Written by Jennie on October 19, 2018.
Healthy eating away from home—whilst on a road trip, on a train, in a plane or on a boat can be challenging. Likewise business meeting meals—especially if this is a regular part of your job— can be difficult to negotiate. And whilst holidays are a time to try out local dishes, 14-days of over-doing it will only lead to regret when you get back home. So, how do you eat healthily at these times?
Healthy eating the road
I’m currently 100% off sugar which means checking food labels even more thoroughly than usual. Last weekend, I was in an M&S food shop on the M5. On the shelves, I found 7 or 8 mouth-watering salad pots, one of which I thought would make a good meal. Then I checked the ingredients list—frustratingly, stuck to the bottom of the pots. I was dismayed to find every one of them had added sugar or honey or both. Mostly it’s added to the dressings. It’s sad to think they provide healthy ingredients such as quinoa, lentils, avocado, edamame beans, falafel, hummus then assume we won’t like it unless it’s drenched with a sweet dressing. I’ve since checked out the other big supermarkets and all of their own brands pots have added sugar, honey, dextrose or molasses. I’ve discovered M&S Quinoa Black Rice and Edamame Bean Salad contains 2.8 teaspoons of sugar. And Morrison’s Asian Style Chicken Salad has a whopping 4.2 teaspoons of the white stuff. If, by the way, you want to know how many teaspoons are in your meals or drinks, do this. See the nutrients list and under carbohydrates it will say, ‘of which sugars’. This is usually stated per 100g – so do the math for larger portions. Now, simply divide this sum by 4.
If not salad pots, what else is good whilst on the road?
The salad pots themselves are often filled with healthy food choices so one option is to ditch the dressing or only have some of it. Most of the bigger service stations have a Waitrose, M&S or Sainsbury’s. All of these sell hard boiled eggs, carrots, crudities or cooked prawns with hummus. You can usually find small packets of raw nuts and seeds at these places too. And they all sell individual pots of fresh fruit. Some service stations also sell Moma porridge pots and have a facility to add hot water. Moma Plain is sugar free (the only one I know that is) and you can then add fresh fruit, nuts and seeds for a healthy breakfast.
Healthy eating at a restaurant
When away from home for just one day/night or if it’s a celebration—let go of stressing about portion sizes or how much sugar and fat is in the meals. It’s not what you eat on one day that matters. But, and it’s a big BUT, if your job or circumstances leads to regular dining out, then restaurant meals can add to your waist-line and be detrimental to your health. Likewise, if you’re on a 2-week holiday, you might also like to take these tips on board for at least some of your meals out.
Decline the bread roll
Some restaurants offer a complimentary bread roll whilst you peruse the menu. Don’t be fooled that they are doing this out of the kindest of these hearts! Bread rolls stimulate your digestive juices and increase your appetite. The restaurants know eating bread whilst you read the menu means you are more likely to order more food than you would do normally. So skip the bread roll.
Making wiser choices
This doesn’t mean you can only choose the salad options! However, avoid dishes that have a heavy sauce or are deep-fried. Look for dishes that are steamed or grilled. Skim through the menu to see if there is a selection of vegetables or a mixed salad. If there is, you can ask for any starchy carbs such as potatoes, white rice or pasta to be replaced with these healthier options. I regularly do this—most restaurants don’t bat an eyelid at such requests. Be wary that vegetarian options rely heavily on pasta and have virtually no protein apart from cheese. Again, see if you can select something from another dish – for example a Salad Niçoise salad has hard-boiled eggs, so they might also be willing to add an egg to your dish too.
Share your meals?
With the exception of haute-cuisine dishes that are sometimes too small (at least for my liking!), most restaurants serve meals that are far bigger than you would eat at home. So, a sharing platter ‘for 2’ might actually be OK for 3. One luscious dessert can always be shared by 2 people. Some restaurants have a ‘lighter bite’ selection or a children’s portion. Don’t be shy to ask for less if you look around at meals being served that look huge. Your health and your waist-line is more important than what they think about your choices.
Healthy eating when flying
I love to travel to horizons far away. Discovering new flavours and delicacies is high on my list of pleasures and I love visiting local food shops. But the actual travelling part is not something I enjoy. Airports with plastic food at extortion prices is mind-numbing. Being given meals on the plane when my body clock says it’s the middle of the night, is not something I look forward to either. Eating too much whilst confined to sitting for many hours doesn’t help the digestive system—yet I also get that something has to stop us from going stir-crazy whilst on these long journeys so, what to do about the meals?
Selecting food options before you fly
On most long haul flights, there is a surprising good range of options for your complimentary meals including lacto-ovo-vegetarian, vegan, kosher, Asian/Oriental vegetarian, Muslim and even bland. As I’m wheat intolerant and red-meat abstaining, I choose the Asian vegetarian option as the regular vegetarian option nearly always contains pasta. On some of the more up-market carriers, you can also pay for meals that they call ‘gourmet’. Whether or not it’s really that good is debatable, but it does increases your choices. It’s also OK to not have the food offered. Listen to your body rather than the boredom factor.
For short-haul flight, the carriers definitely make up for the cheap flights with expensive and small portion sizes of snacks and drinks. If possible, you might like to take your own picnic in your hand-luggage rather than the crisps, chocolate and sandwiches that make up most of what is sold. That said I was pleasantly surprised to find Easy Jet had Moma plain porridge and a Mezze snack box with olives and hummus.
I love receiving your feedback. And if you have any healthy eating tips whilst away from home, please do share them with me in the comments box below.