanks Kevin! Straight fruit spikes my blood sugar way too much and i get the shakes. Dried fruit is almost totally out for that reason. A mix of a little bit of fruit and nuts works better for me on shorter trips (6 hours or so). PS. I miss the recipe videos 🙂

  6. Jackie says:

    I’m traveling right now for a week, and I bought this personal blender on Amazon for only $23 because I wanted a travel blender. I was hesitant to buy it because of some of the bad reviews and also because it was cheap, but I ended up just going for it because it’s more powerful than other personal blenders (it’s 300W), and it has a big 28 oz jar. Well, it’s absolutely awesome!!! I’m staying in a place with a kitchenette, so I’ve been making my big green smoothies every morning. It’s really powerful too and crushes ice really well. I couldn’t be happier!!! 🙂
    Here’s the link if anyone is interested: http://www.amazon.com/MaxiMatic-EPB-2572-Elite-Cuisine-Personal/dp/B008GS8Q9A/ref=pd_sim_k_2?ie=UTF8&refRID=1QFTWH7HNT9XVTFTN07Q

    By the way, I don’t get a kickback or whatever people get for having Amazon links on their page. I just love the product. It’s way cheaper, bigger, and more powerful than the Tribest – 🙂

    • anna says:

      Thanks for sharing this blender, I’ve been looking for something similar!

      Also, this article is fabulous, as usual.

  7. Janet says:

    Great tips Kev and Fred! I also bring an extension cord with me in case my equipment’s cords are not long enough, some tea bags, and a small water filter on my travels.

  8. Tieta Crerar says:

    Great article except for the plastic bags to store food and the moist pre-packeted tissues. Please read Slow Death by Rubber Duck, Plastic Free by Beth Terry, Plastic Ocean books and watch the movie Bag It. We need to get un-addicted to plastic.

  9. Neil says:

    Don’t we just know how backward as a species we have become when we have to plan, complain and find it difficult to find real food when we leave our own home.

  10. Joanna says:

    Avocado is bad for you!

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