Worried that your healthy eating habits and solid fitness routine will run amok as soon as you leave your driveway? Rest assured that there are dozens of ways to stay healthy and fit when you’re traveling. How do we know? Take a look… 

Don’t use travel as an excuse to abandon your well-established health and fitness routine. There are plenty of ways to stay fit, eat right and – dare we say it? – return in even better condition than when you left. The best part: They’re all perfectly simple to incorporate into your days on the road.  We asked a handful of health and fitness experts to share their best tricks for travelers.

At the Airport

Start off on the right foot by making the right food choices at the airport, normally a minefield of unhealthy food traps. Skip the tempting fare at easy targets like fast-food kiosks and newsstands, which are typically stocked with sugary snacks. “Travel with the right stuff in your purse, briefcase, or coat pocket,” advises Jackie Keller, author of Body After Baby: The Simple 30-Day Plan to Lose Your Baby Weight and founding director of NutriFit. “Don’t rely on being able to find a place to buy healthful snacks. Take along single serving size packages of dried fruit, nuts, pretzels and most importantly, fresh fruit.” Keller also advises eating something nutritious every three hours to keep your internal clock well-oiled.

“Hydration is critical,” adds Keller, so carry that little (or better yet, big) bottle of water with you throughout your trip. You know how dry cabin air can be, so instead of letting it sit idly in your bag, slip it into the plane seat’s magazine pouch as a reminder to sip it down every few minutes. Shoot for about eight ounces of water every hour.

Have some downtime between flights or before your plane boards? Limber up your muscles and get a burst of exercise by moving your feet. Take advantage of the long walkways and “turn airline terminals into walking tracks,” advises Scott Danberg, M.S., exercise director at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Aventura, FL. You’d be surprised how fast you can kill time – and zap calories – simply by walking from gate to gate or better yet, from concourse to concourse.

Chew it right

Stop! Put down that bag of chips! You’ll feel much better if you fill up on foods that energize your body instead of sap its energy. When it comes to water, locally-grown fruits and vegetables, and fresh fish, apply the “good and plenty” rule. Seek them out and let them fill you up so you’re not drawn to indulgences that will inevitably beckon. And let’s be honest, other foods will indeed call your name.

“Lock the hotel mini bar,” advises Arthur Agaston, M.D., cardiologist and bestselling author of The South Beach Diet Dining Guide. “Arrive at your hotel room with a healthy snack already in hand, such as non-fat yogurt, string cheese, fruit, or a “to-go” grilled chicken salad or whole grain wrap.” When you reach your destination, make a pit stop at a local market and stock your hotel room with bottles of water and healthy snacks to grab on your way out the door.

Eating breakfast out? Opt for an in-room meal instead. But we don’t mean room service. “Buy low-fat milk and a box of your favorite whole grain cereal for a fast and waist-friendly alternative to heavy and often expensive hotel breakfasts,” suggests Agaston. The alternative – buffet plates overflowing with sausage, bacon, cheesy omelets, and Danishes – will leave you feeling stuffed and sluggish. That’s no way to start the day.

But let’s face it: Restaurants will be your main food source for the majority of your trip. That doesn’t have to mean compromising your health. It just means you’ll have to pay special attention to making the right choices. If the menu offers “healthy selections,” go for it. If not, be creative and don’t be afraid to ask for special requests. “Any food that is fried can also be steamed, baked, or grilled,” Agaston says. “Ask for dressings and sauces, creamed or otherwise, on the side. More restaurants are accommodating requests for healthier prepared meals.”

Keller agrees and offers another option. “If you can’t find choices that sound healthy, check out the salads and soups. Often an appetizer and salad will be sufficient,” she says.

Can’t help yourself from ordering the fettuccine alfredo? Just watch your portion size. You may have heard the trick of ordering a lunch portion for dinner or asking the waiter to split the regular portion in half and wrap the other half to go. Agaston says that sticking with smaller portions is key to staying on track. “An appetizer size or half of an entrée with a salad can be a balanced and satisfying meal, if chosen wisely. And if you decide to order dessert, share it with your friends or family.”

Of course, you can also seek out restaurants that have a healthier spin. Drew Rosen, executive chef at the Pritikin Longevity Center, suggests scouring out local farmers markets. “Many cities and towns in America, Europe and other countries host colorful, entertaining outdoor farmers markets. What a great way to pick up farm-fresh produce and take in the culture and people of the country you’re in.”

