What the FAFH? 5 Keys to Eating on the Road

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What the FAFH? 5 Keys to Eating on the Road

FAFH… sounds like fat and fluff rolled into one, right? Well, close. It stands for “Food Away From Home.” If you were like me over the holidays, then you probably get it.

Between December and January, I traveled a ton — from learning to ski during Christmas to the beach for New Year’s to the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas for work, it’s been a great (and busy) couple of weeks. But with that came the dreaded FAFH. This includes literally everything you could imagine: all the meals — breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, snacks, nonalcoholic beverages. It includes things you’d rather not imagine: fast food, takeout, delivery, food from concession stands, buffets and cafeterias; food from sit-down restaurants, vending machines and mobile vendors. In my case, I made “investments” in all of these categories over the past month.

This typically comes with extra (unwanted) calories…

Studies show that eating out at both fast-food and full-service restaurants resulted in diners consuming about 200 additional total daily calories, plus more sodium, sugar and saturated fat. Bummer.

On top of that, traveling to different time zones also messed with my sleep schedule (my UA Record 14-Day Sleep Score went down from an 82 to a 56!) — then, on top of that, I missed a few workouts. My thoughtfully packed outfits decided to sound the alarm before my eyes did, which meant my clothes didn’t fall the same way on my body as they did when I put them in my suitcase. (I should’ve packed pieces with more stretch … oh, hindsight.)


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When you’re on your home turf, everything is easier to manage. You have more control over your meals and snacks (and workouts and sleep schedule), but when traveling or juggling a hectic schedule, you have to actively find ways to make eating out work. Here are some tips to get the most out of your FAFH:

1. SHARE THE SPLURGE

Chances are you’re out in a group, so use that to your advantage. If you really want that shrimp pesto pizza, order it for the table as an appetizer — share the dish, share the calories. Anyone who has ever eaten with me knows I’m usually the first to suggest a item or two “for the table.”

When eating with a friend, share a salad or appetizer along with an entree. Portion control is my number 1 issue. If it’s on my plate, I’m probably going to eat it. Sharing a meal means that I get to enjoy a variety, and it helps to ensure I won’t go too crazy. If you have the willpower, unlike me, save half of your meal for later and get two for the price of one.

2. MODIFY THE MEAL

Introduce smart swaps to make the meal work for you. Get your protein steamed, grilled or baked instead of fried, for example. Add something green and fresh to the mix (healthy side dishes are a good thing to include).

When I was in Vegas, I had to get an IN-N-Out burger on the way to the airport. It’s not an option on the East Coast (where I live now), and it transports me back to my college days on the West Coast. I knew I’d have to make some modifications because I wasn’t ready to blow my entire calorie allotment for the day on this one meal. So I went in with a game plan. I hydrated first, got my double double protein-style (i.e., wrapped in lettuce), no sauce (I’m just personally not that into the sauce) and shared my fries with the cab driver. And, to be entirely honest, I actually felt just as satisfied and less heavy than I usually do after eating that burger (with the bun and a full order of fries … and sometimes a shake). And, best of all: There was none of the guilt. Now if you want the milkshake, fries and the bun, which I totally understand, just recognize how much you are actually eating in this one meal and be prepared to compensate for it at other meals. Disclaimer: I’m not advocating IN-N-Out as a “health food” here, it’s a definite splurge — and we need to recognize that it’s OK to have these occasional splurges.

3. PILE ON THE PLANTS

I try to squeeze in fruit and veggies at every opportunity! Whenever I’m at a nice hotel, I basically look like a fruit smuggler walking out of the fitness center every morning — with a couple bananas, apples and oranges in hand. You can sometimes grab an apple or banana from that random bowl at the front desk of the hotel, too. Or add green peppers and/or tomatoes to your morning eggs or swap roasted carrots instead of potato wedges at dinner.

Get a fruit plate to start or end your meal. And, even if it’s not on the menu, a lot of restaurants can throw together a side of steamed or grilled veggies — broccoli or spinach should be attainable — just ask.

4. SIDELINE THE SAUCE

You’ve heard this before, but ask for your dressing and sauce on the side. There are a lot of hidden calories, sodium and fat in those deliciously drizzled condiments — when it’s on the side, you can control how much you are consuming.

