As you know I’ve been writing here many times about how to optimize your diet and health, cooking your own food as much as you can and how to source your food.
This is all great until you have to travel somewhere for more than one day, either for work or for pleasure.
In a world that is flatter and smaller, traveling, especially for work purpose, has become a way of life and the routine for many of us. What then? How can you maintain a healthy diet when you’re out of your normal environment without a kitchen?
what to do in food black holes which are most of the airports in America (although that’s changing)?
These are very good questions. Before I’ll try to answer these questions let me start by two basic assumptions you should remember:
- It’s not going to be ideal. You’re out of your normal familiar environment so don’t expect to have your ultimate individualized diet to be available. If you can be 80% in your diet zone – it’s good enough.
- Don’t use traveling as an excuse. It doesn’t mean that all guidelines for good eating fly out the window. Not even at the airport.
I used to get stressed before every trip, especially before long flights. The good news is that in recent years airports have started to offer some dining options that even a food fanatic like me would consider legit. The not so good news is that this is a very slow process and it is very depended on what airport you’re traveling through.
Since I leave in San Francisco I can testify that SFO, by far, offers the best food options I know. Not all terminals in SFO, but some offer food that is actually good quality, well-prepared food in all levels – not just for an airport.
But this is San Francisco. Unfortunately, in most airports, Chillies and McDonald’s are still the norm. Assuming you’re a person who wouldn’t set a foot in these places – you might have a problem.
On the plane itself, the situation can be even worse. The biggest challenge is medium length flights of 5-6 hours. Flights from west to east coast destinations or vise versa are a good example. In these flights the food if served at all, will be the kind you want to avoid.
When it comes to longer transatlantic flights meals tend to be more edible: again that depends a lot on the airline. Recently I had the chance to fly a long flight with Turkish Airlines and the food was surprisingly good and fresh.
In my experience, American airliners are the worse when it comes to food quality. The preheated tasteless “chicken” or “beef” lying under some unidentifiable sauce is an option. It’s not going to kill you but you can also avoid it.
So here are some tips I use when I travel.
- Bring your own food. The best and most obvious thing to do, especially for shorter trips and for two reasons. First, in shorter flights, the meals that are served are usually the kind you don’t want to eat whether they’re free or not. Besides, why would you pay 7-8 dollars for some commercial chemical-laden crackers and cheese? The second reason is that short trips allow you to not worry about your food getting spoiled or being squashed for too long in your bag. So invest in yourself. Make your favorite meal, box it and eat it on the plane. The guy with the crackers next to you will give you envy looks.
- Bring easy to-deal-with foods – If you’re not going to prepare a proper meal for your trip, bring some foods that don’t demand too much preparation. Nuts, seeds, fruit (bananas are my favorite flight food) are ideal, but also olives and some good quality piece of hard cheese are great.
- Don’t eat. That’s right – just don’t eat. Trips are a great opportunity to give your digestive system a rest. This is also an opportunity to get in touch with something that most of us rarely experience but it’s one of the most basic and primal experiences we have – hunger. We leave in a reality where food is always available everywhere and anytime. Once in a while, Putting your body in a controlled state of stress caused by hanger is not a bad thing. A lot has been said about the metabolic benefits of fasting or intermittent fasting. Don’t worry – you’re not going to starve to death. Meditate with the feeling and learn to be in peace with the state of an empty stomach.
- Look for simple foods – let’s say you haven’t had the time to prepare your own food. You have a 6-hour trip ahead of you and you are in an airport that doesn’t offer much more than the usual big junk food names. If fasting is not an option and you feel like you have to eat, do a little research. walk bit and investigate the food options. If you look hard enough you’ll find stores selling fruits like bananas and apples and maybe some raw nuts. These simple foods will sustain you for the next few hours.