Top Tricks to Eating Healthy on the Road

Making healthy decisions when you’re on the road is exhausting. You’ve spent most of the day dodging airborne sneezes on the plane. Lunch on your layover was a choice between a vacuum-sealed croissantwhich or a bag of Doritos. Now you have to fit in a workout at the hotel gym (read: broom closet)? Yeah right.

We get you. Staying healthy on the road is undeniably difficult. But it doesn’t have to be impossible. We’ve compiled the best tips to keep you fit while traveling: from eating healthy on the road, to the best 20-minute hotel room workout.

Smartest Gas Station Snacks

You’ve got a conference in Minneapolis, your rental car is a lemon, and your GPS has lost its signal. But at least there are plenty of gourmet food options along the route, right? Hah. You may have thought a convenience store or rest stop was a nutritious food desert. Wrong. With a little creativity, and willpower to avoid those beguiling candy bars, you can make smarter road trip snack choices in that QuikTrip aisle.

String Cheese

Grab this low-carb snack for some calcium, vitamins, and a few grams of protein.


Packed with protein and low in calories (but high in sodium, so take it easy)

Whole-grain, low- or no-salt pretzels

These kick potato chip’s ass. Higher in fiber, low in salt and hydrogenated oils, and tasty as hell.

Trail Mix

Choose the 2 oz packet with dried fruit (instead of M&Ms) for a healthy dose of energy-sustaining protein, fiber, and healthy fat.

Protein Bars

Choose your protein bar carefully. Most brands are jacked up with sugar and processed ingredients. Dietician Elaine Magee recommends looking for bars that contain 3 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein and less than 35 percent of calories from sugar. Here are our favs:

Luna Bar in Nutz Over Chocolate

Low on the fiber score, but has an excellent ratio of protein to sugar. Plus, this one tastes bomb.
One bar (48 grams weight) contains 180 calories, 10 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, 4.5 grams fat, and 27% calories from sugar.

Odwalla Bar in Peanut Crunch

Odwalla tends to have solid protein and fiber content, but vary widely on sugar. Look for Peanut Crunch, one of the best tasting low-sugar flavors. One bar (62 grams weight) contains 260 calories, 8 grams protein, 3 grams fiber, 7 grams fat, and 26% calories from sugar.

Clif Bar in Cool Mint Chocolate

Clif bars score really well on protein and fiber content. One of Clif’s lowest-sugar flavors is Cool Mint Chocolate: One bar (68 grams weight) contains 250 calories, 10 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, 5 grams fat, and 27% calories from sugar.


Yup, it’s not just for hangovers and Bloody Marys. Full of immune-boosting vitamins A and C, a few grams of protein and fiber, and a kick of potassium (to help lower your blood pressure and/or road rage). Grab the low-sodium variety if available.

Shelled Peanuts / Shelled Sunflower Seeds

A great source of mono and polyunsaturated fats and protein, nuts are excellent for the road weary appetite. In order to curb the inevitable mindless zombie-eyed snacking (anyone else driven across Missouri?), choose nuts in the shell. A little messier, yes, but the extra work of shelling will help you avoid overeating this high-cal snack, and keep you more alert on those long stretches of I-70.


Bananas are like nature’s PowerBar. Full of potassium, energizing natural sugars, and a few grams of fiber, it’s one of the best fruits for getting more energy (and the most likely to find at a convenience store). We love them as a pre-workout snack too!

Carrot Sticks

If you’re lucky you’ll find some snack packs of carrots in the refrigerator case. Throw out the gross ranch dressing dip and chow down on the vitamin A and beta-carotene rich carrots au naturel.

Dried Fruit

Put down those Raisinets and look for a packet of raisins or apricots without the insulin-spiking faux-chocolate coating. A palm-sized serving of dried fruit will deliver a jolt of natural sugars and vitamins to keep your energy and alertness up.

Keep in mind while snacking: one half-cup of dried fruit is equal to one full-cup of fresh fruit .

You know what’s better than gas station snacks? Your own snacks! If you have time to prep some road trip munchies before setting off, it’ll be cheaper and more nutritious. Check this Pinterest board for some ideas.

