Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Wellness Wednesday - Travel Food

Yep... Travel food... It could mean fine dining and five star restaurants but if you're on a budget does that mean you're resigned to fast food and crappy meals? No! If you saw my post last Monday you know I was recently at the national Conference on Volunteering and Service in Atlanta, GA. I wanted to share my yummy meals along with a few of the ways I was able to still eat reasonably healthy food without breaking the bank.

f2o stands for Fresh to Order. We found this hidden gem in the food court of the CNN Center. Their breakfast menu has breakfast sandwiches (like the one I got), omelets, and a few other options. My sandwich came with some colorful potatoes that were delicious and there weren't so many you felt like you were eating a whole field. I also got a free coffee with my meal which was lovely considering the lines for coffee elsewhere were a little out of control. (That's what happens early in the morning when a conference is in town.)

I didn't want to eat a big breakfast every day and we found that the Morsels coffee shop in our hotel (the Omni Hotel at CNN Center) had a wonderful local Greek yogurt. Atlanta Fresh Greek yogurt is locally made in small batches and has no chemicals or preservatives. Both Amy and I tried this wonderful peach ginger flavor and it kind of tastes like a peach cobbler. YUM! So good, so simple, and probiotics which are great when your traveling to help keep your gut in good working order.

Fresh to Order became a staple for us for a quick and healthy lunch. I tried a sandwich one day and soup and salad another and was pleased with everything we tried. The portions were great, the food was fresh, and everything tasted amazing. I did end up getting two croissant things every time since Amy couldn't eat hers but otherwise pretty healthy overall. Lesson learned, don't knock it just because it's in a food court. There may be hidden gems there.

One thing I thought to do, that I will continue to do in the future, is bring these great little packets of coffee with me. It was both a money saving thing and a calorie saver. I figured hotel rooms tend to have little coffee machines so I could make some hot water and have coffee anytime I wanted to without paying for multiple expensive cups of coffee during the day. Plus, if I hit up a Starbucks or other comparable coffee shop I tend to end up having extra calories if I order a specialty drink. This packet of coffee is from our local Asian store Ocean Mart but even Starbucks has instant coffee and drink packets if you have a favorite brew.

Finally, I have found that even in an airport you don't have to give in to crappy, overpriced, fast food. Now, I get it that not every airport is created equal and in some smaller airports you may have no choice but to eat fast food or bring your own. In those cases I do always have granola bars, nuts, or other healthy snacks packed so I can wait until I am at my destination to get a meal. My dinner at the Chicago Midway Airport was from Taylor Street Market. We were late getting to Chicago because of weather and were delayed leaving for Utah so we had plenty of time to eat. We found a spot to sit while we charged our phones and I decided to give this place a try. They had a variety of salads and paninis and I went with the vegetable panini with sweet potato chips and a coconut water. Overall it wasn't the best sandwich of my life but it was still pretty good and a better option that a fast food chain.

Here are the top 3 things I took from this trip:
  1. Know your budget. If you are traveling for work and getting reimbursed for your expenses know what you can get reimbursed for so you don't go over that amount. You may have to vary what you're eating every day or bring a few things to supplement your meals so you don't break the bank but if you know up front what you can spend you can be prepared so you don't live eating off a dollar menu. I kept my spending reasonable by having a big breakfast one day but having a smaller breakfast of yogurt and coffee for two other days.
  2. Know yourself. I was traveling with Amy who is gluten free. In order to make sure she always has something to eat she brings apples, bananas, crackers, and other snacks that she knows are safe to eat. I know I enjoy an afternoon coffee so I brought packets of coffee to make my own in the afternoon. If you have specific dietary needs or things you like to have every day make sure you bring that with you. I didn't have to make a run to find a grocery store because I came with the snacks I knew I'd want.
  3. Be open to new things. Sure you can stick with a tried and true chain restaurant but sometimes trying new things can lead to finding some great local options. We talked to the concierge in our hotel and then finally just decided to try f20 but you could easily ask someone you meet at a conference who's local, look online for reviews on sites like Yelp, or try the recommendation of your favorite TV chef.
Overall I was quite happy with our food options on this trip and felt like the food choices I made paired with the amount of walking I did kept my health goals in check.

What do you do when you're traveling? Do you travel to eat or do you just scrape by when you're away from home? Do you have any tips on eating healthy when you're traveling?

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