Is Business Travel Making You Fat? How to Eat Healthier on the Road
It happens to the best of us. You are making your annual New Year’s Resolution to lose weight and realize that you have a lot more to lose than you thought. This time last year you only wanted to lose ten pounds, and now you need to lose twenty pounds just to get to the weight you were a year ago. You sit back and wonder how this happened. Well, it may be comforting to know, you are not alone.
A study conducted by Extended Stay America in 2014 found 86% of travelers reported gaining an average of 1.5 pounds for each week they were away from home. If you fall into this statistic and spend even 50% of your time on the road, you are looking at potentially gaining 25 pounds over the course of a year.
If you vowed to lose weight while you were traveling for business previously, you may have discovered how difficult it can be to follow a cookie cutter diet plan on the road. Unfortunately, eating all of your meals out is likely the cause of the weight gain. It is possible to avoid gaining weight while you travel, and even lose weight, if you are committed to making the right choices when you dine out.
In fact, if you travel 50% of the time and follow the suggestions below, you can expect to lose weight this year.
10 Tips for Healthier Eating During Business Travel
- Exercise Portion Control: The portion sizes in America are out of control and likely you are overeating because you have been conditioned to clean your plate. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to realize you are no longer hungry, so instead of relying on the “full” message, eat one serving size of each item on your plate. Print out this wallet size guide for future reference. As an example, 1 cup of French Fries is only 10 fries and 182 calories. When is the last time you stopped at 10, instead of finishing off every fry on the plate? Eat 200 calories less per day when you are on the road by following correct serving size guidelines to lose 7 pounds this year.
- Say NO to free cookies: Whether you are traveling on an airline with hot cookies or staring at a tray when you are checking into your hotel, resist the urge to eat them. Skipping two cookies per week will save 5 pounds this year.
- Don’t skip breakfast: While you may not gain weight directly from skipping breakfast, you will feel sluggish and will likely overeat when you sit down for lunch. Studies have shown a direct correlation to skipping breakfast and late afternoon sugar cravings. If you cannot sit down for a hot breakfast at least have a banana with nut butter. Avoiding that daily sweet treat craving at 4:00pm will save up to 15 pounds this year.
- But don’t pig out either: Breakfast should be a healthy balance of lean protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. A great hotel breakfast would include unsweetened oatmeal with nuts on top, eggs, a slice of multigrain toast and fruit. Skip the waffles, pancakes, syrup, sausage, bacon, and pastries. Choose two eggs with a slice of multi-grain toast over 1 waffle with syrup and up to lose 13 pounds this year.
- Keep coffee simple: With the many flavors and toppings that are now available when you order a coffee, it is easy to get carried away. Keep it simple and do not turn your morning latte into a dessert. Choose a Grande latte with skim milk over a whole milk latte and lose 5 pounds this year.
- Order sauces on the side and dip: When you are eating out, always order sauces and dressing on the side. I suggest doing this with condiments on sandwiches and burgers as well. This way you control the amount of dressing/sauce on your food. Dipping your fork into the dressing/sauce then put your food on the fork so you still taste the dressing/sauce but have much less of it. The average ranch dressing serving on top of a salad contains about 300 calories. Dip your fork into the dressing will reduce calories to about 90 saving over 200 calories per salad. If you use the fork dipping method three times per week when you travel you can lose 5 pounds this year.
- Limit liquid calories: Whether you enjoy sweet tea, juice or soda, the liquid calories all count and contribute to your daily caloric intake. Wean yourself off of the sweet tea to unsweetened tea. If you have to have juice, find fresh squeezed not premade with added sugar. You are likely aware that soda is not good for you, but in addition to the calories, the sugar (or sweetener) in soda will make you crave more sugar (vicious cycle). Time Magazine reported skipping one soda a week can lead to weight loss- just one! Save 200 calories per day on the road drinking unsweetened tea, hot tea, and good old fashioned water and lose 7 pounds this year.
- Limit alcohol intake: Business travel often includes entertaining and drinking. While it is okay to have a drink, getting carried away night after night will catch up with your waistline (among other things). Your best bet is to have a glass of wine or a shot of liquor mixed with soda water. Avoid blended drinks at all costs. If you feel you need to drink to be social pull the bartender aside and request your drinks with the mixer only (soda water) and no alcohol after your first one. Depending on what you drink you can save a lot of calories. Click here to see how many calories are in your favorite drink. Skip that last glass of wine or beer each night you are on the road and lose 5 pounds this year.
- Research your hotel prior to booking: Taking an extra five minutes to research your hotel location (using GoogleMaps or Trip Advisor) can save your waistline upon arrival. Find a hotel with access to a walking path, a swimming pool or a decent gym- whatever your preference for physical activity, ensure you will have access to it. Additionally, check out the food offered at the hotel and nearby dining options. If nothing seems healthy, find the nearest grocery store.
- Research menus prior to dining: Before you select a restaurant for a business lunch or dinner review their menu online and ensure there is something healthy for you to choose or a healthy substitution you can request. While you are looking at the menu, decide what you will order so when you arrive at the restaurant hungry you are not tempted to order something unhealthy. Do not be afraid to request changes to an item on the menu to make it healthier. Swap steamed vegetables for mashed potatoes 2 nights a week on the road and you can lose 3 pounds this year.
- BONUS TIP: If you are serious about losing weight this year consider using an app to track your caloric intake such as MyFitnessPal.
Exercise is also important!
The tips for eating healthier on the road to lose weight are focused only on the nutritional aspects of weight loss. It is important to remember how critical daily exercise is for your health. Even fitting in 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night will make a difference in your energy level and waistline. Here is a quick workout you can try in your hotel room on your next trip.
Stop making excuses
Just because you are stressed out, tired, celebrating, traveling (for work, not vacation), lost five pounds, gained five pounds, received good or bad news, feel sad or lonely, or any other excuse that may go through your head does not give you permission to celebrate with food. You are not on vacation- you are commuting to work (albeit an extended commute). Taking care of your health should be your main priority.
Get started now. If you can commit to following even a few of the above suggestions, think where your weight could be at this time next year!
Business Travel Life
Business Travel Life is an online resource supporting the road warrior lifestyle. We give business travelers the tools they need to maintain their wellness and productivity when traveling. The topics we cover include business travel tips, travel workouts, healthy travel hacks, travel products, general travel tips, and industry trends. Our goal is to make business travel a healthier experience – and to make healthy travel practices more accessible to all road warriors.
Please note the estimated weight loss is estimated using caloric deficit and based on traveling 130 days per year (50%).
Business Travel Life strongly recommends you consult with your physician before engaging in a weight loss program. Business Travel Life is not a licensed medical care provider and represents that it has no expertise in diagnosing, examining, or treating medical conditions of any kind, or in determining the effect of any specific exercise on a medical condition. You should understand that when participating in any exercise or exercise program, there is the possibility of physical injury. If you engage in this exercise or exercise program, you agree that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily participating in these activities, assume all risk of injury to yourself, and agree to release and discharge Business Travel Life from any and all claims or causes of action, known or unknown, arising out of Business Travel Life’s negligence.