Healthy Traveling

Traveling is one of my favorite past-times and this year I’m doing A LOT of it. So far, I’ve been to Nashville for the Academy of Dietetics annual food and nutrition symposium (FNCE), Memphis for an RD exam prep course and Grand Rapids and Florida for fun! I also have upcoming trips planned to Portland for another nutrition conference (which I’ll hopefully be presenting at!) and California for spring break with one of my best girlfriends. Oh, and did I mention I’m leaving tomorrow to visit family in Evansville, IN 6 hours away for the holidays?

Needless to say, I’ve experienced first-hand the struggles of maintaining healthy eating and exercise habits while on the road. Sitting all day, having limited or no access to your usual gym and kitchen and relying on outside food choices can be tough. However, it is possible to stay healthy while traveling. Here are my tops five tips for you to use on your next excursion:

1.) Plan, plan, PLAN!

As with everything else, the key to success here is planning ahead. Think about how many meals and snacks you realistically need to pack. Will you be eating out for some of your meals? Does your hotel already have a complimentary breakfast? Will you have access to a microwave or mini fridge? If your flying can you check that? Answering these questions first will help you outline a successful plan of attack.

2.) Get the necessary ‘equipment’

Next, get what you need to make it happen. A mini travel cooler is my lifeline when it comes to traveling. It expands your food choices ten-fold by allowing you to pack otherwise easily perishable items such as yogurts, hummus, cheese sticks, sandwiches and more. Other things to think about packing include napkins, thermoses (if your bringing hot items) and UTENSILS. Don’t forget the utensils…

3.) Think ease & portability

Make your meals as easy as possible to eat. Although a steak dinner complete with a baked potato and healthy dose of roasted vegetables might sound nice, tackling this will in a moving care probably won’t be the easiest (or cleanest) task to take on. Instead try out some of these meal and snack ideas I’ve come to love will road tripping:


  • Overnight Oats-combine ½ C oats, 1/2 cup milk or water, 2 Tbs. yogurt, dried and/or fresh fruit, nuts and cinnamon. Refrigerate overnight then enjoy the next morning
  • Sandwiches- Pb & banana, turkey/ham (stuffed with veggies for extra nutrients and fiber!), hummus and veggie
  • Salads- this is a great way to get a healthy dose of vegetables in, which can oftentimes be challenging when traveling. Be sure to add a protein source for extra staying power such as beans, grilled chicken/salmon, cheese, nuts or hard-boiled egg
  • Eggs-an egg sandwich, scramble or omelet using whatever vegetables I have left on hand plus a little cheese.
  • Grain dishes-think Chipotle burrito bowl: start with a cooked grain then add vegetables, protein, and whatever fun toppings you want. I packed leftover pizza quinoa on my recent trip to Memphis.


  • Yogurt-plain, or with fresh fruit, trail mix or granola
  • Muffins-try these pumpkin chocolate chip ones
  • Fruit + nut butter
  • Pre-chopped vegetable + hummus
  • Crackers + cheese stick
  • Trail mix

*Remember to keep all necessary foods refrigerated or heated to the prevent food-borne illness


4.) Choose healthy fast food options

If you end up running out of food sooner than planned, there are still plenty of healthy options for you. Check out fast food websites for their nutrition information before making your choices. In a nutshell, avoid fried items, sugar sweetened beverages (sweet tea, regular sodas, etc.), special sauces and super-sizing.

5.) Move whenever possible

Whether this means doing a lap around each gas station or hitting up the hotel gym a couple of times, make the most of what you’ve got available to you. Every little bit really does add up. Plus, it’ll give you an energy boost, which is much needed after sitting for extended periods of time!


Butternut Squash Risotto

The other day, I took a break from studying for the biggest exam of my life (AKA the national registration exam to finally become a registered dietitian) to cook myself a proper meal. After subsisting off of frozen salmon burgers and eggs for the past few weeks, preparing an actual meal from scratch was a welcomed change.

I was feeling “fancy” and had some frozen butternut squash in the back depths of my freezer, so I decided on butternut squash risotto. Risotto is awesome, because a small amount produces a large volume, which is great when you’re feeding a hungry group of people (or hungry single lady whose been studying all day!). Many people make risotto out to be a complicated, time-consuming dish to make, but it’s really simple and pain-less! Although it requires constant stirring and attention to prevent burning, I made this recipe within about 30 minutes start to finish.

Most risotto recipes out there go heavy on the butter, wine and cheese. However, I’ve found through experimentation, a small amount of all these ingredients results in just as good of a product with fewer calories and fat! The addition of vegetables (in this case butternut squash, spinach and onion) ups the nutritional value even further by adding a healthy dose of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Be sure to choose reduced-sodium broth to keep the sodium levels in check. This dish can be served as a side or up front and center as a main dish. I like topping mine with some sort of protein such as scallops, shrimp or chicken. If your looking to switch it up, be sure to check out my other risotto recipe!


Butternut Squash Risotto

Serves 4-6



½ T olive oil

1 T butter

¾ C Arborio rice

3 C reduced-sodium chicken broth*

¼ C dry white wine

½ C onion, diced

1 C butternut squash, cut into chunks

1 ½ C spinach, torn

½ C parmesan cheese

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

*may substitute reduced-sodium vegetable broth for vegetarian version



Heat a medium-sized saucepan on medium heat. Add butter, oil, onion and squash. Sauté until onion is cooked through and transluscent, about 3 minutes. Stir in rice. Add wine and stir until wine is fully absorbed. Add 1 ½ cups of the broth and continuously stir until absorbed. Continue to add the remaining broth, small amounts at a time. Make sure to stir regularly to avoid burning the bottom. Once all the liquid is added, turn off heat and mix in parmesan cheese, seasoning and spinach. Enjoy!


Single-serve Dark Chocolate Brownie

I don’t know what my deal is lately, but I have been craving ALL THE DESSERT!! First, it was a brownie a la mode while out to eat and then it was Insomnia cookies with ice cream while studying for my exam last night. When the same sweet craving hit tonight, I decided it was time to take action. Thus, a single-serve dark chocolate brownie recipe was formed.

It is dark, decadent and dare I say healthy?! Unlike your traditional brownie, there is no butter or oil in this recipe and the sugar is reduced without a sacrifice in flavor by using extra-sweet tasting agave nectar. The single-serving offers instant portion control, so you get your dessert in a reasonable amount. Not to mention, the cocoa powder provides you with a hefty dose of antioxidants!

I like to top mine with a spoonful of peanut butter or scoop of ice cream if I’m feeling extra indulgent. For even more nutrition, try topping it with a bit of non-fat vanilla yogurt! So, the next time your hit by your sweet tooth, whip this treat up in less than 2 minutes.


Single-serve Dark Chocolate Brownie

 Serves 1


2 T flour

2 T cocoa powder (I like Hershey’s special dark)

2 T milk

1 T agave nectar (or honey)

¼ tsp. vanilla

pinch of baking powder

1 tsp. chocolate chips



Mix all ingredients in a microwavable mug. Microwave for 20-40 seconds (I prefer a gooey brownie, so I cook it for about 20-30 seconds). Allow to cool for a few more seconds before enjoying alone or topped with your favorite add-ons!