A Dietitian’s Tips for Healthy Eating on the Go
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Healthy eating is not always easy, especially when you’re on the go. If you’re like many of my nutrition clients, you may have created a healthy meal plan routine that you follow at home. But I know healthy eating can pose more of a challenge when you’re out and aren’t in such a controlled environment.
My clients who don’t plan ahead tend to grab the most convenient food items, which may not always align with their health goals. But guess what? While food away from home tends to be naturally higher in calories, there are still plenty of healthful items to choose from. You just have to know what to look for.
I’m going to teach you exactly how to master healthy eating on the go no matter what situation you’re in — whether it be at your next social gathering, travel destination, or when you’re out and about locally.
Healthy Picks When You’re Out and About Locally
Hands up if you’ve ever skipped a meal or made a spontaneous unhealthy choice when you were out and about! I see my clients making this mistake all the time, and it’s so easy to do when your next meal is not planned ahead and made a priority.
Here are a few simple ways to be proactive and ensure you make a healthy choice when out in your local area:
Have a satisfying snack before you leave home
Bring water with you
Healthy snacks to pack
I always recommend eating a healthy snack before heading out the door, especially if you’re planning on being out for more than two hours.
Before you leave your house, ask yourself the last time you ate. If you feel even the slightest of hunger pangs, bringing a snack with you will prevent this from getting worse. This can help curb hunger and make your food intake easier to control when you’re in a less “controlled” environment.
It’s just like going to the grocery store hungry — you should also try to avoid eating on the go when you’re starving. This is a recipe for disaster and can lead to poor choices and overeating.
A few healthy grab-and-go snacks include:
trail mix made with nuts and no-sugar-added dried fruit (no candy)
pre-made low-sugar protein shakes
homemade low-sugar granola bars
air-fried or baked kale, sweet potato, or carrot chips
Keep water with you
Water is an essential tool in your healthy-eating-on-the-go toolbox. Keep a water bottle with you at all times, as many times you may think you’re hungry and are in fact just thirsty. And if you’re actually hungry, drinking water can lessen this feeling for a short period of time if you’re not too far from home.
I keep a water bottle in my house and a separate one in my car at all times so I rarely miss this step.
Plan your route
If you know where you need to go, you can scope out the fast casual and other dining options on your planned route. If you didn’t get a chance to eat before you left the house, you’ll at least have an idea of what type of food choices you’ll have. If you take a quick scope of the menus before you go, you can highlight a few healthier choices to order so you’re not making a decision on the fly.
One of my clients is a stay-at-home mom and frequently runs errands with her kids. She used to go out a few days a week and would end up either skipping meals or making rash decisions for food options, mostly because she let herself go too hungry.
Once she started keeping healthy snacks on hand like low-sugar protein bars, shakes, and fruit, she made it a consistent habit to eat one of these before leaving the house. This made all of the difference in her food choices, and she found she had so much more patience with her kids when running errands because she wasn’t snapping at them out of hanger!
Staying social is great for your mental health and longevity, but many social situations come with tempting high-calorie foods.
Here are a few tips I teach my clients on eating healthy when socializing.
Don’t “save” your calories
This is the case in any on-the-go situation but is also helpful when meeting up with friends, family, or at parties. I see many people try to “save” their calories for the big social event, which usually ends up backfiring. If you show up starving, all the food will look amazing and it will be very hard to control yourself.
Instead, have a light meal or snack beforehand such as a small salad with protein, a turkey sandwich, or plain Greek yogurt with nuts so you show up calm, collected, and in control of your food choices.
Eat veggies first
Pile your plate with veggies or salad before the main meal. Loading up on these nutritious, high-fiber foods will fill you up and leave less room for the higher-calorie, less healthful options.
Use smaller plates
If possible, try using a smaller appetizer-sized plate to control portions. It’s common to eat more when out than at home, and a big part of that is because of large plates and platters. We eat with our eyes — so if you have a smaller plate, the amount of food appears larger and you’ll naturally eat less.
