“You write about eating right, but I travel for work for most part of the month. I’m in a different country every few days. This is my life. Now, how do I eat right while living it?”
Well, eating healthy shouldn’t mean you have to stop living your life. You just have to find some hacks around it. So here are 10 hacks for you, Amitabh! I think they will be equally useful to everyone else.
Eat breakfast like a king…
Always book hotels that offer a good breakfast buffet spread. And by good, I mean the ones where you can see lots of colors and a live egg station. Load up on your macro-nutrients during breakfast and you can be less guilty of those less balanced lunches or dinners.
This is my typical “travel” breakfast:
- 2 servings of fruits
- 1-2 eggs (I would replace eggs with plain yogurt, If I feel like going vegetarian)
- 1 piece of multigrain bread
- 1 serving of oatmeal with some nuts, dates or seeds (if traveling in India, I would probably replace it with a idli or poha or upma)
- And lastly, some warm tea (with a tinge of milk)
I’ve found this breakfast doable in India as well as while traveling abroad.
As they say, well begun is half done.
Drink (right) before you eat (right or wrong)!
My friend, Kaushal Dalal, MD of FireEye India, a frequent work and leisure traveller himself, can be seen sipping water every half hour. His mantra is to drink water before meals, esp. when he is traveling. (If you cannot eat a healthy meal, well, just eat less of it!) Water does make you feel full, so you automatically eat lesser.
My personal hack to that is to drink hot water. (It seems to be China’s go-to beverage and I have yet to come across an out-of-shape Chinese! :)) Hot water stimulates digestion and flushes out toxins, amongst myriad other health benefits.
So, next time before you ask for the menu, ask the waiter for hot water. Don’t worry…the waiter will not look at you weird, unless you are in the US of A!
“Healthy Snacks” does not have to be an Oxymoron
Another friend, Deepak Balakrishna, Founder/CEO of Adya and a bodybuilder by passion, swears by yoga bars as an anytime snack. He carries them to office, to his business trips, to family outings..basically everywhere. These pocket-sized packs offer a nutritionally balanced snack option.
Or try roasted peanuts, chana or makhanas (lotus seeds)! Thanks to the nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar, these old-time classics are back in vogue. And rightfully so! Hmm..but what if you are allergic to nuts? Well, nothing like a cup of yogurt with local fruits or dried fruits. Btw, some dark chocolate now and then, never hurt anyone.
Plan your food (like your itinerary)
Abhishek Goyal and Neha Singh, co-founders of Tracxn Technologies, tell me that they shamelessly carry a 12X12 dabba(lunchbox) to office everyday. It caters to every whim and fancy of their taste buds and nutritional needs throughout the day. Yes, this does need planning and flawless management. (Given how successfully they manage their start-up, I’m guessing it is in their DNA!)
But what about the rest of us, the not-so-meticulous planners?! Deepak recently started ordering his office lunches from a food service called cure.fit. He prefers their athletic lunches which has the right quantity of proteins, carbs and fats, suited for his needs. So even if he misses lunch from home, he doesnt have to miss out on the right lunch!
While you can’t carry your dabba when traveling overseas, you can always follow the Fafat! By that, I mean my cousin, Priya Fafat, who makes digital notes of nearby grocery stores and restaurants (based on type of cuisines, food options(organic, veg-friendly),menu choices) as part of her travel itinerary. The point is…you cannot go hungry or not eat according to your needs, if you travel like her.
When in doubt, fine-dine!
Not just because you want to spend your per-diem in style! 🙂
There are health benefits to eating your dinners at fine-dining restaurants.
- For starters, they are more open to custom orders and special requests. You can ask them to go easy on the oil/cream, replace white rice with brown or even create a new dish per your dietary needs.
- A fine-dining experience inherently involves eating slower and having gaps between your courses. A great way to digest your food!
- And God willing, you should land up in a French restaurant, they take extra care of your health by presenting you with the smallest of portion sizes (Even their menu-pricing is prohibitive to you over-eating!)
- And finally, the setting does add to the joy of dining…releasing your “happy” hormones.
ps. If you can’t fine-dine, go local. Krishna, Kaushal’s wife, insists on eating local cuisine during trips. It invariably lends to a fresher meal; you experiencing different food groups, and opening up your mind to newer tastes…all good for your overall well-being!
Don’t drink empty calories
Any beverage pre-packaged in a bottle or a can (except water) is generally not a healthy drinking choice. Instead try and stick to green teas, black coffee, coconut water or freshly squeezed juices.
But what about those adult drinks? Well, IMO, the above rule of thumb should still apply. But if your business rituals revolve around alcohol, here are some dos and donts:
- Don’t drink on an empty stomach. (There’s a reason why they hand out nuts and olives before your beers! )
- Show a little compassion to your liver…Don’t mix junk food and drinks.
- If you cannot do anything of this, please drink water between your drinks.
- Finally, don’t treat the corporate card as a license to binge drink! (This will serve good for your professional and personal life! :))
Out-Exercise your dinner
According to the Calories in, Calories out (CICO) principle, balance your calories by offsetting your big meals by an equally burly exercise routine. Check out this exercise routine from Ruchika Choudhary, the fitness trainer and nutritionist in our apartment complex. It has been specially designed for busy professionals who may not have access to a gym or lot of time on their hand, during their travels.
Note: Do 5 of these sets in 15 minutes and you should be home free for the rest of the day.
Pack your Vitamins
All said and done, its difficult to always get nutritionally balanced meal when you step outside. I always pack my multi-vitamins when I travel. VitaminB12, Vitamin D3 and Omega 3 supplements are my staples. (alongwith pudinhara for when the meals get too out of balance! ) BTW, “if you are a gym junkie or a serious athlete, make sure you carry your protein powder along with your trainers,” recommends Ruchika.
The secret to “staying” fit: Location, Location, Location
IMO, the best location for a hotel is within walking distance to a grocery store and a jogging track. 🙂
Btw, If you frequent the same city, you should try and stay at the same hotel every time. There are covert benefits to making yourself familiar with the hotel staff. For one, they can get you off-menu items!
Also, it helps to be savvy about local food-tech! Instead of constraining yourself to hotel room service, you can usually order a healthier meal from a freshmenu or a swiggy or even a bigbasket equivalent.
Finally, go easy on yourself!
If you stress too much about eating right all the time, even the right foods will not serve you right. So, enjoy your food and eat in moderation, and it will all work out (with some workout! :)).
A parting note: I wouldn’t have been able to compile this without the tips from my friends. So thank you Kaushal, Krishna, Deepak, Abhishek, Neha, Priya and Ruchika. It seems each one of us has figured out some hack to healthy eating…while traveling or otherwise. So next time, you are having a business dinner, why not use the topic as a conversation starter?! I’m sure it will be a win-win discussion.