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Meal Planning for Travelers: 6 Ways to Stay Healthy on the Go

July 18, 2019

Maintaining healthy eating habits can be challenging while at home, but embarking on a trip can be potentially fraught with temptation. Whether you’re trying to avoid fast food, eat a nutritious breakfast, or stick to a diet, healthy eating on the go is entirely possible. Here are six ways to stay healthy on the go.

By Akemi Huynh, nutrition intern from NCCU.  

Tell yourself you are a healthy eater.

Believing you will eat healthy may be the most important first step in actually eating healthy while traveling. Research suggests that assuming an identity as a healthy eater is associated with greater intention to make decisions to eat healthy (Brouwer & Mosack, 2014). Reflect on past healthy eating behaviors because this generates motivation and pride to continue the trend (Evans, Norman, & Webb, 2017). 

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Pack your own meals and snacks.

This will give you healthier options compared to continental breakfasts, airplane meals, or fast food. Moderate planning and meal prepping is required but is worth the investment. When feasible, consider packing a cooler and ice packs to expand food options. Some ideas included:

    • Breakfast: Dry oatmeal with flax seed, dried fruit, and nuts, hard-boiled eggs, individual servings of yogurt or cottage cheese
    • Lunch: Whole grain bread, tortillas, or crackers with any of the following: cheese and turkey slices, peanut butter, tuna or salmon pouches, pre-portioned servings of beans/legumes, or avocado slices
    • Snacks: Whole fruit, homemade trail mix (nuts, seeds, and dried fruit), pre-cut vegetables with single serving hummus
    • Spices/Sauces: Cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, hot sauce, and mustard

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Research dining options along your travel route.

It may be helpful to stick to chain restaurants because they are legally required to publish nutritional information that can help inform your decisions about what to eat. For road trips, use web-mapping services to plot gas/rest stops around healthy dining destinations. For air travel, search the airport’s dining selections to choose healthy options in your terminal.

Request a mini-fridge and/or a microwave for your hotel room.

This allows you to purchase and store groceries as well as prepare simple healthy meals. Use the fridge to store yogurt, milk, string cheese, salad greens, dressing, pre-cut vegetables and fruits, hard-boiled eggs, edamame, lunch meat, and take-out leftovers. Use the microwave to make oatmeal, heat up pre-cooked rice pouches, or prepare a baked potato.

Pack small kitchen items and appliances.

These help to expand your food and meal options. Pack items to eat and store food in such as small dishware, silverware, and reusable containers. A travel blender can be used to make smoothies and protein shakes. A can opener is helpful for canned beans, fish, vegetables, and fruit.

Get creative.

Use a hotel coffee maker’s hot water to make oatmeal, cream of wheat, or grits. Supplement continental breakfast items with your packed food to create healthy meals. For example, pair toasted bread from the hotel with sliced avocados and red pepper flakes for a nutritious breakfast. 

Learn more about how to achieve diet and fitness goals at The Duke Diet and Fitness Center. Discover sustainable weight loss and successful lifestyle changes with help from doctors and nutritionists. For more information, call 800-235-3853 or visit www.dukedietandfitness.org

Take the First Step


Brouwer, A. M. & Mosack, K. E. (2014). Expanding the theory of planned behavior to predict healthy eating behaviors: Exploring a healthy eater identity. Nutrition & Food Science, 45(1), pp. 39-53. doi: 10.1108/NFS-06-2014-0055

Evans, R., Norman, P., & Webb, T. L. (2017). Using temporal self-regulation theory to understand healthy and unhealthy eating intentions and behavior. Appetite, 116, pp. 357-364. 

Gordon, B. (2018, November). Quick Guide to Eating Right While Traveling in the U.S. Retrieved from https://www.eatright.org/health/lifestyle/travel/quick-guide-to-eating-r...

Wolfram, T. (2019, March). Health Takes Flight. Retrieved from https://www.eatright.org/health/lifestyle/travel/health-takes-flight

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