Does the thought of the family holiday leave you feeling anxious? Are you fearful of putting on a ton of weight and undoing all your hard work? If so, don’t panic. Follow these 5 simple tips for the perfect travel diet.
Whether you’re travelling for business or pleasure, you’re not alone in having anxious feelings about what lies ahead. You’re scouring Google for the perfect travel diet, to keep you on track and prevent everything go to shit.After all, you’ve been following your nutrition and training programme diligently for the past few months, and you’ve made great progress. So the thought of taking several steps back in a short space of time is naturally unnerving.Now, before we get started on these 5 travel diet tips answer, a quick question for me.
Have any of these questions gone through your head before a recent trip?
- Does the hotel have a good gym?
- How the hell do I count macros when I’m eating out all the time?
- What happens if I can’t find healthy food?
- What happens if I can’t hit my macros?
- Do you think the hotel will cook me some egg whites for breakfast?
- Can I take protein powder through customs?
- Do you think they’ll think I’m drug smuggler if I put creatine in a see-thru bag?
I’m sure these, and many others questions have gone through your head at one point or another. But you’re not alone. In fact, those exact questions are ones that I’ve certainly wrestled with in the past. And come to think of it, perhaps that’s why they sprang to mind so easily.But, all that anxiety and all those questions shouldn’t concern you. And they definitely shouldn’t ruin your enjoyment of travelling. Because there are ways in which you can manage the whole travelling experience and give yourself some peace of mind. The solution is the right travel diet.The reason I decided to write this article is that I’m actually on the way to Dubai right now. Yep, I’m literally writing this 35,000 ft in the air (in-flight wifi is a wonderful thing). Don’t believe me? Well, here’s a picture of me looking very tired but focused to prove it.
Keeping things simple
I’ve seen a few travel diets on the internet, but I felt it could all be made a bit more simple. The steps we’re going to go through in this article are ones I’ve used for this trip. And they’re also ones I’ve used time and time again in recent years. So this is my own travel diet strategy that I'm sharing with you.These tips have become my go-to approach when travelling, because they work. So, read on, and put the ideas into practice for yourself when that summer holiday rolls around. And see how they can be a game changer for you too.We’re about to turn you into a travel diet pro.
5 ways to track calories: Pack, Buy, Plan, Track, Guess
The Perfect Travel Diet - 1: Pack your calories
Whether your trip is a full-on family holiday or a short business trip, packing food to take with you is a great way to get your travel diet off to a good start.And that’s because packing calories for your trip has a couple of benefits. First off, you can pack foods you enjoy, with known calories and macros. That means you can plan ahead more easily. And when all else fails and you’re hungry and need to eat, you’ve got some pre-packed options that won’t take you way off course.
For instance, throwing some protein powder in your suitcase to have throughout the course of your trip is a great idea to get your travel diet off to a good start. So much so that it’s something that I do for every trip I go on. Just make sure the container is sealed tight. Because a suitcase full of powder is going to looking pretty suspect going through customs.
Ultimately, having foods and snacks with you help you come in on those macros a lot easier every day.
And as protein is by far the most important macro to focus on, packing foods high in protein is going to make the whole process even easier. In addition, if you pick the foods you pack carefully, you can keep carbs and fat low too. Meaning you’ll have more calories to play with when it comes to those less trackable meals.To put this another way, think about a scenario where you’ve been out with the family having a great time, while on holiday. It’s been all ice creams by the pool, a tasty buffet for lunch, and a slap up steak dinner. However, come the end of the day you’re down on your protein count. But your fats and carbs are pretty maxed out because of the food you’ve had.
What do you do?
So this is where that packed protein comes to the rescue. A few scoops of whey with some milk or water should have you bang on plan. It’s convenient, requires little thought, and gives you that peace of mind of being on track.Your pre packed food can also help with eating while you’re checking out the sites and sounds of wherever you are. More often than not, they come in handy for the actual flight itself too.If you’re like me, then the thought of eating aeroplane food isn’t pleasant. And that’s not because I can’t count the macros or the food isn’t as nutrient dense I’d like.No, it’s because, without failure, it tastes like shit. So, a couple of protein bars and some fruit stuffed in your carry on luggage should get you through the flight. And as another alternative, you can pick something up from the airport lounge with some good macros to tide you over.
