Remember, I am neither the food scientist nor the chef in the company. Scott and Melissa handle those areas and write about them very well. What I try to do in my “how do you do something” musings is give you a laypersons perspective. This tricky issue is one I’m very familiar with; how to eat healthy when on the road.
The first step, as with all things, is to define what you are trying to do. What are your baseline diet goals? Mine are to avoid caffeine, processed food, sodium and soft drinks. But, what do you get when you eat out (which you do when you’re on the road)? Caffeine, processed food, sodium and soft drinks. So there’s the goal and the challenge.
Mike’s “Dirty Four:” Caffeine, Processed Food, Sodium and Soft Drinks
Let’s tackle the list from both sides at once. Soft drinks are easy. I just don’t drink them except for the one Diet Coke I allow myself a week. More than any other food, I can tell when I have had more than one. The caffeine impacts me and so does the soft drink junk that is so bad for you. More than one? Nope. But, my body can’t live happily on milk and water alone and iced tea has caffeine. My choice is club soda. Or some other sparkling water. That helps cure my craving for something other than tap water or milk and is just as healthy. Plus, it’s available in most places.
I have spoken about reducing sodium before and that is the number one issue when eating out. It is everywhere. I have found that four simple steps help me manage this issue when traveling.
- No sauces or salad dressings other than oil and vinegar. That takes out about 1000 mg of sodium. I don’t even need to know what was eliminated. All restaurant sauces and dressings are loaded.
- I don’t eat white bread. The nutrients have been removed from the flour, so why bother? I eat whole wheat bread, which includes sodium, but the whole grains give me health benefits that I don’t get with processed white flour.
- This overlaps with no sauces but watch what spices are going on your food when eating out as they may be high in sodium. If you like a lot of spices you could bring your own blend of low-sodium seasonings with you. I eat pretty plainly. But that doesn’t mean I have boring meals.
- This aligns with the goal of limiting processed food; watch what you order. Eat simple foods. Whole foods if possible.
Which leads me to minimizing processed foods. This one is hard. There are three ways I have found to do it when I’m on the road.
Of my “dirty four,” caffeine is the easiest for me. Sure, it is hidden in many places (and I don’t mind it in the chocolate I occasionally eat) but it really is easy for me to eliminate — no matter where I am. Just remove the caffeinated beverages and replace them with something else. I do have a few tricks. I drink hot water with lemon or I drink an herbal coffee called Teecino. It is totally natural and caffeine free.
As a last word, I want to suggest that the way to figure out your own baseline diet goals (and maybe identify your own “dirty four”) is to try new things. I am a big fan of Alex Jamieson. And Alex is a big fan of cleanse diets. I was a skeptic, but one way to appreciate the impact of certain foods (such as caffeine and soft drinks) is to do just that. Eliminate them and see what happens. In a Starbucks world, eliminating caffeine is huge. But I don’t miss it a bit. And I did that about 10 years ago….
Ultimately, making a decision about your nutritional priorities will determine your success with eating healthy on the road. It’s not easy, but it can be done.
Do you have any ideas for maintaining a healthy diet while traveling? Let us know in the comments!
If you're on the road, one way to get your fix of healthy, whole foods is to stop by a local Great Harvest. Our new signature sandwiches provide some delicious "real food" options.
Want to read more about healthy diet choices at home or out and about?
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