Vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. They have an anti-inflammatory effect when eaten, and provide the nutrients our bodies and brains need to function on all cylinders. Yet it's hard to get sufficient vegetables in your diet when you aren't cooking or preparing your food at home—which is why I think so many of us return from trips feeling crummy.
It may never be easy to get enough veggies while traveling (at least not in our lifetime), but there are something we can do to at least make it a little easier. (Getting enough protein and healthy fats while traveling can also make a big difference in how we feel, and are equally difficult to do in my opinion—but I can't cover everything in a single post.) Check out my list below and let me know if you have other tips to add!
Whenever you see veggies, eat up. This first tip may seem painfully obvious, but what I'm really trying to say is: make eating vegetables a priority. Keep it in the back of your mind at all moments of the day. OK, maybe that's an exaggeration, but if you stay on the lookout for opportunities, you might be surprised when they appear. That reception with hors d'oeuvres might have a veggie tray, or the restaurant menu might have a vegetable-packed list of side dishes. Most hotels have made-to-order omelettes on the breakfast menu, and these can be customized with extra veggies. Convenience stores might have baby carrots and hummus in the refrigerated section. If you're not used to thinking of veggies first, changing your mindset to stock up on veggies wherever they're found can make a bigger difference than you might think.
Go for the salad bar. Many restaurants and most airports have a salad option. It may be expensive for what you get—but don't let that stop you. Spending a bit extra is worth it because you'll feel so much better throughout your trip.
Scout out a grocery store near your hotel. You'll be able to get more veggies for a lower price than in restaurants—and you'll have control over how they're prepared. Grab some travel-size olive oil and vinegar (or even better, bring them from home). You can even pack a knife, fork, and salad bowl in your checked baggage, or snag inexpensive ones at the same grocery store. You'll be able to fix yourself salads during your trip if the place you're staying doesn't have a kitchen.
Do some restaurant research. Especially if you're in a bigger city, you might be able to find a juice bar near your hotel, or a restaurant with a vegetarian or farm-to-table focus. (On the juice bar suggestion, remember that fruit juice should be consumed in moderation, since the glycemic index is relatively high; veggies juices are preferable, but even better is if they have dishes on the menu made from whole fruits and veggies instead of just the juice.)
Bring a blender. This may be a tip for the hard-core healthy eater—but I often do travel with a blender, especially on car trips when we don't have to worry about the weight of our luggage. I enjoy bananas blended in my shakes and that's pretty difficult to do by hand ;) With a blender at your fingertips, you can blend spinach and fruit together with protein powder (and even some healthy fat!) in a smoothie (see grocery store tip above). I think one of the hardest parts of travel is the lack of variety and lack of options available. The blender provides a different option for your breakfast or snack, so you're not stuck ordering a veggie omelette every single morning, having a salad from room service every evening, etc.
For travel days or long work days, focus on foods that are portable. I've been through enough mishaps to know things like: a banana can (and probably will) end up smooshed in the bottom of a bookbag, rather than eaten. Or: cutting up a miniature watermelon on the go is horribly impractical. A few Tupperware containers in your checked (or carry-on) baggage can really help. Then you can check the grocer's produce and deli sections for pre-cut broccoli, cauliflower, celery, carrots, etc.—or cut them yourself to bring with you. Pre-cut fruit is another good candidate; just beware of extra-juicy types. Cherry tomatoes require no prep at all, nor do blueberries. Also great for their portability (and not creating too much waste you have to get rid of) are miniature bell peppers, sugar snap peas, apples, and clementines. (I know we're mainly talking about vegetables, but fresh fruit helps keep the travel blahs away, too.)
Don't be afraid to ask. Restaurant and hotel kitchens have tons of veggies on hand—but you may just get a measly portion with your entree. Ask up front how large the serving is of vegetables with your entree. If it's small, ask for extra. If your entree comes with fries, ask if you can have seasonal vegetables sauteed in olive oil instead. I know many of us are afraid of being pegged as a "high-maintenance" customer at restaurants, but this shouldn't happen as long as you are courteous with your request—and hopefully, more and more restaurants will get the message that their customers want to see an abundance of vegetables on the menu!
Need some help getting more veggies in your diet, not just while traveling but all the time? Let me help you! Check out my list of upcoming group programs or shoot me an email (address below) to talk about how we can work together.