If you are staying in a hotel, consider getting a room with a kitchenette, or at the very least a fridge and microwave. This will allow you to go to a market or health food store and purchase either prepared foods or take-out that may be healthier than what’s available in local restaurants. Whole Foods markets have spread across the U.S., and most standard supermarkets have an organic section.
Think Japanese. Or Vietnamese. Thai, or Korean. Asian restaurants generally offer much healthier options than any other ethnic foods eateries. Another option would be to order rice, beans, and salad in a Latin restaurant. Hold the “crema” and hold the cheese, and you’ve got a reasonably healthy meal.
If you are in a location where the choices are limited to chain restaurants, your options start looking a little scary. Chains offer the most processed foods on the planet, and make it difficult to eat well on the road. Opting for locations where there is a soup and salad selection is one of your better bets.
Keep in mind that items like breading on fried foods; salad dressings, meats and bread will all contain questionable ingredients in a chain restaurant unless it’s a place like Le Pain Quotidien that prides itself on superior offerings. Denny’s, Friendly’s, Olive Garden, Tony Roma’s, Uno and similar establishments all serve meals containing suspect ingredients (lots of hidden sugars, sodium, fats and chemical additives), but some of these restaurants have menu options that can get you through the day (or night) without straying too far from your chosen diet of whole foods. Olive Garden, for example, offers minestrone and unlimited salad (ask for olive oil and vinegar on the side). The breadsticks that come with the meal have no relationship to real bread, though, so stay away from them.
If the restaurant serves rice with entrees, ask if they have brown rice. Request dressings on the side, and DO NOT be afraid to ask if the kitchen can prepare something special for you. This may simply mean light on the oil, steamed veggies, and broiled fish. Be pleasant but tenacious in asking for what you need, and chances are you’ll come close.
Last, but not least, consider carrying some food with you. Bring fresh and dried fruits, nuts, and seeds at the very least; they are preferable to airport food or the fast food options along the highway. Pack a healthy sandwich if you’ll be traveling for a large chunk of time and will need a meal; we are less inclined to make good food choices when we’re extremely hungry. And finally, remember that if you stray from your normal eating patterns, it’s temporary. A couple of unhealthy meals are usually a powerful reminder of why we’ve made the commitment to eating well in the first place.