Eating Healthy When Traveling for Work
The typical “social business diet” takes a toll on the heart, a new study has found.
According to the US Department of Transportation, Americans make more than 405 million long-distance business trips per year. Those that travel for work are more likely to have less-than-ideal diets, including eating too much red meat, drinking too many sugary beverages, and relying on processed foods to get by until the next stop.
Past research suggests that eating home prepared meals leads us to an overall healthier diet. This makes sense, as we can control the amount of fat, salt and other ingredients we put into our food. Making meals from scratch also means more fresh ingredients, and therefore less reliance on processed foods.
But what about those that must travel for a living? Running to an airplane, it is tempting to grab a sugary coffee and hot pastry for a quick breakfast. Road commuters may stop at a local convenience store for a quick bite during a long drive, which usually means salty processed foods such as chips and a soft drink. And of course, if you are on the company’s tab for dinner, you may find yourself splurging on a thick steak, loaded baked potato, and a nightcap before heading to the hotel for the evening.
"This business diet is really very bad," says Dr. Valentin Fuster, a professor of cardiology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in NYC. "It hits the arteries hard, and strongly contributes to cardiovascular disease risk, the world's number one killer."
Per the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease causes more than 17 million deaths worldwide each year. The best diet for lowering disease risk includes increasing consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and minimizing the intake or red meat, sweets and alcohol.
HealthyToWork.org, a wellness campaign created by The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, offers some great tips for dealing with tough food choices while traveling.
• In the airport: If you are able, eat at home before you leave to minimize temptation out of hunger. Bring your own non-perishable snacks to eat while you wait and on the plane. If you haven’t planned ahead, look for the airport grocery to find yogurt and granola, fruit, vegetables and hummus, or a freshly made deli sandwich (hold the excess mayo and cheese).
• On the Road: Many larger convenience stores are beginning to stock more healthful options to eat so that you can avoid the drive through. Again, look for stores that offer freshly made foods versus sandwiches that have been sitting on a shelf for several days. Opt for water or other unsweetened beverage rather than a soda or sugary sports drink.
• Breakfast at the Hotel: If your hotel has a buffet, look for fruit and yogurt, granola or unsweetened oatmeal, and hard boiled eggs (for protein). Avoid the sweet cereals, full-fat milk, donuts and pastries and pancakes/waffles. If there is an omelet station, ask for a veggie omelet with no meat or cheese.
• At a Conference: Most often, these gatherings have plenty of high calorie choices (pastries, bagels). You may want to plan ahead and pack your own snacks to get you through the meeting without feeling hungry.
• Lunch: Keep lunch simple by ordering grilled chicken salad or a grilled sandwich (not fried). Starting off your meal with a broth-based soup is a good way to extend the meal without adding a significant amount of calories or fat. Skip the offer of a dessert and drink plenty of water.
• Dinner: Eating out with clients? It is okay to splurge a little, but remember that a serving of meat is only 3 ounces – about the size of your palm. Don’t try to tackle the largest steak on the menu. Instead have a small portion, eat a salad with a low-calorie dressing, and fill the rest of your plate with vegetables. Push the bread basket closer to your dining companions to reduce temptation. And pass on the offer for dessert.
• After Dinner: Yes, you have had a long day and you just want to unwind. However, you may find that a stroll through a local park might be just the thing for stretching out your travel-tired muscles. And bonus – it will burn off some of the extra calories you have eaten today.
Aug. 15, 2016, Journal of the American College of Cardiology, online
US Department of Transportation, Bureau of Travel Statistics
By Greg Goebel [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons