How to stay fit while traveling (and not gain weight)
There's nothing like a trip to completely destroy an otherwise successful clean eating regime. I travel a ton, both for business and leisure, so I learned this the hard way. I'd be going strong with meal prepping and working out consistently, and then get hit with a 3-day business trip in the middle of the week. By the time I got home, I'd be tired, no longer motivated to work out, and a few pounds heavier. This trend had to stop.
So I started hacking traveling.
Here's what I do to make sure I don't undo all my hard, healthy work while traveling.
1. I BRING MY OWN FOOD ON THE PLANE (AND ON ROAD TRIPS)
I'll start with the most extreme but also most useful hack. Before I leave home, I try to pack a small disposable bag with food for the plane. Contrary to popular belief, you can bring almost all food items through security with you with no problems. Just make sure that any “liquids or gels” like nut butters, guacamole, etc. are in small packets or bags and under 3 oz. Occasionally I get stopped for a banana, but they just take a look at it and let me carry on with the banana.
Here are some sample food items I bring.
For short / domestic flights:
Fruit + nut butter (organic, no sugar) | To make sure you’re TSA-friendly, either get small packets like Justin’s or put your nut butter in small zip-lock bags
Cooked vegetables | It sounds crazy, but I often bring cooked broccoli, asparagus, carrots, Brussels sprouts, or whatever else is leftover in my fridge in a zip locked bag and eat it at the airport or on the plane
Guacamole + raw veggies
Sweet potatoes | Whole, cooked sweet potatoes with a little cinnamon sprinkled on top + some steamed, sautéed or charred kale makes the perfect plane combo
For long-hauls / international flights:
Full, ready-to-eat meals in a meal-prep container | I treat these meals with very little difference to how I would if I were taking lunch to work. I've brought everything on planes from whole wheat noodles to brown rice and more. Just make sure there are no items that could be seen as a liquid/gel (like chili or soup)
Salads with lettuce, grains, and veggies
Sandwiches or wraps
For road trips:
My go-to is usually bananas and/or nuts, or a full meal-prep if it's a long trip
Don’t forget a (disposable) fork and napkins!
Bonus: Bringing your own food also saves a ton of money! Airport food is insanely pricey.
Double bonus: This is a great way to clean out your fridge before leaving for a long trip without wasting any food. Most of the time I just grab whatever is left in my fridge, cook it, and throw it in my bag on the way to the airport.
2. SCOUT OUT THE HEALTHY AIRPORT OPTIONS
If bringing food isn't your thing or you have multiple connections, most restaurants have at least one healthy option. You may have to walk for it or switch concourses, but if you've got time, at least you get in extra steps!
Some of my favorite airport options include:
Dallas (DFW): UFood Grill at B40 (brown rice bowls!)
Atlanta (ATL): Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh in the Terminal D food court (veggie bowls)
Boston (BOS): UFood Grill is also in terminal B and C
Philadelphia (PHL): Green Leaf's at gate D12
LaGuardia (LGA): World Nectar in Terminal D has freshly pressed green juice (at right)
Generally, it's good to stay away from those quick grab-and-go stands and sit-down pubs.
Pro tip: Do NOT grab a smoothie at an airport and think you're making a good choice. Smoothie shops like Jamba Juice and Freshens pack their drinks full of sugar... we're talking 50-80 grams of sugar in one smoothie or even more (the maximum recommended amount of sugar in one day is ~25-30g). Don't believe me? Check out their nutrition pages here and here.
3. FIND HEALTHY RESTAURANTS IN YOUR DESTINATION CITY BEFORE YOU TRAVEL
Before I travel anywhere, I'm googling "best healthy restaurants in [city]." I start them on Google Maps and make a mental list of the places I want to hit up. If I'm on a business trip and find myself with a couple extra hours or someone says - "does anyone have a place in mind for dinner?" I'm already ready with an answer.
And on the way back if I can - I'll hunt down a healthy take-out spot and grab some food for the plane home.
Some of my favorite spots in recent cities I've traveled to include:
Atlanta: Upbeet - if Chipotle was born in a garden (see menu here)
Austin: JuiceLand - freshly pressed juices, acai bowls, and salads (pictured below from my last trip)
Barcelona: Flax&Kale, Teresa Carles (pictured below from a recent trip)
Boston: Sweetgreen - salads and bowls of all kinds
Denver: Chop Shop Casual Urban Eatery (pictured at right from my last trip)
Los Angeles: M Café – amazing macrobiotic veggie bowls
Santa Monica: Flower Child - bowls, salads, wraps, proteins, and more
San Francisco: Judahlicious - breakfast bowls + vegan food
Nashville: Urban Juicer - juices, shots, and bowls
NYC: Too many to name - but here's a good comprehensive list
4. SET ASIDE TIME IN YOUR TRIP SCHEDULE TO WORKOUT
Before I travel, I always check my trip schedule and try to set aside workout time. When I'm traveling for business, this can be tough because it usually means an early morning workout before meetings start. But it's always so worth it, and gives me an excuse to see the city instead of sleeping in.
I've found three easy ways to get a workout in:
1. Sign up for a fitness class in advance at Soulcycle or scout out local boutique classes at spots like:
Ritual Yoga in Chicago and San Francisco is amazing. It's basically yoga meets SoulCycle... a dark room, club music, hot yoga, and mind-cleansing inspirational speeches. It's totally worth going out of your way for if you're in the area.
Airbnb experiences has all kinds of running city tours and fitness classes. I recently took a sunrise meditation class on the beach in Barcelona.
2. Book a hotel with an awesome gym or fitness program
Westin has a partnership with Peloton, where they have bikes in your room so you have no excuses
The Luxe Rodeo Drive in LA has the most amazing rooftop gym (pictured at right from my last stay)
The Sofitel in Beverly Hills has the most amazing fitness center, and even offers memberships to local residents
3. Scout out nearby spots to run outside
The San Francisco Bay Trail has beautiful views of the bay all the way around the city. Recently during an SFO trip, I stayed at the Westin San Francisco Airport located on the trail, and spent the mornings running down the the bay. 🌊
I always make time in an NYC trip for a run down the Hudson River Greenway from West 59th Street to Battery Park, and wave to lady Liberty as I run by. 🗽
For awesome running routes in just about every city, check out Great Runs.
6. DON'T OVERINDULGE JUST BECAUSE YOU'RE AWAY FROM HOME
There's something about being away from home that signals to our brains, "it's okay, go crazy! Have a couple more glasses of wine and order two desserts - you deserve this!" Sure - we deserve to treat ourselves because work is tough and we probably just killed it in that presentation. But what I don't deserve is to go backwards on all the hard work I've been doing at home and wake up with regrets.
So when I travel, I try to order just like I would at home - in moderation. And if co-workers or clients order 12 appetizers, 8 bottles of wine, and 5 desserts, well, then I just do the best I can with the little willpower I have and try not to judge myself too much!
7. SCHEDULE YOUR FLIGHTS AROUND SLEEP
Flight schedules don't mess around. It's tough to snag that perfect non-stop, middle-of-the-day flight that doesn't make you wake up at 3:30am but also doesn't arrive in the middle of the night. I've flown my fair share of red-eyes, and there's nothing good about them. It takes at least 24 hours to recover, which means working out the next day is completely out of the question and my body is totally out of whack for awhile.
So this is challenging. But I try when possible to schedule my flights so that I can sleep at home or in hotels at normal times - even if that means staying an extra night.