Thursday, December 1, 2011

Road warrior eats: good choices on a per diem

Staying within the per diem - and feeling great! Photo courtesy of Sprout Savvy
Most of you road warriors cope with increasingly stringent (and complicated) per diem rules, even before making a decision to go healthy. So, is it possible to stay within the per diem without being driven to breakfast burritos and Big Macs? Yep. Here are a few quick tips.

For insights from the experts, check out the Travel to Wellness site. These are unofficial 'staying healthy' lessons from my experiences (just a few quick thoughts - not complete guidance):

  • Keep up the exercise, even if it's in smaller segments. Pack resistance bands (the TSA won't eye you suspiciously) and watch the news while working out in your hotel room. Hit the pool and gym; avoid rush hour at the gym so you can ensure your fave equipment is available.
  • Smaller food portions with frequent noshing on healthy choices will keep your energy level higher and more consistent on the road.
  • Water, water everywhere. We dehydrate more when we travel. Often your system thinks it's hungry when it's actually thirsty. Keep your supply of drinking water replenished throughout the day.  
  • Stay at hotels with breakfast included if possible. If they don't have continental plus (which includes fruit/yogurt/cereals), get your breakfast at a nearby supermarket or local takeaway diner. Opt for a mix of plain yogurt, granola (not too much!), fresh fruit and a teaspoon of honey to balance the yogurt. 
  • If it's a full breakfast, nix the carbs (oatmeal is ok if you work out) or do a veggie omelet. And if you can bear it (read: discipline yourself), eliminate the cheese and top with salsa. 
  • Don't skip breakfast when traveling - make sure you have your Power Meeting Snack (see below) as your secret energy weapon.It will keep you away from that huge tray of pastries.  
  • Seek out restaurants offering regular-size and smaller portions. Opt for something like a small baby spinach salad with grilled chicken, dressing on the side. Pat yourself on the back for eating right and spending less.
  • Stop in at Subway for one of the low-fat yummy subs, or Panera Bread for a great salad. Both are wallet and waist friendly.
  • Catered lunch? No worries. Pile on the salad or deconstruct a sandwich to enjoy turkey/lettuce/tomato. Or, have the mozzarella with grilled eggplant and sun-dried tomato (mozzarella is a lower fat cheese). 
  • Do your research ahead of time. Categorize lists for quick/cheap meals vs. locations for entertaining clients or business partners. Don't be afraid to ask for your meal to be prepared in a healthy way (steamed/grilled).  
  • Many cities around the world are 'high cost' or 'international' per diem allowances. When you're not entertaining clients/colleagues/partners, you can get a reasonably healthy and cheap meal at many local places (look for bustling hole-in-the-wall places).
  • Being social is great, but beware of the trap of the friendly bar where you could end up ordering evil things.  Yes, wings are always evil even if they are chicken (let's review: they are usually fried, fatty skinned, served with a selection of deceptively calorie popping sauces and then finished off with an irresistible big dip in bleu cheese dressing). Instead, consider ordering a 'to-go' and then socialize while you're waiting for your food, or order ahead for pick-up.  
  • When you're with colleagues, see if one of them would like to split an entree with you so you each get a reasonable portion at a lower cost.
  • Every road warrior likes an adult beverage every now and then, but even a heart healthy glass of red wine adds "empty" calories. No need to avoid cocktails, just remember that they come with more than a simple "buzz." In a word: moderation.
The Power Meeting Snack:
  • Pack a supply of lean protein bars in your briefcase or backpack as rescue food during unpredictably long hours. Sneak it in during a break and drink twice the water you think you need.
  • Have raw unsalted almonds on hand in one-ounce portions in little zip bags. Enjoy during a break and drink twice the water you think you need.
(hey, is there a theme in here?)

Late Night Danger:

You're parked at the desk in your hotel room. Time to catch up on email, and you're pooped. Your feet hurt. Your tummy growls. You think you might be hungry. Make some of that decaf tea, drink more water, and stay away from the minibar. Don't even look at those goodies you received from sponsors or vendors (unless it's good fruit, preferably not grapes). Nibble on a few of those almonds and feel great about your choice.  

... and did I mention you should drink more water than usual? When you hydrate during these meetings, you will be more alert and energetic and perhaps even the session's star participant.

What are YOUR travel healthy tricks? How do you stay in budget while making healthy decisions?
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  1. love it! my only trick is- eat jamba juice every chance i get. delicious and healthy. mmmmm.

  2. Not a business road warrior, but you know we road trip A LOT with the girls. We hit Costco in advance for healthy snacks for all of us. We pack a cooler with soda, water, drinkable yogurt and string cheese. If we need a hotel we stay at places that have a full breakfast so that we can all start our day out FULL and with good stuff. Residence Inn's usually have that yogurt mix with the fresh fruit and a little granola and I get it every time. They also have eggs and milk which is great for us to have for the girls.
    Really if you have good choices on hand you are less likely to grab the bad stuff.


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