The pinnacle of packed food
Without doubt, the pinnacle of packed food is having an entire day of food with you from the word go. Obviously, this only really applies to a day trip, but it’s still worth talking about.These days there are a myriad of different companies with meal management bags on offer. These allow you to pre-prepare and pack your meals and snacks that will keep you on plan for the entire day.In this instance, all you need to do is put some thought into what type of foods travel well. That big batch of spaghetti bolognese you prepared at the weekend won’t really taste so good if you haven’t got access to a microwave. No-one wants cold spag bol!In summary, wherever possible pack foods that can to keep you on track with your diet. Make sure you tend towards high protein options as that’s your priority.
The Perfect Travel Diet - Step 2: Buy your calories
So you’ve packed some calories in your suitcase and breathed a sigh of relief after not getting stopped at customs. But what next?Well, the steps within the article are all about degrees of control over your diet and daily calories.While you’re away from home and away from those creature comforts, control becomes increasingly more difficult. Therefore, these strategies are designed to give you some of that control back. And the steps are listed in order of how much control each one gives you.So, the next best thing you can do after packing your calories is ‘buy your calories’. And what do I mean by that? This is all about stocking up on foods that will assist you in sticking to those macros, while you enjoy some food that’s not so straight-forward to track.In short, visit a local supermarket to load up on healthy and nutritious foods. Even if you intend on eating out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, there’s still some benefit in doing this.A trip to the grocery store means you can better control the food you eat. And more importantly, you can track those macros a lot easier. For example, walking around the supermarket, you can read food labels and pre plan some of those macros for the day.Obviously, if you’re on holiday you want to enjoy yourself at the same time. So select foods that you can snack on throughout the day, but will keep calories low. This will mean you can enjoy those indulgences, keep overall calories to a minimum, and not feel hungry during the day.
The Perfect Travel Diet - Step 3: Plan your calories
If you can, plan ahead. And this one is a lot easier if you’re travelling alone, because you don’t have to worry about being “that guy” everyone else has to work around. Fortunately, these days most restaurants publish their nutritional information online. So, all you need to do is a little bit of upfront research and plan what you want to eat around your macros.For example, Nandos, Chipotle, Costa, Starbucks, Chick-Fil-A, Pizza Express are all common restaurants that have their nutritional information listed. So whether, you want a muffin with your morning coffee, or you want to make sure that trip to Time Square doesn’t destroy your day’s macros, then plan ahead.And before get on the bandwagon of “they’re shit restaurants” that you should never eat at anyway, let me say one thing. Millions of people do eat there. And for a variety of different reasons, be it convenience, taste, or simply that kids are pretty good at nagging. Ultimately, it’s a real world scenario lots of people come across, so I believe it’s best to give you a strategy to deal with it, rather than fire-breathe some ‘holier than thou’ rhetoric at you.The other plus point of nutritional information being online is that more often than not, the same information is available on macro tracking apps too. So, if you’re tracking as you go and eating on the fly, you should find it much easier to adapt and stay on plan. MyFitnessPal has a function whereby you can pre-plan meals and calories, ahead of time. Make use of this feature and plan the calories and meals for the next day, where it makes sense to do so.
The 6 P's of protein
And don’t forget, calories and protein are most important, so plan that as your priority. Because you need to think about the 6 P’s of protein.
“Planning Protein Prevents Piss Poor Progress”.
Obviously, if you’re on a trip to the Great Wall of China, trying to preplan macros may be a bit of an impossibility. But in some situations it will work and make perfect sense. So use it in those scenarios.And don’t forget those packed and bought calories from earlier. You can use these steps together to build up that control of your nutrition.Think about it like Power Rangers. Individually they’re pretty good and badass ninjas, but when they all combine together they’re an unstoppable force. And that’s the same here. Because each one of these steps are good and valuable in their own right. But when you join them all together they become a powerful thing. It’s morphin’ time!
