Why Travel Makes You Hungry
Outsmart on-the-road temptations with these strategies.
When it comes to healthy eating, even the most disciplined people get tripped up during travel. And it’s not in your head; you probably do actually feel a little hungrier when you’re on the move. You’re out of your normal routine, which throws your hunger cues and eating habits out of whack, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, a dietitian and nutrition consultant for the Chicago Cubs.
On the road or at the airport, you encounter more temptations than usual (think: hotel room service menus and airline lounge spreads and cocktails.) Research shows that facing this variety of foods can increase your appetite. To make matters worse, traveling often involves stressful events, such as rushing to catch a flight or battling rush-hour traffic. This causes your body to crank out the hormones that make you crave high-calorie foods.
This combination can set the stage for poor choices. According to one study, frequent business travelers had a greater risk of obesity and higher blood pressure levels compared to those who didn’t travel as much. Here, experts share how you can navigate your journey without falling off track.
Do some prep work.
To keep your blood sugar levels steady, plan to eat every four to six hours—and determine in advance what you’ll eat. Think beyond your drive or flight to the 24 hours around it, says Matt Berenc, director of education at the Equinox Fitness Training Institute in Beverly Hills. An app like HealthyOut can help you find nutritious dishes at nearby restaurants.
Beat the clock.
Jet lag doesn’t just mess with your sleep. Your circadian rhythm also controls your appetite, says Abby Langer, RD, owner of Abby Langer Nutrition in Toronto, Canada. When you change time zones, from New York to LA for example, your body won’t know that dinner’s three hours later. For short trips, stick close to your regular schedule. If your trip’s more than a few days, have a snack with protein and/or fiber to fend off hunger when you arrive, such as nuts, beef jerky, and fruit, to tide you over until the next mealtime in your new destination.
Make a point to drink H20 before each snack or meal. One study found that people who downed two glasses of water right before eating consumed 75 to 90 fewer calories than those who didn’t. And sip extra during a flight. The air pumped into planes is dry, which can leave you dehydrated. To increase the appeal, you can add a lemon wedge or vitamin C packet, says Elizabeth Huggins, RD, a dietitian at Hilton Head Health, a health and wellness resort in South Carolina.
Manage your stress.
Consider what would make your trip easier, such as leaving early or paying for priority boarding. These steps can calm you down, making you less prone to emotional eating, says Berenc. Pausing throughout the day can also ease some of the tension. If you have the urge to eat, take three to 10 deep breaths—and check in with your gut to see if you’re truly hungry. You can also try these travel meditations designed specifically to help you navigate a busy airport, traffic, and other delays. After all, there’s a very real mind-nutrition connection.
Photo: Tegan Butler & Andrew Noel/The Licensing Project.com