It’s not easy to eat healthy as an on-the-go traveling healthcare professional. Cafeterias and restaurants as a main source of meals can easily challenge the waistline and your overall health.
Top three reasons eating in restaurants and cafeterias are so dangerous?
- Restaurants & Cafeterias often serve large portions.
- Menu items are often high in calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and low in fiber.
- You usually have no idea how many calories or grams of saturated fat are in the dishes you order.
It’s possible to eat healthy without packing on the extra pounds. The secrets: choose foods wisely, make "moderation" your mantra and stay as active as possible during your day.
When you arrive at your new traveling assignment, ask local residents about nearby restaurants, or check out Yelp to see where you can find your types of food. Investigate the menu before deciding on the places you will eat. (If you have internet access via your phone, you can look this up while waiting to board the plane to your new assignment or during train commutes.)
How you select a meal isn’t your only option to avoid health risk. Take a look at these tips to stay healthy on your next traveling healthcare assignment.
Eat in Once a Day
To save both calories and money during your assignment, try "eating in" for at least one meal a day. Shop at a grocery store on days off for a few breakfast options like lower-sugar instant oatmeal, whole-grain breakfast cereal, power bars or breakfast bars. Look for brands low in sugar and saturated fat, but high in protein and fiber. The maximum amount of added sugars you should eat in a day are 37.5 grams for men and 25 grams for women. You can also find a local market and stock up on fresh fruit or vegetables for salads and snacks. Consider when you have the most time to prep a meal and plan for that to be your “eat in” time.
Drink More Water
It’s a common misconception that drinks with zero calories or artificial sweeteners can be an alternative source of hydration, but that’s not true. Nothing is better than water and those artificial options can actually change our sense of taste.
“Artificial sweeteners have more intense flavor than real sugar, so over time products like diet soda dull our senses to naturally sweet foods like fruit” Brooke Alpert (@bnutritious), RD, author of The Sugar Detox.
Even more troubling, these sugar stand-ins have been shown to have the same effect on your body as sugar. It’s best to always carry a refillable water bottle with you to quench your thirst. Adults should consume about 8 ounces of water every hour to prevent dehydration.
Downsize Your Portions
It doesn't make sense to deprive yourself of enjoyable foods all the time. Instead, downsize your portions by ordering from the kids'/ junior menu or ordering an appetizer instead of an entree. You could also split an entree with your dining partner or save half for another meal. A study found that people see the biggest short-term results when they eat smart. On average, people who dieted without exercising for 15 weeks lost 23 pounds, while the exercisers lost only 6 pounds over about 21 weeks.
Ask Your Waiter These Questions:
- Ask how a dish is prepared and served. For healthier options, you can request that your selection be prepared or served differently. For example, meats that are fried can often be ordered grilled which saves on the fats that come from frying.
- Ask for sauces and dressings to be served on the side. You will have better control over the amount of calories that are added.
- Ask that your entree be served with fresh vegetables or a side salad instead of french fries or another unhealthy carbohydrate.
- Request whole grains whenever possible. Some restaurants offer whole-wheat bread, pasta, tortillas and even steamed brown rice.
Order Fruits and Vegetables
Look for opportunities to order dishes that include high-nutrient, high-fiber fruits and vegetables. Entree salads or side salads made with spinach or romaine lettuce are a great way to get your vegetables. If you're ordering something like a fish or a chicken quesadilla, you can ask the restaurant to add some grilled vegetables to your order.
These are just a few great ways to eat healthy while living the nomadic lifestyle of a traveling healthcare professional, but there are many tricks we may have missed. Share your with us in the comments below!
Do you know someone looking for their next assignment? Refer them to Triage!