How to Hack Your Health While You Travel - By Kim Shackleford

| Laura Jones

For most people traveling includes going out to eat. This means usually you will be choosing from the standard American diet.

Does the convenience of each of those meals outweigh the degree to which our health and performance are negatively affected?

Probably not.

We usually leave feeling bloated, tired and wishing we had not indulged. Ingredients that are not supposed to be consumed at all are lurking in generous amounts in restaurant food.

  • Hydrogenated Oils
  • Poor Quality Fats
  • Chemical Sweeteners
  • Hydrolyzed Proteins
  • Preservatives
  • Additives
  • Bulking Agents

I wish I could say it was easy, but unfortunately, it takes some strategies. It also takes a dose of practical understanding of nutrition. Set yourself up for success from the beginning and plan ahead. Know when and where your major pitfalls will come so that you can plan to avoid them. Aim for 80% and realize if you have the bulk of your snacks and meals thought through, it actually eases the load and creates a huge impact on your health.


This four-letter word might be difficult and make some of you sigh.

Your hard work at home won’t be sabotaged because you will design a travel plan. If you want to be successful and stay on a program that increases performance and vitality while on the road, you have to think ahead and not assume gas stations, airports, and hotels are going to have those raw nuts or grass-fed meats you have grown accustomed to.

Think about the potential obstacles you might face and come up with solutions ahead of time – like pack an emergency food container, research healthy restaurants and markets at your destination, alert those people that will be around at the events about your new foodie lifestyle. A little planning will go a long way.

I do not feel guilty anymore about following through with my nutrition while others find excuses to eat Mcdonald's.

  • Bring snacks. I travel with a lunchbox stainless steel food container. I load this up with Paleo-friendly snacks like beef jerky, organic raw almonds and macadamia nuts with added sea salt, berries, and dark chocolate. When I’m running low, I head to the local health food store to replenish.
  • Eat a big meal before you travel. If I have a long travel day, I’ll make sure to have a healthy breakfast and/or lunch before getting in the car or on the plane. Then I’ll just eat the snacks in my lunchbox while traveling. This saves me from terrible airport food or drive-through placebo meals. Ha!
  • Plan in advance. I typically choose hotels that have at least a kitchenette, and preferably a full kitchen. While I may not have time to shop and prepare full meals, this allows me to at least have hot tea and keep my baked chicken and sandwich condiments refrigerated. I also choose hotels based on the menu of their restaurant, or the proximity of other restaurants I’ve checked out nearby. That way, I don’t get myself into a situation where I’m starving and the only thing available to eat is the worst case scenario.

I recommend preparing as much of your own food as possible. Using a cooler in your car is the best nutritional asset ever. In the overall view, making your own food saves you time and money, plus you will be assured of what is actually in your food. The reality is being prepared truly reduces stress.

Investigate beforehand. For long trips figure out your accommodations and where you are. Some of the above sites will help find what restaurants, groceries, meet the criteria. The first choice is always to find a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's and go to the hot food section or make a sandwich with bib lettuce. Otherwise, most grocery stores carry rotisserie chicken and a salad.

Always Have Emergency Food

I recommend traveling and having an emergency food pack at home. This almost guarantees you won't make disastrous food choices. This will help you stay out of trouble in the vast convenience stores and stay away from junk food poison that awaits the unprepared.

I’ve listed some of my favorite snacks to take on the road below. I never leave home without these:

  • I am not a huge fan of bars but know for most people they are necessary for travel and emergency snacks. You can grab Larabars!!!
  • Organic grass-fed beef jerky.
  • Trail mix (several recipes in your meal plans or make your own based on our information ( nuts, seeds, coconut, 75% to 80% dark chocolate etc).
  • Fresh fruit: apples, berries, banana (nut butter packets are awesome with fruit).
  • Vegetables: carrots, celery, green peppers or sliced whatever you like with hummus or guacamole etc or alone.
  • Hard Boiled eggs with sea salt are portable.

You’ll see that most of them include some form of fat because healthy dietary fat is satiating and prevents me from reaching for bad stuff. Plus for sports performance, your healthy fats are your long-burning energy.

