“The belly rules the mind.” ~Spanish Proverb
If you are someone who has to travel for business, you know how tough it can be to find the kind of food you want while on the road, especially in an airport. It’s hard to eat well when every meal is out and you don’t have access to cooking facilities and/or a refrigerator. Depending upon the length of a trip it can really have an impact on the way you feel and your performance.
Unlike vacation, when I travel for business, my schedule is usually very full and does not allow time for a nap. I also usually need to be extremely alert from early in the morning until late into the evening. So the decisions that I make about what to eat are really important to me so that I am not struggling to stay awake and focused during the day.
I find that being a cook and understanding how certain foods affect me is especially beneficial when I’m away for business. Here are some tips for when you need to be on the road.
- Pack some nuts and dried fruit: Since I’m not always sure that I can get the kind of meals I like, always bring a big container of a mix of nuts and fruit with me. I like a mix that is more nuts than fruit; it’s not too much sugar, contains protein, carbohydrates and fat and gives me energy to get through my day. This way I always have something nourishing and delicious to eat when I’m hungry whether I’m at the airport, in between breakfast and lunch or at that 3-4:00 period. I always bring enough to share with others and they are often surprised how they are satisfied by this rather than an afternoon cookie. My current favorite mix is almonds, walnuts, pistachios and raisins.
- If you don’t see what you want on the menu, try to create it: On day 3 of a recent trip, another mediocre salad was not going to satisfy me for lunch. I really wanted the fish tacos but the fish was fried and I didn’t want it that way. I asked the waitress if they would pan sear the fish instead. She looked at me kind of funny at first, said she would ask and came back with the tacos as I requested them. Remember there’s no harm in asking, if you don’t see what you want, try to create it from what’s there.
- Be aware of hidden additives: One meal we had while I was away was at a Chinese Restaurant. I like going to Chinese Restaurants when I’m traveling because it’s usually a good opportunity to get some flavorfully prepared fresh vegetables. But I am always very specific. For starters, I ask if the restaurant uses MSG, often the answer is yes. I emphasize that I don’t want it with a please, please, please don’t use any MSG because I know that I’ll be sleeping within minutes of finishing my meal. Then I ask what kind of sauces they have and I can adjust from there. A favorite of mine is Shrimp with Broccoli in a White Sauce with added fresh ginger and scallion.
- Don’t eat foods that you know won’t work for you. This is something that is going to be different for everyone and it’s typically by trial and error that we find out what it is for ourselves. For me, a big one is white sugar, mix it with white flour and it gets worse. At a recent event, the host very sweetly served brownies to the participants during a break. It was around 3:00 in the afternoon and we were returning for a late afternoon and evening session. The brownies looked beautiful and everyone was raving about them. I personally, was not even tempted to have a bite. It wasn’t because I don’t like chocolate because I love chocolate, it wasn’t because I think that they are a “bad” food and it wasn’t because I was afraid that they’d make me fat. It was simply because I knew how I would feel shortly after eating them. I had travelled to the event, put my business on hold, left my family at home and I wanted to be fully present, not struggling to stay awake and foggy later in the day. It was easy for me to say no to the brownies.
- Don’t skip breakfast. Often, when I travel, breakfast is provided at a business event but I can’t always rely on the choices working for my needs. At home, I personally don’t like to eat breakfast until a bit later in the morning but when I’m on a trip and have a morning filled with business I always make sure to have breakfast before I leave my room. I order oatmeal from the breakfast menu, skip the sugar and ask for REAL maple syrup or honey instead and then I add some of my nuts for protein. Make sure that you start the day with something that will support you throughout the morning and don’t hesitate to make special requests to meet your needs.
Business travel is often necessary and some of us need to do it more often than others. It’s really important to take care of ourselves when we’re away from home and it can be challenging to do it. Some creative thinking and awareness around food can make this much easier. If you have questions about any of this, you can email me directly at Randy@TheConsciousPlate.com