Ch. 2
Road Warrior Workouts

Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean your muscles have to atrophy. In fact, if you make the effort to squeeze in a workout you’ll be more energized, more resilient to jet lag, and sleep sounder. The nerdy hotties at Nerd Fitness compiled these genius tips for working out anywhere from the rest stop to the hotel lobby.


Steve Kamb of Nerd Fitness

The 20-Minute Hotel Room Workout

So busy you can’t even leave your hotel room? Hotel gym sucks? No park or gym near you? Do a hotel room workout:

  • Squats or lunges

  • Push ups

  • Use the desk for rows

Want more hotel room rows?

Read the full version here: The 20-Minute Hotel Room Workout

The Gas Station Workout

Pull over and do a workout using the side of your car while filling up your gas tank:

  • Jumping jacks or jump rope – one minute

  • Walking lunges – one minute

  • Push ups – one minute

  • Body weight squats – one minute

  • Plank – one minute

See Nerd Fitness’s full post here: Healthy Hacks for Staying FIt on the Road

The Hotel Pool Workout

Make the most of the 10-meter, kidney-shaped hotel pool:


“When there is no pace clock or the size of the pool is just too small, make it a technical set by focusing on drills,” says  Paul Regensburg,  Ironman coach and team manager at  LifeSport.


10 sets of:

  • Single-arm swim with right arm at your side. Swim back easy.
  • Single-arm swim with left arm at your side. Swim back easy.
  • Sculling on back. Swim back easy.
  • Kicking on your side with right arm extended. Swim back easy.
  • Kicking on your side with left arm extended. Swim back easy.
  • Underwater freestyle. Swim back easy.


Don’t want to do drills?

Try a swimming tether.  

This nylon belt with latex tubing allows you to attach yourself to a fixed object, like the swim ladder, and swim in place.

Outside Magazine reviewed Strech Cordz (NZ Manufacturing, $41): “The cord’s elasticity affords a sense of movement, so you can perform your stroke naturally.”

Pack a buoyancy belt.

“This buoyant water belt, such as the AquaJogger (from Excel Sports Science Inc., $40), that lets you work out vertically in the deep end. You can, in effect, run or cross-country ski, taking advantage of water’s resistance — 12 times that of air, yet joint-friendly. Travelers will appreciate that these belts weigh less than a pound and lie flat in virtually any suitcase.”

Book the Right Hotel

Don’t fall prey to the closet-gym or the kidney-pool. If possible, book a hotel room with great fitness facilities. Fit for Business is a search engine that indexes hotels with fitness centers or free access to neighboring health clubs.

Ch. 3
Expense account?

Congrats, baller. Instead of charging the business credit card with $8 minibar peanuts, spend smarter.

  • Order room service breakfast: Instead of eating stale bagels at the the continental breakfast bar, save time by calling ahead and ordering your veggie omelette or oatmeal to your room.


michelle_bridgesWhat I’ll normally do is order my egg white omelette (spinach, mushroom) to come to my room at, say, 7:30. I’ll go and do my training session at 6 a.m. I shower, and by the time I’m ready, my breakfast has turned up. I’m streamlined and staying away from the buffet breakfast.

Michelle Bridges for TravelBreak

Ch. 4
Avoid Alcohol

Sounds like a drag, I know. Anticipate that you’ll be drinking scotch with the shareholders at least one night. So take it easy the rest of the time. Drinking compromises your willpower. Nothing looks better than a plate of trans-fat fried mozzarella sticks after a few too many draughts. You don’t want that in your stomach on tomorrow morning’s flight home.

Ch. 5
Appreciate the Lack of Choice

Time to get zen. Consider this: the lack of choice is actually a good thing.
When you’re committed to staying healthy on the road you’re more likely to plan ahead. You’ll have your snacks packed and your breakfast ordered. Plus, by ruling out fast food and processed snacks, you decrease your decision fatigue (no wasted energy on “Should I eat that conference room donut? Could I splurge at Wendy’s?”), freeing up more willpower and brain energy. As Matt Frazier of the No Meat Athlete writes:

Matt_FrazierI truly believe that being so constrained in my choices is a tremendous blessing in disguise. And I’ve noticed this even when I’m not traveling: having to plan and prepare is the major reason I eat far better as a vegan than I ever did as an omnivore or even a vegetarian.

Here’s to you, road warrior!

May you never run on empty again.

What are your tricks for eating healthy on the road? Share your own tips in the comments below.

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