HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Dieting during work travel

I travel a lot for work and am doing Weight Watchers. It's really hard, especially since I often wind up in tiny towns where restaurants serve seven side dishes, all potatoes. And I like to have a glass of wine with my colleagues at the end of a long day in a conference room.

Unfortunately on my trips (which can be every week for 10 weeks), lunch and often breakfast is just presented to us. Often it's the sandwich-chips-apple trifecta I never eat in real life—I don't eat the bread from the sandwiches, and give away the chips, then am hungry. Sometimes we are served an elaborate meal from culinary students who want to impress us.

Dried fruit and nuts, my fomer crutch, have so many points. I do bring as much fresh fruit from home as is practical. I bring a boiled egg for each day and just eat the white. (They keep.) I don't like energy bars or most other processed foods. I hate artifical sweeteners.

Any suggestions of things I can make and bring for snacks and meal supplements to last through three-day trips? It all has to pass TSA, so no gooey stuff.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I don't know anything about WW, but I'm not surprised dried fruits and nuts have a lot of points. Those are some of the things that put weight on me noticeably quick...like cake, cookies and ham.

    I'm also helpless in the face of food shoved in front of me, but if I'm to be left alone on a trip, I tend to swipe items from the free breakfast buffet at the hotel. Fruit, yogurt cups (if you can find any w/out articial sweetener), granola bars, and then just snack through the workday avoiding going to a restaurant for lunch.

    I try to arrange things where I can go for a run or at least spend a few minutes on the treadmill at the hotel before I go out w/ colleagues. Telling yourself you'll go afterwards is dangerous, depending on exactly how many glasses of wine are involved!

    4 Replies
    1. re: danna

      Any chance your hotel rooms have a microwave oven available? I like to snack on the small microwavable popcorn - each bag is just a portion, and low in points. Also, I travel with low point crackers and Laughing Cow Lite cheese. It's spready, but I haven't had any problems with TSA. I just put them in my quart size zip lock bag with allowable tubes, etc. They can go without refrigeration for a while. A company called Walden Farms produces a fat free, calorie free salad dressing - my favorite is either the bleu cheese, or bacon ranch. They produce it in individual, single serving pouches, which are perfect for travel. Again, I put some of these in my zip lock bag. That way, I can have any salad selection on the menu and use the diet dressing along with some balsamic vinegar and not feel sorry for myself. Trader Joe's sells pretzel sticks that are about 10 per serving for 3 or 4 points. They're filling and crunchy. If you have one of the WW points calculators, bring it to the store with you and check out the points value on crackers and snacks. There are ways to travel and stay on the meal plan, but it takes advance planning. Good luck!

      1. re: critter101

        I also like the Laughing Cow Lite cheese - no TSA issues - and a bag of baby carrots. Also, McCanns has individual packets of instant oatmeal which aren't bad and can be easily prepared in a hotel room if there's a coffee pot to heat water.

        1. re: janeh

          The hotels are a mixed bag, depending on the size of the town we're in. But I can always call and see in advance what's available to me.

          1. re: sweetpotater

            I know you said that you dislike processed foods, but I find that sometimes, in difficult situations, I have to make some concessions in order to stick to the plan. I can get cranky without some salty, chewy, creamy, or crunchy elements during the day...especially on a trip where I can't take advantage of my own food supply.

    2. If WW is working for you, I am not going to try and talk you away from it, but the simple fact of weight loss is that you need to burn more calories than you consume. The WW system is great for limiting the input part, but you can also bump up the output portion if you can't keep the input part restricted.

      Take a long walk, jog, use the hotel gym, pack some powerbands and work out in your room...

      2 Replies
      1. re: ocshooter

        Unfortunately, when I travel for work, I have literally no time to exercise and barely any to sleep either. Which is why watching what I eat on the road is particularly important.

        1. re: sweetpotater

          That is tough. Personally, If I were trying to watch what I ate, I would rather have 1/2 a sandwich, scape off the mayo, and have an apple with it than taking the filling out and tossing the bread.

      2. My son is in the Navy and sometime misses meals. I've been making him various kinds of granola bars to keep in his room at the barracks. They are filling and healthy, and if you enter it into the recipe builder on WW site, you can see how many points a serving will be. Change them up with different fruits, nuts or chocolate chips so you won't get bored with them. He says he'd rather I bring him those than cookies. DH and I are on WW, and we took granola bars and banana bread, along with fresh fruit, on our last road trip. Just a few bites to stave off hunger helps you make better choices at the rest of your meals.

