On my recent work trip to North Carolina, I made the decision to eat as many meals “homemade” as possible. To me, this meant buying groceries that I could prepare in my hotel room, which had a microwave, a coffee maker, and a refrigerator. Additionally, I packed what I could that would facilitate healthy eating on travel days, where I couldn’t bring more than 3 ounces of anything through a security checkpoint. Finally, I chose a hotel with a free “continental breakfast,” where I would have access to some basic staples for free.
By mid-week, I had accumulated quite a stockpile of groceries. Canned tuna, Miracle Whip, relish, and crackers made for easy dinners. The boxed tuna salad kits were purchased for lunch, although I found suitable lunch alternatives at the training facility. Behind the tuna cans there are canned green beans. I purchased pre-cut carrots rather than whole carrots because I didn’t have a peeler in my luggage. I picked up cocoa, tea, sweetener, jelly, plates, sandwich bags, plastic silverware, and a $0.98 can opener as well. Greek yogurt, peanut butter, and graham crackers completed the stockpile.
The hotel breakfast offered oatmeal pouches, waffles, cereals, apples, oranges, bananas, toast, bagels, peanut butter (in 17g tubs), milk, plain yogurt, and some other items. For breakfast, I budgeted 1 carb, 1 fat, 1 milk, and 1 fruit. Some mornings, that was Greek yogurt, peanut butter on toast, and an apple. Other mornings it was peanut butter and banana with cheerios and milk.
The training facility had a cafeteria with a program called “Complete Nutrition” with a variety of healthy meal options available. The featured item, which I ate each day, was called the “CN BBQ Chicken Salad.” The nutrition facts are included in the photo below, but they’re hard to read.
Complete Nutrition BBQ Chicken Salad
- 260 Calories
- 15 g Fat
- 2.5 g Saturated Fat
- 0 g Trans Fat
- 30 mg Cholesterol
- 660 mg Sodium
- 20 g Carbohydrate
- 4 g Dietary Fiber
- 7 g Sugars
- 15 g Protein
The description of the salad indicated that it came with a low fat vinaigrette dressing, but as delivered it only included BBQ sauce. In looking at the available salad dressings on the salad bar, no such dressing was offered. When I asked, the folks behind the line, they knew nothing of it. This led me to question whether the product before me in any way represented the nutrition facts on the sheet. The amount of chicken seemed to be a reasonable portion. The sauce on it, while slathered on, was enough to act as salad dressing for the whole salad without the need to add any extra. It was tasty, filling, and a bargain. Although the lunch price was included in the workshop fee, the salad, a bottle of water, and an apple cost just $4.75. Other salads on the menu which were not designed with nutrition in mind were at least $2.00 more without the drink or fruit.
For dinners, I ate a lot of canned tuna which I made into tuna salad on crackers. As I’ve already written, even the healthy sounding crackers are actually just uppity saltines when you break them down into their ingredients and nutrition panels.
While in the training during the day, I drank a lot of canned soda, which is not something I normally drink. In the room at night, I had a lot of herbal teas and hot cocoa. I find that a warm cup of tea helps with boredom eating urges because I occupy myself for at least 3-5 minutes in heating the water, steeping the tea, and letting it cool enough to drink it. It helps with hydration, too, as long as it isn’t caffeinated, and the caloric content is negligible.
As for travel days, I did the best I could. I brought box of tuna salad with me in my carry-on for lunch. While on the flight, I had pretzels with a single serve portion cup of peanut butter. When offered a beverage, I asked for V8, but I was told that tomato juice or bloody mary mix were my options. I chose tomato juice. While in the ATL terminal awaiting my next flight, I had an Apple Walnut Salad and iced tea at a small restaurant + bar + keno hall tucked away in Terminal E. On my Trip home, I searched high and low to find an apple in ATL Terminal D, which turned out to be harder than I expected. I also picked up a bag of pretzels. The bag claimed to hold 3.5 “servings,” but I calculated it to be closer to 4-5 diabetic exchange portions. I ate my last tub of peanut butter with the pretzels. All of them 🙁
I did my very best to make the healthiest choices I could using the resources available to me. Still, I could have done better. Without my scale and other measuring devices, I know I ate more than I should have. Baby carrots were easy to portion — I put a dozen per bag, and the number of carrots in the bag worked out just right. Peanut butter, though, was not easy. Eating it out of portion cups, I always found myself eating the entire 17 grams, when I knew that 8 grams was what I needed to make a fat serving. Greek yogurt, too, was hard without a measuring cup or a scale.
Some evenings I found myself eating extra graham crackers and/or Greek yogurt (super tasty together). While I wouldn’t call this binge behavior, it was certainly not eating according to my plan or according to my hunger. It was boredom eating. When I’m at home, I have a lot of alternatives to distract myself when I feel the urge to eat out of boredom. In a hotel room with a table full of food, I was a bit weaker than I feel I could have been.
Eating on the road is doable. Although I could have done better, I could have done considerably worse. My college would have reimbursed me for nearly $50 per day worth of meal expenses. I lived on less than $15. I could have eaten at restaurants three times a day. I had the cafeteria-prepared option designed with nutrition in mind when I did eat “out,” and I chose the foods that I brought into my “home” carefully when shopping for groceries.