Eating Healthy at Restaurants

  1. The first trick to staying safe at most restaurants is eating satiating foods beforehand, skipping less than ideal, though sometimes very tasty, restaurant foods.
  2. Do not be starving when you arrive.
  3. If your friends ask, you’re not hungry but enjoy their company. If you really want to eat with them, eat some steamed veggies or a salad with lemon, clear vinaigrette dressings.
  4. If you are choosing the place, try a clean restaurant with deep sea fish options, obviously prepared baked, steamed, light sauteed, or grilled. chicken. If you like sushi, stick to sashimi, simple rolls with topped fish nigiri. Skip the sauces, tempura etc.
  5. Do not be shy about asking questions, just tell them you are sensitive to gluten and sugar.
  6. Ask about the preparation.
  7. Always ask if the entree is fried or breaded because somehow there have been times I missed the descriptions and when it arrives I am shocked… but it could have been easily avoided!!!
  8. Be informed. Look at the menu and outline gluten-free items, substitutions, and how the food is prepared. That way, when you arrive, hungry and stressed, you can decide the best choices instead of making unhealthy decisions in the moment.
  9. Ask if they have whole butter and sautéed vegetables.
  10. The most valuable trick: Don’t eat an entire portion.
  11. You must ask questions about your meal but you must also be careful of eating what the restaurant feels is a sensible portion size. All restaurants have portion inflation which is why splitting entrees could be ideal.
  12. There is something psychologist call the ‘completion compulsion’. For the sake of costs and waste, you feel you must eat the entire plate. You can save it for later, or believe that eating food you do not need is a different form of waste. Eating unhealthy food isn’t worth the price you pay for your health.
  13. Appetizers are the new entrée.
  14. Beverages are the enemy. We don’t realize the amount of sugar we are drinking in any drink besides water or unsweet tea. Drinks are empty of nutrients.
  15. Condiments.
  16. Lemon is your friend.
  17. Choose mustard, extra virgin olive oil, or vinegar instead of sauces and dressings.
  18. Absolutely do not let the wait staff leave tempting items on the table ever. Beware of bread!
  19. Eggs are key. It’s a very nutrient dense protein and most places will allow you to order a series of sides. You can always have eggs poached and again ask for whole butter.
  20. Eating a lot of plants and beans are a great option!!!


As we all understand, our meat quality in restaurants can be detrimental in so many ways to our health with hormones, processing, conditions of animals, pesticide herbicides and GMO feed the animal eats.

If you have a lot of healthy type of meat and fish poultry at home, again eat some before you go and make baked chicken and turkey sliced for sandwiches!!!

Know that eating the meat at a restaurant, unless its local, organic, etc. is not a good idea.

If you must, eat lean cuts that don’t have a lot of hidden toxins in the animal’s fat!!!

Other Tips to Keep in Mind While Traveling

Always make sure you are eating whole foods.

Focus on finding the right restaurants and be the one in charge of that. Stay gluten and dairy free.

Keep emergency, nonperishable snack food with you at all times.

You have to plan ahead. You have to pack before you leave. (Worst case: Take a few snacks and find some grocery stores when you first arrive at your destination.)

Always, always bring your first meal with you for the airplane – this is super easy. By the way, do not use aluminum foil since it will set off the X-Ray alarm.

Always order a meal for the flight home to carry with you on the plane or in the car.

Find a good restaurant and get a carry out before you are driving back on the road.

Always have a cooler and top it off with ice!

A major key is to always bring sandwiches! I always cook a turkey breast and have Ezekiel bread or Raw Organic Coconut Wraps. If you do not plan and bring sandwiches find some choice restaurants identify them before you leave and plan to stop. The best app on your smartphone is called iExit which shows you how far away you are from your restaurant of choice. If you have to do quick put in chipotle, for example, check the box and it will tell you when the restaurant shows up.

Caffeine – bring your own organic green or black tea bags, and stop for hot water at gas stations. If you’re going to need heavy doses of caffeine, go with organic coffee for travel.

Panera’s Secret Menu

Panera has a secret hidden menu that isn’t on the banners or menu board called “power meals”. For example, the power breakfast egg bowl with steak and power Mediterranean roasted turkey salad. You have to ask for it!!! Click here for the secret menu.

More Resources

I have included a link to the best website with all the info you could ever need for travel. It has over 25,000 hand-picked restaurants, farms, markets and other sources: local sustainable food. This is a major help for in town and out of town!!

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