What to Eat When Traveling for Work or Conferences

Attending conferences and out-of-town work obligations have a way of derailing your normal day-to-day routine. Between the jam-packed itineraries, happy hour networking events, and the travel itself, it can be hard to prioritize eating foods that make your body feel good. Having a plan before you leave home can help keep your anxiety levels down and can keep the guesswork out of figuring out what and when to eat, so you never have to choose to miss out on opportunities or connections.

With my Conference Survival Guide for Introverts by my side + Jess’ expert tips below, I’m confident I can avoid coming home depleted, overwhelmed or exhausted.

Today's guest post is from Jess Cording, and she has fantastic tips for choosing the best foods to eat to feel your very best and how to maintain your routine when you’re traveling for work or conferences.


Traveling for work and events can be fun, but it can also be overwhelming to be out of your routine. As a dietitian and health coach, I help my clients navigate the common pitfalls of trade shows, conferences, and all-day events like shoots and symposiums. Because I travel a lot for work myself, I also rely on this stuff in my own life.

 
 What to eat when traveling for work or conference
 

The most common concern I hear about from clients is not wanting to eat crappy food and gain weight, but it’s also about wanting to have energy and feel focused, and to be in a good mental state for learning and connecting with others. Let’s be real—spending the majority of a day sitting through lectures can be oddly exhausting, and being surrounded by and talking to lots more people than you’re used to can also be overwhelming and draining. Having the proper fuel can help you retain the information you take in, and actually feel up for talking with other humans.

Having a plan can help you stay grounded and on track. Here’s what I discuss with my clients.

What to Pack for the Journey Itself

Think about how far you’re traveling and for how long. For a shorter trip, you can get away with having a few backup snacks like a piece of fruit or sliced veggies and some trail mix, jerky, or a nut-and-seed bar. For a longer trip, you may want to pack a meal. Even something as simple as a peanut butter sandwich can calm the anxiety around finding healthy food in a terminal or on the road. Sometimes for a bus or train trip, I’ll make a salad at home using whatever random veggies and protein I need to use up to take with me—takes care of both minimizing food waste and keeping me well-fed.

Bring what you need to maintain your routine

While you may not be able to stick to your exact usual wellness routine while you’re traveling, bring what you need to at least come close. For example, sneakers and workout clothes can make it more convenient to be active. Resistance bands make a great lightweight tool to incorporate some strength training in. Packing some go-to snacks and your usual vitamins or supplements can also be helpful for longer trips, especially if you’re used to taking a daily probiotic supplement or fiber supplement to support regular digestion. You don’t have to bring the whole bottle, either—a little pill box or even ziplock bag will do.

What to Keep in Your Room

Check your event itinerary to get an idea of what your schedule will be. This clues you into whether you need to pack extra snacks or if you’ll need to rely on restaurants or food from outside.

Find out if you’ll have a fridge where you’re staying so you know whether you have the option of storing things like yogurt, sliced veggies, hummus, or leftovers. Scope out the room service situation and take note of convenience stores, vending machines and nearby markets.

Also, if there are certain foods that help you feel grounded, bring them with you. For example, if you tend to want a bedtime snack, bring a few things that will be appealing. I almost always bring a banana or orange and some really good dark chocolate, and Greek yogurt if I have a fridge. If a balanced (and affordable) breakfast is a must before a busy day, pack some quick oats you can make with hot water and single serving packs of nut butter for an easy meal.

At the Event

If possible, find out before you go whether food will be served or if you’ll be on your own for lunch. If it’s the latter, look up local options online or ask an event organizer or hotel concierge for recommendations. In any case, aim to fill half your plate with vegetables, a quarter with protein, and a quarter with some kind of carbohydrate like grain, potatoes, or beans. If you know you’re going to want dessert, skip the carb at your meal to make a little extra room. Pack some healthy snacks and bring a water bottle to stay hydrated.

After-Hours 

If you don’t have an evening event, make a plan for yourself for dinner, either solo or with other attendees or friends in the area you’re traveling to. Sure, you could stay in your room (and if that’s what’s going to help you recharge, then do it), but see what restaurants are nearby. The same guideline about filling half your plate with veggies applies at dinner. Consider what indulgences are worth it to you. For example, between bread, a dessert, and a drink, pick the one you’re most interested in to enjoy.

Don’t Overdo the Alcohol

This is one of the biggest challenges my clients face when traveling. Whether you’re at client dinners, networking events, or checking out local watering holes and restaurants, it can seem like alcohol is everywhere. A few things to help you keep it real:

  • Decide ahead of time how much you plan to drink. This helps you decide whether a particular opportunity is going to be worth it.

  • Think about how you’ll feel later. Getting up early to work out or focusing during a lecture is extra hard when you’re hungover. Also, keeping a clear head at networking events can be helpful for remembering names and faces and not losing important business cards.

Be Patient with Yourself

There are always going to be things you can’t control, and that’s okay. It can actually be great a practice at learning to be flexible. Plan as best you can, but if you have a less than ideal day (or let’s be honest, week) give yourself permission to move on with your life. Rather than beat up on yourself or dwell on the negative get excited about getting back into your healthy everyday habits.


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About Jess Cording  

 Jessica Cording, MS, RD, CDN, INHC is a registered dietitian, health coach,

Jessica Cording, MS, RD, CDN, INHC is a registered dietitian, health coach, and writer with a passion for helping people streamline their wellness routine and establish a balanced relationship with food and exercise so they can experience a happier, calmer life. Through her writing, consulting, public speaking, and counseling, she works with individuals, corporations, and the media to help make drama-free healthy living approachable and enjoyable. 

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