Caitlyn ElfWe all know how difficult it can be to eat well while traveling.  New environments, unfamiliar foods, more spontaneity and less structure to your day. The good news: I’ve got 4 simple tips that will help keep you properly fueled wherever your travels may take you.

#1: Stay hydrated.  Your goal should be to have a bottle of water on you at all times; in some cases, that might mean planning ahead.  If you’re traveling in a warm area or going on a particularly active vacation, buy a couple of extra bottles at the airport or a local convenience shop when you land.  A great trick is to throw the bottles on ice or into a freezer for the night to help them to stay cooler for longer the next day. On a recent trip to California, my boyfriend and I decided to hike Runyon Canyon and made sure to fill our water bottles and throw them in the freezer the night before. It was a good thing that we did! We didn’t pass a single water station on our route. A little thoughtful preparation meant that we were still able to stay hydrated and cool and finish the hike without fatiguing.

#2: Pack snacks.  Truth be told, you can never be certain of what you’ll have access to when traveling.  Throw in delays, getting lost, or making last-minute decisions to stay longer than you originally planned; you could find yourself hours away from your next meal. On a trip to Charleston, South Carolina last summer, my boyfriend and I decided to book a kayaking session at Middleton Place shortly after breakfast.  Our plan was to kayak for about an hour or two and then head back into downtown Charleston for lunch; however, once we were out on the water, we reveled in the beautiful day and decided to spend more hours on the water. Luckily, we had packed some homemade trail mix in our water-proof bag and were able to munch on it so that we didn’t have to cut our kayaking short. Other good, packable snacks to rely on:  air-popped popcorn, cheese sticks and whole grain crackers, a piece of fruit with a single-serve packet of peanut butter, or some sliced veggies with a single-serve pack of hummus.  Anything portable and packable with a little protein and some complex carbohydrate will do the trick!

#3: Do a little pre-trip research on what foods might be available at your destination.  This is especially important if you’re a picky eater or going somewhere with an unfamiliar cuisine. I love to look up different local foods and restaurants and will even try to make reservations in advance if I can.  This way, not only do I know where at least a few of my meals will be coming from, but I can pick places that suit my dietary needs. This is also incredibly useful in helping you keep your nutrition on track (and, truth be told, it gives you time to look up those foods that you may never have heard of before!).

#4: Don’t be afraid to experiment.  I’m a firm believer in trying the local, traditional cuisine of wherever you’re visiting.  You’d be surprised at the amount of nutritious offerings you can find to fill your plate!  Try fresh foods you don’t regularly have access to at home, particularly fruits and vegetables, lean protein sources, healthy fats, and whole grains.  You’ll not only expand your palate but you’ll get a nourishing meal and a unique experience while you’re at it!  On a trip to the Caribbean several years ago, I strived to have at least one new food on my plate at every meal. In doing so, I was able to sample things like prickly pears, boniato (a tropical sweet potato), plantains, and chayote squash. Not only was it a great way to fully immerse myself in the local culture, but it also helped keep me my nutrition on track without sacrificing my experience.

When in doubt just remember to opt for fresh, minimally processed foods as much as you can; it is almost always a healthier option than pre-packaged items chock-full of preservatives! And don’t restrict your food choices because you’re not completely familiar with the cuisine or not properly prepared; with a little planning and prep, you can go just about anywhere and keep yourself properly fueled!