        1. i'm assuming you have a fridge for storage at hotels... if not, some may not apply...

          i know it doesn't smell great, but if you throw the packaging away (like really away elsewhere), canned chicken breast or (gasp) that pouch tuna makes a good quick protein snack... mix it with some mustard, a little fat free or low fat mayo, and whatever else you like.

          if you can find some lean, non-sugary turkey or ahi jerky, that's good protein.

          another great one i ALWAYS travel with is homemade kale chips. i make a ton before i go, and portion them into snack packs.

          make some other kinds of veggie chips -- zucchini, carrots, etc. -- just a low slow oven

          roasted veggies -- roast and season as desired, portion into snack packs, and store in the fridge at your hotel.

          maybe some egg white frittata muffins (mini or regular) with veggies that you can keep in your fridge and take with you daily for lunch or snack

          stuffed mushrooms -- stuffed with minced other veggies; good cold and store easily at hotel

          low-fat cottage cheese with salsa (easy to buy wherever you are... i think)

          1. As a WW veteran and traveller, I know where you are coming from. It is hard, but not impossible, to stick to the program. The key is to map out and plan exactly what you will have, points wise, meal by meal.
            You first have to make sure you count the wine points, deducting from your daily points.
            Second, you need to figure out what would work for a portable breakfast. There are cereal bars, WW breakfast bars, and so on that are portable, discretely carried, and will definitely work. If breakfast is presented, keep the fruit and the coffee, and pull out your cereal or keep it for later. Now, if you don't like pre-made granola bar/cereal bars, do a little research on the WW site for recipes for home made breakfast bars or energy bars. I have a great recipe for energy bars made with dried apricots and nary an artificial sweetner in sight!. At the very least, you'll be able to account for your points and have a good breakfast. You also may want to bulk up your breakfasts? one egg white wouldn't last anyone, and 3 egg whites are a single point, so you have the points flexibility here. If there is a microwave accessible, then oatmeals are definitely in your future. Canned single portion tunas and chicken breasts are also an option.
            Third, for lunches that are included, it may help to contact the site in advance for special dietary requests that you have. If it is a culinary student presentation, they will with enough advance notice, prepare you an alternate meal. No different than if this was a religious requirement. You may want to experiment and say that you are a vegetarian for example and see how it goes. I'm sure that being in the culinary world, they would expect if not welcome such requests. I can't imagine someone who is allergic to, say, dairy, being expected to eat a prepared meal.
            Last, you need to sort out your snacks! Sorry, but dried fruits and nuts are SO energy dense that it is easy to fill up on empty points. You may look at 100 calorie snack packs to keep you going.
            As for dinners, you have a few options. First is to just do the best you can, given the variety out there in these small towns. I'm pretty sure that with careful selection you could make the plan work. Baked potatoes instead of french fries, green salad with dressing on the side, grilled/poaches vs deep fried. The usual. It takes time and attention, and sometimes if you are with a group and know your hotel in advance, sorting out menus online in advance might be a good option. If there is no healthy option, which personally I'm not sure would happen very often, then it simply comes down to portion control and bumping up your exercise. The second is that if the hotel has an accessible microwave, there could be the possibility for you to actually make something if you so desire especially if you have a vehicle and could actually get to a grocery store or a quickie mart. If this appeals to you, packing a mini kitchen, with can opener, microwavable bowl, small strainer, plate, knife/fork/spoon is an option. IF you want to go whole hog, you can even pack an actual mini kitchen, with the above, plus ingredients that you can make simple meals from, and a portable induction cooktop. Now, this is the long term solution -- I did just that when I was in a yoga teacher training program that meant hotel residency for 9 weeks. I couldn't eat out, so I brought my kitchen with me. I would only do this with an induction cooktop as they are very safe, and pack it away completely during the day because hotels would rather you didn't cook in their rooms. From my POV, I couldn't afford to eat out every single meal (no meals were included and I was maxed to the limit budget wise), so that is what I did without problems. But that is a really hard core solution LOL!
            Unfortunately, during travel, it comes down to just doing the best you can, making the best choices that you can, portion control, getting up early to work out every day, and perhaps eating not exactly what you would normally eat for the sake of points values (i.e. I don't like frozen dinners, but if I had to, I'd be eating them). Carry your points values books with you everywheres and double and triple check what you are having. The thing I found with travelling is that it is easy to get out of the portion control routine and into a "well, I'm here I might as well have..." mindframe.
            There is hope and it can be done -- I went on a 2 week cruise last year and actually LOST weight simply through portion control, rigid points counting, and exercise. I took nothing with me, and ordered off the menus and/or buffets.
            OH and be careful with the minibars! Many hotels these days charge you a fee if you even simply OPEN the minibar, so clearing it out and stocking it with your own stuff OFTEN incurs a charge.
            Best of luck!

