Remember to Choose Healthy Options While Away from Home

Continue to make healthy eating choices, even while away from home. Photo by Edgar Castrejon on Unsplash

As warmer weather begins to settle in many of us are looking forward to upcoming vacations and getaways. While travel opportunities bring excitement and adventure, travelling can also present some challenges for people who are trying to maintain a pattern of healthy eating.  University of Tennessee Extension nutrition specialist Kristen Johnson says, “The good news is that there are many steps you can take to make healthy decisions about food and beverages while you are travelling”. 

Keep healthy snacks on-hand so that you are less likely to rely on unhealthy snack foods like chips, cookies, or candy when you get hungry.  Johnson says, “Whole fruits like apples, oranges, or bananas, whole grain crackers, air-popped popcorn, unsalted nuts and dried fruits are healthy, portable snacks. If you have access to a cooler, store cut up vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, and peppers in snack-size containers or bags. If you need to purchase a snack at a convenience store, many places are stocking healthy options like fruits, unsalted nuts or low-fat and fat free yogurt.”

Travelling often means relying on restaurants for many of our meals. When dining out, keep a few tips in mind to help you make a healthy choice. Johnson says, “Be sure to review the restaurant’s menu and nutrition information online ahead of time to help you make a healthy meal choice before arriving. You may be less tempted by the sights and smells of less healthy dishes if you arrive to the restaurant with a decision in mind for your meal. Scan the menu for terms that usually indicate a dish is lower in calories.  Foods that are baked, braised, broiled, grilled, stir-fried, poached or roasted are usually lower in calories that foods that are described as battered, fried, breaded, buttered, creamy, crispy, smothered, or rich.”

Restaurant portion sizes are often large, try splitting a meal with a friend or family member or ordering an appetizer for your meal. Johnson adds, “Remember that your beverages count, too. Some beverages like regular sodas, lemonade, sweet tea, fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks and even alcoholic beverages can be high in calories. Choose water more often to reduce calories.”

Meals cooked at home tend to be lower in calories than meals prepared in restaurants. If you have access to a kitchen, consider preparing some of your meals yourself. This allows you to be in control of the types of foods served, the amount and type of fats used in preparation and the amount of salt added to your foods. Johnson suggests, “Involve your travel companions in planning, shopping and preparing meals. Take advantage the opportunity to explore local foods by seeking out a local farmers market and preparing a favorite local dish.”

Enjoying new tastes and flavors is one of the joys of traveling. As you choose meals, consider all of the foods and beverages you have consumed over the past several days. Make sure that you are choosing a variety of healthy foods, including fruits, vegetables, dairy products and whole grains. Balance occasional indulgences, like desserts or a high calorie entrée, by making healthy food choices throughout the rest of the day and engaging in physical activity.

For additional help, contact the UT Extension family and consumer sciences agent at your local county Extension office. You can also visit the UT Extension Family and Consumer Sciences website at  

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Dr. Kristen Johnson, UT Extension Family and Consumer Sciences, 865-974-8747,​