When business travel becomes routine — and it doesn’t allow you to actually have your own routine — it can lead to stress and unhealthy living.
With this in mind, wellness and productivity coach Marcey Rader and Food Network host/celebrity cook Sunny Anderson partnered with Extended Stay America (ESA) to encourage travelers to feel good and maintain normalcy during their trips. (ESA offers built-in kitchens with full-size refrigerators in their rooms to encourage a healthy lifestyle.)
Wait! Before diving into the surprising tips and tricks from the pros, this amazing fact needs to be front and center: did you know that Extended Stay America offers free rooms for those undergoing chemotherapy or treatment in areas away from home? Medical expenses are often astronomical, and ESA wants to take as much stress as possible from those working in order to heal.
Work Well, Play More
Rader spent most of her adult career traveling for business, and so her strategy for healthy business travel is rooted in experience and practicality. One of her most surprising insights calls for a paradigm shift from not just travelers but the companies who fund them:
Don’t eat your per diem!
If you are given $50 per day to cover food expenses, you are most likely going to do your darndest to reach that goal and eat its worth in calories. But what if you could take the total of your per diems combined–say, $150, and use most of it one grocery store trip where you could purchase not only ingredients for easy healthy dishes you can cook in your kitchen, but on healthy snacks? Imagine buying a box of granola bars that you can take with you for the same price as a single one in a coffee shop.
This calls for a paradigm shift, as previously mentioned, since your company would most likely need to make arrangements for travel from the airport to a grocery store, then to the hotel. But that’s not a huge shift!
If your company doesn’t fly with this idea quite yet, not to worry. Change is coming! But until then, though, don’t eat your per diem. “Most business travelers make the mistake of eating like they are on vacation,” says Rader. “In a recent survey, 86% of travelers reported gaining an average of up to three pounds when away from home for two weeks or more.” If you travel once a month, you’re looking at putting on 36 pounds this year. That’s…a lot.
The “What a Great Idea!” Snacks
Rader also suggests purchasing those little packages of avocado or guacamole that come in pre-packaged serving sizes, as well as hummus–and freezing them before your trip. Stick them in your carry on, and they will slowly thaw but stay cold while you travel. Genius!
Also, purchase those party trays of vegetables–they are pre-cut and all you have to do is grab a handful on your way out the door, or throw them onto a salad.
Order First at Restaurants
Why? You’re more likely to order something healthy because you haven’t been influenced yet by evil colleagues and their naughty choices. Also, everyone will be listening to what your order and probably silently judging you, so aim for perfection.
Full-size Fridges Are Your Friend
You probably, by this point, have tried to shove a styrofoam or plastic container full of leftovers into one of those teensy, dorm-style fridges in hotel rooms. They don’t fit. You either crush them or shove them so hard they spill their contents. Extended Stay America has full-size fridges so get all the leftover containers you want…there’s room.
What else can you fit in there?
- Rotisserie Chicken–add to salads, eat with veggies…so many options
- Greens like spinach or kale
- Pre-cut fajita peppers, mushrooms, and onions
- Plain Greek or Coconut milk yogurt
- Almond or coconut milk–unsweetened (taste isn’t too different and has way less sugar)
So food is covered, but what about exercise? Rader offers moves for mini-workouts in those moments where you could squeeze in some body tweaks instead of hopping on your phone to occupy yourself.
Movement Opportunities Are Happening All Around You
- Do 10 squats while brushing your teeth
- Do sit ups during commercial breaks
- Take the stairs
- Do lunges during conference calls
The Sunny Side
Sunny Anderson is the lively ray of sunshine you see on the Food Network. Her laugh is boisterous and warm and makes everyone want to be her best friend. Anderson also knows how to whip up the meanest, most delicious batch of migas on the planet. As a military brat who spent time in San Antonio, her migas are the Real Deal. (And it was a true pleasure watching business travelers from Florida and North Carolina–and even Mumbai–try them for the first time!)
Anderson (whose glorious romp through Brooklyn on a food tour will be highlighted in an upcoming piece) helped craft ESA’s “Away from Home Cooking” recipe book, which features a variety of recipes that are both healthy and indulgent. It’s simply a way for travelers to experience the comforts of home through their tastebuds. It also features a Mad Magazine tribute — a fold in page at the very end of the book that turns into another page entirely if you fold it correctly.
Declaring herself “Real Girl Size” who doesn’t want to get bigger than her current size, she advocates being the person who chooses, buys, prepares, and makes your own food when on the road. Get your stuff and cook in your kitchen! Otherwise you’re on the road to increasing your clothing size and weight. “It sounds like it’s a lot of work, but it’s so not!” she says.
ESA offers pots, pans, cooking utensils in addition to their full-size fridge, so your prep and execution is covered. One way she takes the comforts of home with her is by packing the spices she normally uses in her dishes in little plastic bags —also an equally genius idea. Eat only some of your meal while out at a restaurant with colleagues, then re-purpose the leftovers the following day. Maybe a quesadilla is served alongside your scrambled eggs!