Active activities

If you’ve established a fitness routine and are concerned that it’ll go up in smoke once you hit the road, don’t fret. Get a jump start by packing to be active. Even if you’re doubtful about having time to exercise, pack a lightweight pair of sneakers (we like the New Balance 743 cardio walkers, which sell for $69.99 at nbwebexpress.com), at least one exercise outfit, several changes of socks, and a fully-charged MP3 player. “Pack to stay on track,” suggests Kari Anderson, award-winning fitness instructor and director, former member of the Joffrey Ballet and creator of the Reach fitness DVD. “Scope out all available training venues, wherever you happen to be. And make a conscious effort to be adventurous and try them all.”

No room for sneaks in your bag? “Pack swimwear,” advises Susan Spear, M.D., senior vice president of medical affairs at Executive Health Exams International, in Morristown, NJ. “There is always room for this!” After all, most hotels have an outdoor or indoor pool. And many open early and close late. So early meetings or late bedtimes are no excuse for skipping out on a 30-minute swim in the pool.

Like swimming, a quickie workout at the hotel fitness center won’t cost you much time but can give you a great start (or finish) to your day. What’s the matter – does stepping foot into a hotel fitness center make your stomach turn? We understand. You can still be active by squeezing in small bouts of exercise throughout the day. “One of my favorite fitness accessories while traveling is a resistance band,” says Anderson. “It can provide easy and versatile in-room resistance training for the total body.”

No equipment? No problem, says Jyl Steinback, a personal fitness trainer, lifestyle coach and co-author of Fill Up to Slim Down: The Diet That Lets You Eat All the Foods You Love and Still Lose Weight. All you need is a small space in your room to rev it up. March or jog in place for a cardio workout, do sit-ups and push-ups, and use a chair, bed, or floor for tricep dips. “Use your own body resistance,” she says. “Bicep curls, chest presses, shoulder presses…anything you do with weights, you can do without.”

Loosen up

A break in routine may be just what the doctor ordered, especially if you’re traveling for pleasure. “If you’re lounging by the pool or cruising the Caribbean, jump in the pool every 30 minutes or so,” advises Steinback. “Don’t just stand there sipping on that daiquiri. Jog in place, do standing leg lifts, swim a few laps, or hold onto the wall and kick your heart out! Be a kid with your kids. Bike, rollerblade, play in the park, run on the beach. As long as you’re moving, you’re staying fit.”

Keeping your distance from the gym doesn’t mean your body will turn to mush. If you’re going on a second honeymoon or planning a conference for your sales territory, consider booking a fitness or adventure excursion. Go hiking, biking, snorkeling, or waterskiing.

Or simply put one foot in front of the other. “Walk,” advises Steinback. “It’s free, easy, and you can do it anywhere. Sightseeing? Walk it! Purchase an (on and off) trolley pass and walk the distance when possible or walk to the furthest destination and take the trolley back.”

“Traveling often involves a great deal of ‘sit’ time whether by car, bus, plane, or train,” adds Anderson. “Make a conscious effort to counter that with equal ‘movement’ time when you arrive at your destination.”
“Take the stairs,” advises Steinback. “Keep track of how many stairs you climb during your stay, add these up throughout the year and see how far you’ve gone. (Eiffel Tower = 1,050 steps, Empire State Building = 1,020 steps, Sears Tower = 1,100 steps). Set up a (non-food) reward for yourself once you’ve reached your destination. Then start over.”

Whatever your destination, consider getting there and back on foot, a particularly easy feat if you’re in a city. You’ll juice up your blood flow and benefit from an up-close and personal tour of the unique neighborhoods in between. “Find restaurants that are within walking distance of your hotel,” suggests Danberg. “Why take a taxi when you can enjoy a leisurely walk in the cool evening air to and from the restaurant? And every step does count. With just 15 minutes of walking, you can burn 100 calories and more.”

Words of Wisdom

 “For 80 percent of your trip, make all the right choices,” advises Anderson. “The other 20 percent can be your indulgence.” If you keep this rule in mind, you’ll come home feeling re-energized, even better than when you left. “Whether business or pleasure, feeling great about yourself while on the road makes the trip a success long after you return home.”