5. DRINK UP

Fill your glass with water — I know, I know, everybody says that — but that’s because staying hydrated has major benefits! It’s especially important to stay hydrated when traveling, but it’s also a great way to cut back on empty calories and sugar when you don’t have control over your food options. The hotel gym is also my number 1 stop for H20. I either refill my bottle at the water fountain or grab the free bottles of water, if they have them.

After being home for just a couple weeks, I’ve taken control and I’m back in the game. I’m also almost back to my pretrip belt loop. It’s a work in progress, but my routine of homemade breakfasts and prepacked fresh snacks throughout the day helps me stay on point.

Do you have your own tips to make eating out work for you? I’d love to hear your tips for the UA Connected Fitness community! I’ll check out the comments for your advice!


Better Than Ever

We all strive for wellness and to live better! Every month, this column will bring you advice on how to feel and perform Better Than Ever. Check out tips to improve various aspects of your health: everything from fitness, nutrition, sleep and recovery. Have a topic you want to hear about? Feel free to reach out here (I’ll be checking the comments!) or on Twitter or Instagram. I look forward to hearing from you!


 

Related

  • Skifootz

    Great article, Kirby! My problem is I’m a pain in the arse when it comes to sharing, there is always at least one ingredient that someone else wants that I will find objectionable, so I’ve learned the willpower the take half my meal home.

    Thanks,
    Scott

    • Kirby

      hahahaha Skfiootz! Way to show restraint plus get what you want AND then have some for later! It’s a skill to be able to master portion control…well done.

  • ZX14chick

    Really great suggestions here! I try to look at menus and make a decision prior to getting there so I won’t make last minute (which typically are synonymous with unhealthy) decisions at the restaurant. And I won’t drive people crazy taking forever. On the dressing, dips, what have you, I lightly dip the bottom side of the fork in so the flavor of the dressing is the first thing to touch your tongue, making you taste more of it and feeling as though you had more.

    • Kirby

      Hey- thanks for reading! I’m loving this tip…it’s always smart to go into the restaurant/meal with a plan, when you can. And “YUM” to your strategic sauce dipping style (thanks for the reminder to dip lightly)!

  • Heather

    My travel schedule in 2016 was the equivalent of flying around the world five times; that was about 126,000 miles over 36% of the year. I find that always having a healthy food stash is key. Depending on the trip, I might pack some quick oats with shredded coconut, dried apples, pumpkin seed protein, and maple sugar – all that needs is hot water. I will also often have Vega One packets, a box of oat crackers and foil packets of tuna, or healthy trail bars. The idea is to use these so I don’t end up starving by dinner time, and it offers light, portable food choices that don’t take much room in my luggage.

    • Kirby

      Wow Heather- that’s a lot of miles! Good call with having a healthy food stash! One of my faves is trader joes “Oh My! Omega Trek Mix”…it’s got cranberries, pumpkin seeds, pistachios and a bunch of other delicious pieces AND they also sell one large bag with 10 pre-wrapped snack sized packets to make it super easy to toss in your purse. I even stash one in the lil zipper pouch where I keep all of my chargers, so I know I always have at least one.

  • Becky Jahn

    We are retired and eating out is a part of our lifestyle by choice. It requires planning ahead to be successful. I often order a big salad with all sorts of veggies on it, maybe even a hard boiled egg, and NO dressing. I ask for lemon wedges or balsamic vinegar to sprinkle on it. Then I order a piece of grilled salmon on the side to eat along with my salad. On an entree that comes with a protein, a starch and a veggie, I hold the potato or rice and ask for double veggies. Always order no sauce or sauce on the side. If I see on the dessert menu an item topped with berries, I order just a bowl of berries for dessert. Most restaurants will accommodate. Tell your waiter no bread at the table then you’re not tempted.

    • Kirby

      Thanks for all the pro tips, Becky! So many good nuggets here! I’ve definitely done no dressing, but I usually need a lil olive oil with that balsamic and lemon…nice job cutting out those extra calories. YES to double veggies…I LOVE produce too! I hear you on no bread…I usually check out the bread at other tables or look in the basket as they put it on the table before I say no. If it’s good (I’m talking focaccia, warm sourdough or something special), I’m prob gonna have a piece. I find that if you cut out the starch from your main course (like you suggested) or choose wisely for the rest of your meal, it’s all good. It’s all about balance!

