Weight Management and Travel
Gaining weight while “on the go” or travelling can be a big issue for many. Travel can cause disruption to routine and make healthy habits hard to maintain. When hunger strikes, eating “on the go” can mean you are more likely to choose unhealthier meals and snacks, which can be high in calories, sugar, fat and salt. The best way to ensure you are not caught off guard is to be prepared. Preparation allows you to remain in control, and not reliant on unhealthy food choices.
You should avoid waiting until you are hungry to decide what you will eat. Thinking ahead for each meal means you are less like to opt for high calorie convenience foods.
- Think ahead: when going to the supermarket. Plan each day and the meals you will have.
- Use lists: this will help you plan and reduce the risk of impulsive buying and unhealthy food purchases.
- Portion out your food: do this in advance, e.g. a handful of nuts or a small bag of carrot or celery sticks, so you have healthy snacks at hand when needed.
- Have a supply of food: this will cover you for the day and help to ensure you stick to healthier food options, e.g. make a sandwich for lunch
- Make smarter choices:
- Start at home: this helps to avoid grabbing something on the go e.g. a pastry or a muffin, because you have already eaten before leaving the house.
- If stuck for choice, pick the best of a bad bunch;
Long commutes to, from or during work can mean that sit-down meals are replaced by unhealthy foods on the go. It also means that you are constantly exposed to food options while passing shops, cafés, fast food restaurants and petrol stations. When we get too hungry, we are more likely to overeat or choose unhealthy options. Reduce the chance of this happening with the following tips:
- Bring your coffee from home; to avoid temptation in cafés or shops e.g. croissants, muffins, scones, breakfast rolls.
- Have a snack supply for the day; e.g. mandarins, apples, bananas, low fat yoghurts, dried fruit, nuts or carrot sticks.
- Prepare your lunch the evening before; e.g. chicken salad in a lunch box or a sandwich.
- Have a healthy snack to cover you between lunch and dinner; this avoids unnecessary stops for quick snacks on the way home, e.g. crisps or chocolate bars.
Bus and Train
Boredom may strike when travelling by bus or train. This can make you more vulnerable to snacking on unhealthy foods, just to pass the time.
- Avoid foods offered on trolley services; these options usually consist of high calorie snacks such as crisps, chocolate, muffins and pastries. They tend not to fill you up for long, and so you are likely to be hungry again shortly after eating these.
- Have your own snacks, such as mixed nuts, wasabi peas, edaname beans, fruit, dips and vegetable chunks, oatcakes with peanut/almond/cashew nut butter or low fat yoghurts; this means that you are less likely to buy something while travelling and you control what you eat.
- If you have limited choices, try to make the smartest decision possible; e.g., choose “light” crisps or share a chocolate bar rather than have a whole one.
- Use this travel time to catch up on books/email/TV shows
Frequent flyers will know all too well that travelling by plane can involve a lot of waiting around. It’s likely that you will have to eat some of your meals on board the airplane or in the airport. Reduce unhealthy eating by:
- Researching ahead; Airports offer a wide variety of food options and restaurants. Knowing what is available for you will help you make smarter food choices.
- Meeting your special dietary needs; Research your options e.g. low calorie meal, gluten free or vegetarian options.
- Watch your alcohol intake; Waiting around can lead to an unplanned alcohol, especially if you are with other people. Try to limit your alcohol intake and the high calorie, high salt, snacks such as peanuts and crisps.
- Staying hydrated throughout the day; Water is the best option for this. Try to avoid sugary drinks, as this will add unnecessary calories to your day’s intake.
- Turn your commute into a positive! Why not consider alternative means of transport? Physical activity is important for weight management and cycling and walking are great ways to lead a more active lifestyle. While this may not be practical for the longer commute or journey, consider cycling or walking one stop further than usual to increase your activity level.
- For a healthy breakfast: If you know you won’t be able to find healthy options at the airport, bring a sandwich or porridge oats/muesli, and add milk or yoghurt at the airport.
- Take the stairs instead of lifts and escalators; While waiting in the airport or the train/bus station; take any opportunity for physical activity as this is important for avoiding weight gain.
If you would like further advice, or to make an appointment with a dietitian in your area, click here
Updated by Paula Mee and Emily Mullen, Members of the Weight Management Interest Group, May 2016 Review date: May 2019
© 2016 Irish Nutrition and Dietetics Institute, INDI. All rights reserved. May be reproduced in its entirety provided the source is acknowledged. This information is not meant to replace advice from your medical doctor or individual counselling with a dietitian. It is intended for educational and informational purposes only.
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