I’ve tested this with my clients, and it really works! This is the case even if you aren’t actually changing what you are eating, but just simply using a smaller plate.
Drink water in between alcoholic beverages
If consuming alcohol, try drinking a glass of water in between each alcoholic beverage. This will slow down your alcohol intake, keep you hydrated, and result in less high-calorie, sugary alcohol consumption overall.
Focus on the experience, not the food
Instead of hyping up the eating part of socializing, what if you shifted your focus to the true social aspect? To do this, try to fully be in the moment and have real conversations with those around you. This will take the emphasis off of the food, making it more of an afterthought.
I tell my clients this all the time, and with some practice, it gets much easier. They also report feeling better doing this because they’re not overeating and feeling bloated at fun events. If you’ve ever been there, give these tips a try!
Healthy Eating Options When Traveling
Whether it’s for business or pleasure, traveling can wreak havoc on your eating routine if you let it. Here is how to stay healthy while traveling.
Do your research
Search for local restaurants and drive-throughs nearby so you know what your options are when you get there. Better yet, you can even narrow down to a few places and write down two to three healthy options from each place, like a simple garden salad with chicken or a plain hamburger with a side of turkey chili.
Pack healthful snacks
Whether you’re looking for tips on eating healthy in a hotel, in the airport, or on the road, having healthy snacks on hand is a must. Here are a few examples:
Protein bars: pick bars with at least 10 grams of protein and less than 4 grams of added sugar, and include natural ingredients like nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. KIND or RX bars are good options.
Fruit: bananas and apples keep best.
Nuts: try raw walnuts or roasted peanuts, and mixed nuts like pistachios, almonds, or cashews.
Popcorn: choose lightly salted air-popped or corn popped with coconut, avocado, or olive oil.
Protein shakes: Owyn or Orgain Clean Protein Shakes are great options
Roasted chickpeas: Biena Chickpea snacks are delicious, or you can make your own at home.
Cut-up veggies with hummus: celery, carrots, jicama, snap peas, bell peppers, and cucumbers pair well with hummus.
Plain Greek yogurt with nuts or fruit
Drinking plenty of water drives good eating habits. Water provides adequate fuel, helps digest the food you’re eating, and may reduce food intake. In fact, a few studies have shown people who drank a glass of water before meals ate less.
How to Make Healthy Eating Choices at Restaurants
If you’re looking for healthy fast food and restaurant options, there are better choices out there. Here are my top five tips for navigating eating out.
Choose dishes that say “grilled, baked, or steamed” rather than fried or those laden with heavy sauces. In general, these will be healthier, lighter items.
Order what you really want once a week, but only have half of it. You’ll get the satisfaction of what you’re craving, but it won’t have a significant impact in a smaller portion.
Keep it simple in terms of fast food. A plain hamburger or grilled chicken sandwich is usually the healthier choice when compared to crispy sandwiches or salads topped with high-fat crunchies and creamy dressings.
Drink water before your meal. As mentioned above, drinking more water can reduce calorie intake and prevent overeating.
Push the food away when you start to feel full. This is a tried-and-true tactic my clients use all the time. As you start to feel yourself getting full, push your plate farther away, just far enough for your brain to process that you’re done. This will reduce the chances you’ll grab for more just because it’s right in front of you, and you’ll feel so much better because of it.
Healthy Eating While On The Go Is Possible
When you’re prepared and know how to find nutritious choices, healthy eating while on the go is achievable no matter where you are. Continuing to eat well while away from home can help you stay on track, meet your health goals faster, and support you in feeling your best.
Above all else, always give yourself grace when you only have so many food choices in front of you. You can make the best decision possible at the moment, but perfection is not expected nor necessary.
For individualized guidance and accountability on meeting your personal diet and fitness goals, sign up for a free consultation with one of our expert Kickoff nutritionists. We’re here to lend a helping hand and guide you in improving your daily habits, one bite at a time.