The Perfect Travel Diet - Step 4: Track your calories
So by now you’ve packed some protein foods, bought some macro friendly snacks, and pre-planned a few places to eat. What else can you do?Well this step is all about using a macro tracking app to its full potential.Tracking macros on the fly as you go about your daily business is where everyone should want to get to. Less reliance on a specific meal plan, means more flexibility and a higher degree of adaptability to real world scenarios.And don’t get me wrong. Meal plans are a still a great tool. They provide structure at the start of a programme and help turn the idea of calories and macros into real food. That’s why at the start of any 1:1 programme I ask people to keep a food diary on MyFitnessPal. Not only does this give me an insight into eating habits and food choices, but it also get clients into the tracking habit.
But the important thing to remember is that the use of a meal plan needs to be evolved to the point where you’re living your life with no fear of drifting off plan.
Because who wants to live their life stuck to a rigid plan for 365 days of the year, every year?
Not me. And I’m guessing, not you either.And let’s face it, when you’re travelling, sticking to a specific meal plan is nigh on impossible. Sourcing chicken and brown rice in a fine dining restaurant might prove a little tricky. So this is where the tracking app comes into its own.It can provide you that life line between no plan and some semblance of structure you can reply on.
MyFitnessPal is probably the most common of all the macro tracking apps. But it does have its downsides.Firstly, it has a huge database of foods. Which in one respect is good because you can find almost anything on there. On the other hand, this does have its downfalls as foods added by members can be widely inaccurate. So be careful. Stick to the foods and meals with the green tick next to them. It’s still not perfect, but it’s better than nothing.Secondly, you have to pay for the premium version if you want some of the better features. And with the free version there are a bunch of adverts thrown at you. I find this all a bit annoying and ‘spammy’ as I’m trying to log my food. But if you can cope with eat, it’s not that bad.Third up, your remaining calories for the day have your exercise factored into it (if you log you workouts). If you follow my method of calculating macros, this isn’t needed as your activity level has already been catered for and calories adjusted. And for people new to the app, it can become a bit confusing. In fact, in the worst cases, I’ve seen it cause people to overeat as they think they have more calories to play with.Finally, there’s a lot of unnecessary features on the app that get in the way of its core functionality. But that’s just my opinion. I’m not that interested in articles, challenges, and the social aspect of the app. There’s other apps that do this way better.So that all sounds a bit negative and may seem like I’m hating on MyFitnessPal. But that’s not the case. I still think it’s a good app that really provides a lot of benefit for tracking on the move.
If you're based in the US, you could try ‘Mike’s Macros’, which is more geared towards the US market. It has some cool features that I find pretty useful. And on the plus side it’s 100% free, with no paid version.And there’s also My Macros +. This costs $2.99 as a one off fee. Again, there are some neat features that seemed targeted at the downsides of MFP. For example, MFP only allows you to log Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Snacks. It doesn’t let you add specific pre and post workout meals for instance. My Macros+ lets you add an infinite number of meals which is really useful.The best advice I can give you is start out with one of the free ones and see what works for you. MFP allows me to view the foods logged by clients, which is why it's become the app of choice for me. But if that’s not a requirement for you then shop around.When all's said and done, whatever app you decide to download, track those calories as you hop from restaurant to restaurant. Adjust what you eat throughout the day based on how many calories you have left.
The Perfect Travel Diet - Step 5: Guess your calories
There’s always going to be times when you’re faced with eating foods that you can’t find in a tracking app and there’s no nutritional information available to you.Well, in this scenario your best bet is to simply guess. And you might not be as far off as you might think.Because after you’ve been following a nutrition programme for a period of time you’ll start to understand weights and volumes of food by eye. For example, the average chicken breast weight around 200-220g uncooked. So if a chicken breast appears on your plate, you’ve got a start point to work from.You then need to factor in the cooking process and the additional calories that will bring. If you’re in a fancy restaurant, it’s likely they’ll be cooking with oil and butter. Both of which are adding calories (particularly fat) to your meal.Then there’s the sauce. Depending on what sauce you have, it could be very carb or fat dominant (or both). Again, a conservative estimate in these cases will always be better than nothing.Another good tip when you’re in a restaurant is opt for high protein options from the menu and keep the carb choices to a minimum. Stock up on those salads and veggies to reduce the calorie count and offset some of those added fats and carbs that will be unavoidable.The main thing to remind yourself is ‘don’t panic’. The fact you can’t track your macros to the exact gram is not the end of the world. Have a guess based on what you know already and be conservative. I guarantee you won’t be far off the mark.