            1. A hot drink can be somewhat filling, at least inspiring, but it isn't always known in these microwave days that there's such a thing as a universal immersion heater, sold in any good travel store. A metal element attached to a cord and plug is immersed in a mug of water and plugged in. Within about 60 seconds you have a cup of boiling water that can quickly become tea or broth if you have brought the necessary bags or cubes with you. Few calories are involved. A very useful gadget where there is no microwave.

              1. I am also a work traveler and lost 30 pounds over a year ago and have kept it off. Most of my travel is to the midwest (think chain restaurants as far as the eye can see in small cities, as well as lots of airport food) but I do some bigger city traveling. I didn't do WW but I was counting calories via an app on my phone (MyFitnessPal). My hotels are generally also a mixed bag- some have a fridge, some have a microwave, some have neither.

                Breakfast: I eat it on my own. Even if a meeting includes breakfast, I eat before I leave the hotel on my own time that way I don't need to eat the bagel/muffin/pastries spread or whatever else may be put in front of me. I start with a bigger breakfast, that way I can eat a lighter lunch. Many times I am either at a Hampton Inn/Residence Inn type place that provides a breakfast and have healthier options available (hard boiled eggs, yogurt, fruit, etc.). At full service hotels, I usually go for eggs and whole wheat toast. In some cities, I can run to a nearby Starbucks or other coffee chain for a decent breakfast (calorie-wise). See my Starbuck's note below.

                Lunch: Are you avoiding carbs, have a gluten allergy, or just don't like bread? Usually the sandwich chip combo is provided to me as well. Generally I eat half the sandwich and will eat fruit if it is provided.

                Dinner: Even at the crappiest chain restaurant, I can find something relatively healthy, even if it calls for a "sauce on the side" request, or I ask them to replace french fries with whatever veg they have on hand. There is always some sort of grilled chicken or grilled shrimp option which is my default if nothing else on the menu looks agreeable.

                I always have almonds on me but it sounds like they are too high calorie (or high points, rather) for your liking. Also, Starbucks are a lifesaver for on the go meals, either in airports or on the ground. Their protein plate is fantastic, for 300-odd calories I get a hard boiled egg, cheese, fruit, natural peanut butter...it has been my travel savior many of times.

                Edited to add: If you get stuck in chain restaurant hell as I often do, there are smartphone apps that have chain restaurant nutrition aggregated into one app. Very helpful for looking up a restaurant on the fly to see how you can get out of there for less than 800 calories!

                1. Hi there: fresh fruit is a great idea. I'd second the Starbucks/chain restaurant ideas; they often have packaged yogourt/fruit that you can take with you and have later in the day. I'd probably either scrape off any excess butter/mayo from the sandwich or only eat half the sandwich, depending on the size.. the bread can help fill you up.
                  Some convenience stores sell hard-boiled eggs, cups of yogourt, or even carrot sticks... might be worth having a stroll during a meeting break to see your options.
                  Tiny towns can be hard; chains are ironically often the best option for "healthy eating" since they will have nutritional information posted on-line, so you at least know what you're getting!
                  I remember a friend who had to travel to a lot of small mid-western towns for work. She didn't eat red meat, and at one such little restaurant ordered a "veggie burger". It ended up being a hamburger.. with vegetables on it.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: rstuart

                    LOLOL veggie burger LOLOL...*wipes eyes*

                    1. re: freia

                      Yeah... she was a bit.. surprised.

                  2. Watching your weight on the road is really, really hard. Most folks I know just accept that there's 5 pounds or so that are yours to keep as a perk of the job!

                    Do the best you can-- which is definitely far easier said than done -- but don't harm yourself trying to stick to that point number...If you're hungry, it is better to just eat the sandwich than to risk a headache or nausea because you haven't eaten...and if you're not ravenously hungry, you're also less likely to overeat (or make bad decisions) when you finally do get to eat something that meets your points.

                    1. Have you ever tried PB2? Its a low calorie peanut butter substitute that is non perishable. There are also single serving packages of almond butter that can be spread across two snacks. Either are great with apples or carrots.