Eating Well on the Road

My job has me living on the road most of the year, and becasue of this I don’t always have the best eating habits. Do you have suggestions on better ways for me to follow the food pyramid while living out of a hotel room?


hungry in ohio


First things first, let’s forget about the food pyramid. That device was designed by a committee and it shows. Instead of concentrating on meeting the requirements poorly laid out in a jumbled chart, instead think about your diet with some common sense. Realize that your nutritional intake is tantamount to your life—-the only thing you’ve got going for you at any particular time is the sum total of what you’ve eaten lately. Because your diet is of consummate consequence, make the quality of your edibles to be of utmost importance.

If you’re living out of hotel rooms, pressure your employer to make your environment on the road as close to a home as possible: never stay anywhere that doesn’t have a functioning kitchen. If you’ve got a refrigerator, a stove, and a toaster oven–you’ll be all set.

Get yourself a set of knives. They don’t have to be of great quality, but they should be maintainable. I’d reccomend getting low-end professional quality knives: machine-stamped, high-carbon stainless with a white, plastic handle. A chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a serrated bread knife should be enough; plus a knife steel so you can maintain the non-serrated knives’ blades. Having your own knives should make preparing meals much easier than it would be with the low-quality, ownerless blades that the hotel provides.

Whenever you arrive in a new city, ask the attendant at the front desk of your hotel where the closest grocery store is. Find out if there are any farmers’ markets or produce stands in the area. Buy yourself ingredients with which to prepare your own meals. Just by eating “at home” instead of in a restaurant two meals a day, you’ll be able to save yourself money while improving your nutrition. Instead of grabbing a burger or a fast-food sandwich, make yourself a sandwich on whole wheat bread from the store. Give yourself some fresh fruit, some carrot sticks, and a cup of yogurt. Have juice instead of a soda.In the evening, make yourself simple meals with real ingredients (not out of a kit). Instead of mixing up a packet of instant broccoli alfredo pasta, use an onion, real broccoli, real cream, and parmesan cheese; cook your own pasta. Doing so won’t take significantly longer than making an insta-food mix would, plus it will let you enjoy actual ingredients instead of dehydrated equivalents. Your food will taste better, and rates higher on the common sense scale because it has undergone significantly less processing.

If you have time in the morning, you’ll experience improved results by preparing all three of your meals for yourself. Unless your hotel has continental breakfast that offers cereal with milk and fresh fruit, get a bunch of bananas and a box of {insert favorite cereal, unless favorite cereal has words chocolate, marshmallow, or sugar in its name, in which case—- go back to the first paragraph and repeat the italicized phrases as a mantra until they sink in to your thick head; then, choose a new favorite cereal that consists of almost entirely whole grains}. Even with a little bit of heavy cream and a sprinkle of sugar, your breakfast will come in way ahead of a doughnut or a sausage biscuit.

The first question you should ask yourself whenever it comes time to eat is, are these ingredients naturally occurring? If not, they probably don’t rank very high on the common sense scale, which dictates that chemical wonders are not often desireable food. I don’t care what the label claims the benefits are, non-dairy instant whipped topping is not better for you than is real whipped cream; pasteurized processed cheese food product is plastic compared to cheese; and there is no reason to eat artificial sweeteners unless you have a medical condition that requires it.

Secondly, are they minimally processed? True, it’s nice sometimes to be able to open up a can or a box or a bag and have everything set so you don’t have to think—-but every additional step of processing takes your dietary intake farther away from its natural form. Thus, pasta primavera made with vegetables you cut yourself is more desireable than pasta primavera created from a mix. That having been said, something created from a mix is still more desireable than something from a heat & serve tray.

Lastly, is the meal colorful? If so, there’s a good chance that you’re getting a proper mix of nutrients. Go heavy on the whole grains, vegetables, and beans; lighter on the meats, the sweets, and the imitation ingredients. Strive for natural and delicious.
Cooking for yourself when there’s no one else around is tough. Eating food is a social activity, and if there isn’t another person around to partake, finding the motivation to make yourself a meal can be difficult. It’s simply a matter of making the effort; but once you do, the benefits are undeniable.

Here’s a recipe from the Corduroy Orange archive to help you make an easy meal for one.

4 Responses to “Eating Well on the Road”

  1. Cortney Says:

    I think it’s useful to say that even if your hotel room only has a microwave, and no stove, you can still prepare some pretty good food - with a little thought and ingenuity. It might also be a good idea to get an electric hotplate and a small toaster oven to take with you, in case you can’t find a hotel with a kitchenette.

    When my friend Dave lived in the oh-so-expensive Tokyo, he managed to cook reasonably well in a room the size of a shoebox. This is a photo of his “kitchen,” which consisted of a hot plate and a sink. Later he did a little baking in a toaster oven.

  2. Clara Lee Says:

    I have a few practical ideas for HIO to go along with the rant about eating healthy. If your motel room has a microwave, you can “bake” either a white potato or sweet potato in 6-10 minutes depending on the size. It might not be quite as good as one baked in the oven, but it’s fast and healthy.

    When you go to the store, grab a “bag o salad”. It’s a tad pricey but conventient and all washed, so it’s good to go for a quick meal when you come “home” tired and hungry.

    If HIO or anyone else who is on the road a lot is driving, he/she can get a Foreman or some other electric grill and a crock pot. While at the grocery store, pick up chicken tenders. They are smaller and cook faster than whole chicken breasts. These are good with an all-purpose seasoning such as a cajun seasoning and will be good broiled for dinner and as leftovers to go on top of a tossed salad.

    If you have a crock pot, you can make soups and casserole type dishes that can be started before leaving for work and then be ready when you get home. These can serve both as dinner and as lunch the next day.

    If you have a little extra time on weekends, you can make a couple dishes that can serve as dinner or lunch for the next week. When time is of the essence, pick up a cooked chicken at the grocery store and have it with a baked potato or baked sweet potato and a salad for dinner. The leftovers will be great with that whole wheat bread for a sandwich.

  3. Jim Says:

    Check this out for help with the pyramid:

  4. Corduroy Orange » Blog Archive » Pasta Help-Yourself Says:

    [...] As I described a few weeks ago to Hungry In Ohio, cooking your own meals is usually preferable to heating up some processed food provided to you in a kit. Sometimes, though, it’s just easier to follow the directions on the back of the pasta casserole box. [...]

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