The Perfect Travel Diet - The Secret Step 6: Don’t track your calories
Yep, you read that right, you don’t have to track your diet at all. Because, if you’re on holiday with the family then what could be worse than obsessing about macros all the damn time?Imagine yourself at a lovely restaurant by the beach with the family for dinner. Waves gently crashing in the background. And the sun setting slowly in the distance. But the awesome setting is lost on you as all you’re interested in is grilling the waiter on how much protein is in the paella. And what oil they use to fry the sea bass.The fact you’ve worked hard over the last few weeks and months is all the more reason for you to relax and unwind. Now that doesn’t mean you should eat your body weight in ice cream. But it does mean that if you want the ice cream to cool yourself down while site seeing, then go for it.
So ditch MyFitnessPal for a week and stop tracking those calories. The mental break from dieting and tracking calories will more than likely do you some good.
And you don’t have to go to the complete extreme of being reckless and binging for a week. Be smart about your food choices and how much of them you have. Because I guarantee you won’t be as far off your normal calories if you do.
Staying on track without tracking anything
Stick to high protein / low fat options whenever they’re available. Because the high protein options will serve two purposes.Firstly, focusing on protein will mean you’ll be there or thereabouts with your protein intake for the day even though you won’t actually be tracking anything.Secondly, protein is going to give you that fuller feeling for longer. So, a protein filled breakfast will reduce the risk of you being tempted to reach for those high calorie snacks before lunch.For example, at breakfast opt for things like omelettes (egg white versions if you really want) and meats. Both are good choices. In terms of carbs, fresh fruit is always a winner, as are oats and cereal.As you won’t tracking your food, avoiding the greasy fried food, like hash browns, sausages and the like will serve you well. Because they’re likely to come with a ton of tag along fats from the cooking process, which will push the calorie count through the roof. However, the odd transgression is no big issue. So don’t beat yourself up if a stray sausage makes its way onto your plate.And the same principle applies to lunch and dinner. As I mentioned before, pick the high protein options, try to limit fats, and focus on fresh fruit, vegetables, and meat. But don’t worry about the little diversions.
The Perfect Travel Diet - The Final Word
So whether you’re travelling to Disney World with the kids or on a business trip to Dubai there are some simple strategies you can use to stay on track.The most important thing is having the freedom to enjoy yourself without feeling restricted and anxious about being away from your meal prep comforts.These 5 travel diet tips will keep you as close to on track as you’ll ever be. Follow these and that vacation need not be the nightmare you think it will be.And all you need to remember is the sequence:PackBuyPlanTrackGuess(I wish that spelt out a cool acronym. Sadly it doesn’t).More importantly than those 5 tips is the secret 6th tip. And that’s “you don’t need a travel diet”. If you’re enjoying a well earned break in the sun with the family, then who cares about counting calories and macro tracking apps anyway? After all, how much damage can you really do in a week or so? If you get back on track when you get back, in 3-4 weeks it'll be like it never happened.So think of the bigger picture. Enjoyment and life experience is a massive benefit that you shouldn’t ignore. You might find that a travel diet isn't even needed.
Need help getting set up?
Now, if that all seems a bit overwhelming and confusing, don't panic. I want to help you get the perfect nutrition plan that gets you to your goals and is full of foods you love. And if that sounds good then I've got a free online nutrition workshop you can register for by clicking the image below. In the workshop I'll walk you through the exact approach I use with all my clients to achieve great results. And it's also the approach I use to build my own physique.By the end of the workshop, you'll have everything you need to achieve some fantastic results. And all without selling your soul to plain chicken and rice for every meal.So if that sounds good, just click on the image below and register for free.Simon - IPF