How to eat healthy when you’re away with work

Health Adviser and Nutritionist at Bupa UK
03 October 2018

If you’re on the road and travelling a lot for work, it can be difficult to make healthy food choices. You’re often contending with buffet lunches, a hotel full English breakfast, or entertaining clients with canapés, fine wine and fillet steak. Here I’ll take a look at some of the common dining scenarios you might find yourself in when travelling for work, and how you can make healthy, nutritious choices.

Two colleagues enjoy a working lunch

The hotel breakfast bar

If you’ve been put up in a  hotel for the night, you might be lucky enough to take advantage of the buffet breakfast the following morning. This could be anything from freshly baked pastries, to a fry-up with all the trimmings. But if you want to start your day off with a healthy nutritious breakfast, try choosing:

  • poached eggs on wholemeal toast
  • natural or Greek yoghurt with fresh fruit
  • low-sugar, wholegrain cereal with skimmed milk and fresh fruit
  • a bagel with a tablespoon of peanut butter
  • a small (150ml) glass of fruit juice or smoothie
  • freshly made porridge topped with a tablespoon of dried fruit

A hotel breakfast buffet

The lunch buffet

Buffet lunches are often made up of things like sandwich platters, pastries, porkpies, cocktail sausages, crisps and mini desserts. These can be high in calories and saturated fat, and the amount of food available can make it harder to control your portion size.

Try to limit yourself to one plate of food only, and fill half of it with fresh salad or vegetables if you can. Choose wholemeal bread and lean meat sandwich options and watch out for the hidden mayonnaise. Skip the beige sides and sugary desserts and opt for a side of fresh fruit or yoghurt instead.

For more ideas, check out 50 of our favourite healthy food swaps.

A plate of sandwiches

The tea and coffee station

If you’re at an all-day conference or in a four hour meeting, chances are there’ll be a timeslot for a very welcome tea and coffee break. This is a great opportunity to get some headspace and catch up with your colleagues, but you’re often presented with an assortment of biscuits, cakes and leftover pastries too. Take a moment to think – are you actually hungry or are you just hitting the afternoon slump? Try having a glass of water and head outside for a ten minute walk instead. If your tummy really is grumbling, tuck into some fresh fruit, a low-sugar cereal bar or a small handful of mixed, unsalted nuts and dried fruit. Avoid adding any extra teaspoons of sugar to your tea or coffee too.

A stack of tea cups ready for catering

Canapés and nibbles

After a long day of travelling, meeting with clients and back-to-back meetings, you may need to head out for an evening of networking. If this is the case, you may be greeted by a glass of bubbles and a tray of colourful canapés. These could be things like mini quiches, sausage rolls, crisps, salted nuts and cocktail sticks lined with cheese. It’s easy to graze away on these before dinner arrives and rack up the calories, but it helps to know that you may be able to opt for some healthier choices on offer.

Try choosing:

  • smoked salmon
  • freshly chopped vegetable sticks and dip
  • olives
  • sushi
  • bruschetta
  • fruit kebabs

Sausage roll canapes

Dining out

Whether you’re taking clients out for dinner, or are heading out for your evening meal before an overnight stay, there are lots of ways to enjoy eating out healthily if you just know how.  Here are my top tips for eating healthy when you’re dining out.

  • Choose fish, seafood, chicken or a vegetarian meal instead of red or procesed meat.
  • Think about how your food is cooked.  Foods served deep-fried, crispy, pan-fried, sautéed, buttered, creamed or stuffed are usually high in fat and calories. Instead, look for steamed, baked or grilled options.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask your waiter or waitress to make adjustments to your meal. For example, ask to swap the chips for a side salad or to have your dressing on the side.
  • Take a look at the menu online before you go and decide on a healthy option before you arrive.
  • If you fancy something sweet, ask the waiter if they can prepare a fruit salad or if they have any sorbet, even if it’s not on the menu. Alternatively, you could ask someone if they’d like to share a dessert with you.
  • Alcohol can be very high in calories. So if you fancy a tipple, try to limit how much you’re drinking. You could try having a non-alcoholic drink in between every alcoholic drink, or adding soda water to your drink to make a spritzer. For more ideas, take a look at our information on sensible drinking.

Two female friends having dinner and drinks

Be prepared

The most important thing to remember when you’re eating away from home is to be prepared. Try to make a plan beforehand so you’re guided by your head rather than your tummy.

For example:

Bring healthy snacks and meals with you when you can. If you have an early morning train to catch, make a batch of overnight oats to take with you on the journey. If you’re getting on a flight, keep fresh fruit, unsalted nuts or low-sugar cereal bars in your bag so you have healthy snacks to hand when the trolley comes round. If you have a long car journey ahead of you, make a fresh salad to take with you so you can avoid fast food at the service station.

It’s likely that you’ll know where you’ll be staying a few days before you go away. So look up the food options and menus in the surrounding areas in order to plan ahead. Every town has some sort of convenience store or supermarket, so grab a salad to take to your meeting. Also try bringing some fruit for the 4pm cake break and suggest a healthy restaurant for dinner.

You could even try applying the ‘if then rule’ for when temptation is all around you. For example:  If we’re going for work drinks, then I’ll order a spritzer made with soda water. Or if I’m presented with fried or poached eggs then I will choose poached.

For more ideas on how to make healthy choices when you’re out and about, take a look at our blog on healthy eating without cooking.

Are you interested in learning more about your health? Discover more about our range of health assessments.

Emily Walters
Health Adviser and Nutritionist at Bupa UK

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