How To Eat Healthy When Travelling For Business

We hate to say it, but room service is not always your friend

24/10/2017 11:57 BST

When we travel for business, it’s not always all work and no play: there are the plush hotel rooms (complete with oh-so-snugly 300-thread count sheets), the constant, exciting, changes of scenery and the plethora of dining options, from eating out at exotic restaurants with clients every meal to trying new specialties at the popular local food truck for lunch.

Unfortunately, what’s good for our palate (and makes our Instagram feed the envy of everyone else’s), isn’t necessarily good for our health: hectic travel schedules, jet lag, frequent flying, grabbing food on the run and heavy multi-course restaurant meals can all be a recipe for disaster when we’re on a business trip.

It’s all too easy to overindulge, loading up on sugar and caffeine for a quick fix in the morning, drinking a few too many glasses of wine in the airport lounge to relax before a flight, and eating whatever’s in front of you, just cause it’s there - and you’re tired - on the plane.

Here are the expert tips to help you pick nutritious, feel-good foods on the go when you’re travelling on business... as well as advice on how to choose the healthiest options to keep you feeling energised, physically and mentally.

  • Watch The Coffee Order
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    We get it: you've landed in a new time zone at 1am and have a meeting starting at 7 the next morning. Of course caffeine is your friend and saviour on every business trip you've ever been on. But be careful of what you're ordering: a few of those exciting-sounding coffees a day could be adding lots of unnecessary fat and calories to your diet.

    "A coffee may help you through the morning or afternoon slump, but be sure to choose the healthiest options," advises British Dietetic Association spokesperson, Sonal Limbachia.

    "Lots of people are still confused about coffee lingo and unaware of hidden fats and sugars. Milky coffees such as lattes are a good source of calcium, however try to choose low-fat varieties to avoid extra calories. A full cream latte contains around 170 kcal compared to lattes made with skimmed milk containing 100 kcal. Bonus: You will have the same amount of calcium!"
  • Eat Like You're At Home
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    When on business trips and staying in hotels, there's food temptation everywhere, especially at breakfast. While many of us adopt the approach that being away is a treat and we should indulge, that's not the best mentality for our waistlines - or our energy levels. 

    Dr. Rosalind Miller, a nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation, advises frequent fliers to act like they're home when they're away for business.

    "Select the healthy foods you would normally eat at home, for example, a high-fibre breakfast cereal and piece of fruit rather than a fried breakfast," she says.

    Same goes if you're faced with an endless cornucopia of cals, aka the hotel buffet. 

    "The more food on offer the more we tend to eat, so try sticking to a few smart choices rather than trying everything. Select the healthier items first - you will add less of the higher calorie alternatives later," Dr. Miller explains.

    BDA spokesperson Sonal Limbachia also recommends starting the day with a healthy breakfast (steer clear of the croissants and pastries, which don't have fibre and are liable to have you fiending for more sugar as the day progresses).

    "If you have more time, lots of coffee shops and restaurants now offer hot, nutritious breakfast options. Choose from wholegrain wraps filled with spinach and eggs, or avocado on toast," she says.
  • Smart Snacking
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    Even if you manage to eat balanced and healthy meals during mealtimes, it's all too easy to grab a candy bar or packet of crisps as a quick snack on the go. Don't. Choose a healthy alternative like unsalted nuts from the supermarket and make sure you have a supply handy in your bag.

    "Nuts are rich in protein and fibre which will see you through your meetings. Pop them into a small bag or container, and keep them in your bag. They are rich in unsaturated fats which help to lower the risk of heart disease and cholesterol," says Limbachia.
  • Don't Forget To Drink... Water
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    When you're running around catching flights and rushing to meetings, it's easy to reach for a caffeinated, carbonated, sugary or alcoholic beverage for a quick fix, whether you're looking for an energy jolt or a something to calm you down after a hectic day. Don't forget that travelling can make you dehydrated, and caffeine and alcohol will only dehydrate you further. 

    Dr. Miller recommends carrying a bottle of water around with you from meeting to meeting. How to avoid getting parched at the airport? "After you have passed through security, to stay hydrated, fill up your water bottle or buy a drink low in sugars and fat, for example, sparkling water, low fat milk, herbal or fruit tea," she recommends.

    "If you didn’t have time to pack any healthy foods for the journey, try to pick some up at the airport. Opt for nutrient-dense foods high in vitamins, minerals and fibre and low in fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt, for example, fruit, veg sticks, salad, low-fat yogurt, a wholemeal sandwich or wrap or unsalted nuts and seeds," she says.
  • Just Because It's Free Doesn't Mean You Should Eat It
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    From airport lounges to conferences, business travel is full of freebies when it comes to food. While they can be tricky to turn down, you need to resist.

    "Business meetings and travel provide complimentary snacks and drinks. But regularly indulging on high-fat and sugary treats can soon cause gradual weight gain. Choose sugar-free drinks, water and small portions of juice. Keeping hydrated will reduce risks of headaches and tiredness. If offered alcohol, choose a smaller glass of wine or beer, or a diet-free mixer with your spirit," says Limbachia.
  • Get Creative
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    It's easy to spot the hamburger and fast food joints when you're at a busy train station or airport - especially if you've gotten into the habit of treating yourself to a fat-filled breakfast every time you've had an early AM flight. But there are plenty of healthy - and interesting - food options all around you, no matter where you are.

    "Pre-flight/train meals need to be quick and satisfying. Unfortunately, with airports and train stations full of fast food joints, burgers and fries seem to be a popular option. Lots of new and innovative food joints have put some healthy eating choice out there, from pokè and Asian-style salad bowls to sashimi and wholegrain wrap sandwich options. Be sure your meal contains lots of vegetables to get those nutrients and antioxidants in," advises Limbachia.
  • Keep Moving
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    No, your business trip is not an excuse to watch every episode of House of Cards on Netflix. Well, maybe it is. Just make sure you don't forget about working out, both for the physical benefits and the head space it affords.

    "Try to incorporate some physical activity in your day, for example, visit the hotel gym, take the stairs instead of the lift and/or go for a lunchtime or pre-dinner walk," Dr. Miller says.