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Fit in Falls Church: Traveling Healthy

By Gretchen Powell

I have spent more than 24 hours on planes over the past few weeks. By this time next week, I’ll have added another 10 hours to that total. July, for me, was a month of serious travel. From Ireland to Houston to Oregon and, soon, to San Francisco, I’ve become a definite globetrotter and literal jetsetter. And, for the most part, it’s been wonderful! I’ve seen wonderful things and spent time with wonderful people. The only not-so-wonderful part about all this travel has been, well, the traveling.

Despite having basically grown up in airports and on planes thanks to my dad’s job keeping us always on the move, I don’t have a particular affinity for the specific act of traveling. I love seeing new places, getting to try new things, documenting my trips, all of that. But traveling itself is hard: adjusting to new time zones, settling in to different cultures, and – perhaps hardest of all – staying healthy.

I don’t just mean keeping the germs at bay (which is definitely a challenge in and of itself with the sheer number of people you’re in contact with while traveling). More specifically, I’m referring to how difficult it can be to maintain a healthy lifestyle when you’re jetlagged, in unfamiliar territory, and on a “vacation” mentality. In Ireland, I could have very nearly consumed my weight in beer and potatoes. At my Oregon family reunion, there wasn’t a single time when snacks weren’t out on the counter for me to nibble on. Thankfully, I had a few simple tips to keep my vacation belly under control.

Track your food.

Nobody wants to spend their trip calorie-counting, so that’s not really what I did. Instead, I suggest keeping a loose journal (or note on your iPhone) so you can make quick notes on what you’ve already eaten that day. It will help you keep portions in mind and mindless snacking when you aren’t hungry at bay.

Engage in activities.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good lounge-on-the-beach vacation as much as the next person. But even I have to admit that doing so for four or five days straight doesn’t exactly sound exciting. Instead, mix up your day by including some nice easy strolls, outdoor activities, and, if you’re up to it, a hiking or sporting adventure! I promise, it’ll make that third (or fourth) piña colada taste all the sweeter.

Cook, when possible, and keep healthy snacks on hand.

Depending how you’re traveling, you may or may not have the ability to prepare a few of your meals yourself. If you do, it’s a no-brainer to give your body a bit of a break by cooking up something light and delicious. But even if you don’t have kitchen access, you can help yourself by stocking up on snacks from the local store that will prevent you from getting too hungry, and from filling up on junk. Try keeping a few pieces of fruit, some whole grain crackers and hummus, dried seaweed snacks, or heart-healthy nuts around the house to keep your hands out of the potato chip bag.

The most important aspect of staying healthy when traveling is staying sane, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be a health machine. Thankfully, the simple tips above have helped me maintain my pre-trip weight on multiple occasions, so I hope they’ll do the same for you!

 Gretchen Powell is a fitness and healthy living blogger in Falls Church. She is not a registered dietitian, nutritionist, or medical doctor, and a medical professional should be consulted before undertaking dramatic diet changes. For more, visit