  • Richard Maurice

    I travel every week for work and the hardest thing for me is the time I eat. I usually eat late because I’m taking my clients to dinner but i try to counteract that by getting two appetizers and some veggies instead of a large entree.

    • Kirby

      GREAT point Richard! Very smart to try to eat lighter when eating late. Sometimes work trips lead to late dinners (the struggle is real!)…way to modify and load your meal with veggies. Just be sure to choose appetizers that are on the lighter side- sometimes apps (like fried chicken tenders, crispy calamari or warm cheesy dips) can be heavier than a meal. Also smart to skip the sugary cocktail, especially at a late dinner because it can keep you up!

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  • Donna

    Hi , I’m new here , I’m disabled and it’s hard for me to exercise but I’m trying to drop some weight with the eating rt .. I loved your recommendation on the lettuce for the burger !! I have always gone bunless, but I’m not to crazy abt lettuce, what other suggestions do you have for dinning out??

    • Kirby

      Hey Donna- Great question…I think lettuce is probably the least messy, but I’ve seen people use portabello mushrooms or even grilled eggplant/zucchini as buns. Though that’s probably more of a cooking at home solution.
      Ordering without the bun is a great move! You can also add in a side of veggies and/or fruit!

  • Alice

    If you don’t like lettuce wraps, you can cut the calories/carbs from sandwiches by using this trick I learned from my mom. Take out any middle bread from club type sandwiches,set it aside, turn the kind with buns or other sandwiches so the bun/bread with all the toppings is on the bottom, take off the other bun/slice and set it aside except for a little piece you use to keep your fingers clean. Then when you bite into the sandwich, you can either eat the bun on the bottom, or tear it away bite by bite depending on your calorie/carb count for the day. (and how messy the toppings are).
    Another trick with sandwiches is to pile all the good stuff on to half of the sandwich and peel away the top piece of bread as you eat the remaining half sandwich. You get all of the things you wanted from the sandwich, but only 1/4 the bread. You can peel away the bottom slice of bread if you don’t want to have any of it, and just use it as a sort of edible wrapper.

    • Kirby

      Thanks for the detailed trick, Alice! Your mom has some pretty sweet tips! Really smart move to take center pieces of bread out a a club! And thanks for taking the time to read and comment- really appreciate it.

  • Simon Latimer

    Try being an airline pilot!
    As I fly long and ultra-long haul (+14hrs) I’m a prisoner not only to the time change and body clock issue, but as a prisoner to airline and hotel catering.
    Whenever I fly from my home base I take what food I can for the flight, mostly grilled chicken or chick pea salads. But downroute, as I often need to eat at hours where nothing is open, I’m tied to hotel 24hr room service menus.
    Most countries now restrict and rigorously enforce crews bring foodstuffs into their countries, so carrying food for the layover isn’t an option either.
    To get round the exercise issue I invested in a TRX so I always have a gym in my suitcase for when the hotel gym isn’t 24hr.
    Travelling for a living is hard on the body and fitness goals!

    • Kirby

      Wow Simon! That’s a tough schedule, especially when dealing with international menus/cuisine…I find that typical breakfast offerings vary widely from country to country, but you can usually get a hardboiled egg. So I order some variation of two hard boiled eggs, with sliced tomato, smoked salmon, whole grain toast (if they have it) and mixed fruit plate (preferably berries for their antioxidants). Also, if they have fresh smoothies, I will get one of those and ask for a to-go cup.

      For hotel room service at dinner, I always ask for NO BREAD with dinner-time room service, because I find that it’s usually not great and if that little basket is just sitting in my room, I will climb out of the bed to grab a piece and then have the audacity to dip it in butter before eating it. I’ve even kept the bread basket in the room after I’ve finished the meal and pushed the table in the hallway…*hangs head in shame.

      Smart move bringing the gym with you! Sometimes while watching TV, I’ll roll a towel out on the floor in my room (who knows what’s in that hotel carpet…) and do some crunches, bridges, planks, etc…just to feel like i’ve done something!

      Thanks for sharing!