Eating while on the go can be a real challenge. I have certainly encountered my fair share of restaurants, airplane food and missed meals as I travelled 150 days a year competing for the Canadian team in mogul skiing. And now I'm facing those same challenges as I travel to Sochi, Russia, for my first Olympics since retiring from competition – this time as a freestyle moguls analyst for CBC/Radio-Canada's broadcast team.
For a long while, I struggled to meet my nutritional needs while travelling and had less energy to show for it. I slowly became aware of how poorly I was eating and the real challenge of navigating fast-food counters and the endless pasta choices in restaurants. I eventually developed simple techniques that allowed me to make smart choices and ultimately left me feeling energized.
Here are five tips that require a little will power and minimal preparation that can make a real difference.
1. Eat healthy snacks
Healthy snacks are critical. When we are starving and tired it is always harder to resist that chocolate bar or fast food counter in the airport. Rather than eating something you will regret later, snack on healthy foods so you don't get to the starving point. I always like to have a few snacks in my bag that I prepare ahead of time. My favourite snack is a bag of unsalted mixed nuts and dried fruit. I buy the ingredients in bulk and mix them at home to avoid all the salt and sugar added to many of the commercially available mixes. Raw vegetable sticks are another great option. There are a few good bars available but many of the bars that are advertised as healthy are designed for endurance sports and not simple snacking. Make sure to read the label to avoid the bars loaded with sugar and protein.
2. Stay hydrated
It can be difficult to stay hydrated while travelling and on the go. Dehydration makes us feel fatigued. I don't count how many glasses of water I drink a day. I simply always carry a water bottle and drink when I am thirsty.
3. Aid digestion
Although it is important to stay hydrated, there is new research that shows drinking water during meal times actually dilutes our digestive enzymes. While flying I don't drink water 20 minutes ahead of meals to aid digestion.
4. Cut out the sauces
No one wants to eat bland food, but it is important to manage the type and amount of sauce with our meals. I cut out all creamy sauces, especially white sauces as a general rule. It is just a simple way to avoid unhealthy fats. If I am ordering in a restaurant and I can't live without a particular unhealthy sauce, I will order it on the side so I get the taste without my food being smothered in it.
5. Say no to the fries
It isn't where you eat but what you eat. When dining out, take the time to read the whole menu and find the healthy options. Say no to the fries. This tip takes the greatest willpower, but consistently changing out a side of fries for vegetables or salad will make a big difference over the long term on the waistline.
Over time, these tips have become second nature and I feel better for it.
Jennifer Heil is a humanitarian and an Olympic gold and silver medalist in the sport of freestyle mogul skiing. She is the co-founder of B2ten and has raised over a million dollars for the Because I am a Girl initiative. One of her passions is inspiring fellow Canadians to get active and live healthy and confident lives. You can follow her on Twitter @jennheil.