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Eating While Traveling: How to do it Despite the Challenges

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

I used to not eat when I traveled.

There's a lot of logical reasons why eating while traveling is hard. The food available is often expensive, not to mention with a limited selection. So then one might decide to bring food but snacks take up space and its hard to bring foods that need to stay cold.

To someone trying to eat "the right way," these factors can add more chaos to an already confusing food-landscape. Everywhere we go, we can find an argument for why you should not eat this or that food. Even fruits and vegetables, food that used to be the most obvious "healthy" choice, have targets on their backs. Adding the challenge of inconvenience to this already mixed-messages landscape can tip this challenge to be overwhelming.

Today we'll explore how to stay nourished while traveling even though these addition barriers exist and we'll look at each factor one at a time. If you just want to know what to eat, feel free to skip the exploration.



​Food is often expensive

is food worth the resource?

Limited selection

is there a good vs bad food dynamic?

Snacks take a lot of room

is food worth the resource?

Foods must be non-perishable

is there a good vs bad food dynamic?

I'm seeing a pattern.

Is food worth the money/space/time/energy resource?

I ask this very genuinely. Not everyone has the same access to all of these resources and some of us have to make very hard choices on a daily basis. That said, for many people, regardless of their access to resources, they put food on the back-burner because, "I can do without" or "I can afford to not eat" or "The cost of me eating out-weighs the cost of me not eating." (For the record, unless you have a food allergy, I would be hard-pressed to find a situation in which this last statement is true.)

Of course I have an exercise for this:

  1. Imagine a young person or animal in your life whom you love, got it?

  2. Would you say any of the above statements to this other being?

  3. If no, what would you say instead? Say that to yourself.

Is there a good vs bad food dynamic?

If this question feels unfair, I get it. For people who have food allergies, medical diagnosis that requires certain foods, or sensory sensitivities; this question wouldn't be fair to ask. There are even plenty of people who's preferences are not honored in most airports, trains, or travel-hubs.

But for people who have grown-up with diet culture's instruction saying "healthy" or "good food" means fresh, high fiber, low-carb, low-sugar, low-fat, or whatever else the fads are saying; the good vs bad food dynamic-question is for you. All food provides nutrients. I'll say it again: ALL FOOD PROVIDES NUTRIENTS.

ANOTHER EXERCISE: If this statement is hard to accept at face-value, consider what foods you learned were "bad" foods.

  1. What does not-consuming these foods save you from?

  2. If you didn't eat these foods for the rest of your life, does that guarantee safety from this outcome?

  3. What else can lead you do this outcome?

Food has impact but it also has limits. Other things, including chronic stress, negatively impact our wellbeing. If avoiding "bad" foods is causing you chronic stress, it might be worth reconsidering this strategy.

In moments where eating "bad" food resulted in immediate adverse reactions, I have a theory. Sometimes when we are hungry and we only have access to one food group, we have more of that one food group than we needed. Our bodies let us know by getting a headache, stomach ache, or providing some other kind of unpleasant feedback. That doesn't mean the food was bad or didn't provide us with nourishment, it just means we needed more variety. We needed that food plus something else.

Of course, there's an activity for this as well.

  1. Write down 5-6 foods you might find while traveling or could pack, preferably foods that you're neither allergic nor intolerant toward.

  2. Of the six food groups, assign each food to one of these: grains/carbohydrate, proteins, fats, fruits, vegetables. Every food, even something like M&M's, belong to a food group and every food group, provides some kind of nutrient.

  3. Consider choosing a few items from each food group, making sure AT LEAST one of them is a grain/carbohydrate, protein, or fat source. That's your list!

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