Traveling and meal trip, meal prep tips to help you do both.

If you’re read some of my other blogs, you know that I enjoy traveling. It’s my mini-escape from reality and really allows me to re-charge. The more I get away, the quicker my travel bucket list seems to keep growing! 

Being a traveler AND a dietitian with an extreme type A personality, one thing I’ve really gotten the hang of is making sure to plan out meals 1-2 weeks in advance. Not all the time, just on weeks when I know I won’t have any time to grocery shop or meal prep. From speaking with clients, many people struggle with food when they get back from vacation. I’ve heard some people begin to skip meals because they don’t have enough food in their homes. Some struggle with variety. And some just don’t feel like cooking AND are tired of eating out, so they’re not really sure what to fuel themselves with. So I wanted to share some of my tips for planning ahead when traveling.

Please note, for me, it works out really well that I am able to plan so far in advance. You do not have to do this! I do not have kids, pets, or a home to take care of! (If I’m away, my roommates can fold down the fort). Pick and choose the tips that you think will work best for you. And feel free to ask your RD for clarification!

5 Meal Prep Tips When You Are Traveling

Decide On A Schedule BEFORE Leaving

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Yes, there is a TON to do before leaving for vacation. And I hate to add another thing onto that list. But taking 10-15 minutes to sit down and look at your schedule for when you get back, can be a time saver and stress reliever. Questions I usually ask myself before going away:

  1. When will I be able to get to the grocery store when I get back?
  2. Do I have food stocked up before I leave, so this way I have a few items to make for when I get home?
  3. Are there freezer meals I can make before leaving so I have that for when I get back?
  4. What important events (social and work) do I have when I get back?
  5. Can I make a grocery list now and edit it when I get home?
  6. What will my kids need for school? And can they buy lunch? (Like I said, I don’t have kids, but I added this one for all the moms and dads out there!)

Take Count Of The Pantry

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I recommend to carve out 10 minutes a few days before leaving on your trip to really take a look at what you will have in your pantry when you get back. It might be a good idea to have a few non-perishables for meals. I like to keep options like: rice, pasta, quinoa, beans, cans of tuna/salmon/chicken, protein bars, and nuts/nut butter. Also, take count of your freezer. What food products may you be able to purchase to keep in there? How about frozen fruits and veggies! Maybe even burgers and other frozen meats/vegetarian options. Here are some examples of meals you might be able to make from the items I’ve listed above:

  • Pasta, tuna and frozen spinach
  • Rice and beans
  • Peanut butter sandwich

Simple, but they’ll work for a meal!

Meals from Frozen Foods

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I’ve literally pieced together whole meals from the frozen food section of Trader Joe’s. This last time I went away, I made a chicken stir fry with grilled chicken strips, stir fry veggies and quinoa. Again all frozen! Another option, is to buy some frozen entrees. I personally like Amy’s, Evol as well as anything at TJs. My personal fave are the shrimp tacos. One question I get asked often is about the “healthiness” of frozen foods. People often say they are “processed” and “high in sodium.” Well, I would much rather you eat frozen foods than not have anything prepped for the week! Also, eating a frozen meal is going to be way less in sodium than going out to eat. Making frozen food meals have allowed me to go grocery shopping a week or so in advance. Which is super convenient when coming back from a long trip. You can also try to make your own frozen meals, that you prepare ahead, and defrost and throw in the slow cooker when ready to cook! 

Day of Rest

Ideally, what I try to do is a) plan my flight so I am getting home on a Friday or Saturday OR b) take off an extra day of work (Rebecca, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry). For point A. If you get home a day or so “early” from your trip, that may allow you to have a day to recuperate. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to grocery shop that day. But, even if you just feel like relaxing before a stressful week, that’s okay too! That will benefit you in the upcoming week. For point B. We all feel the pressure to head back into the office. I know I do! But, paperwork and emails can wait just one more day. If you go into work tired, that’s not fair to you or your coworkers. Traveling is super fun, but it’s also exhausting.

Eating Out

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Hey, let’s be real. When coming back from vacation, the last thing anyone wants to do is cook a meal. You’re tired and also it takes a few days to adjust back to reality! I recommend to have a few places in mind where you can eat out. Both near work and at home. This way, when it comes down to deciding, you already have somewhat of a list ready! And you get still get in plenty of variety and balance by eating out. Some of my favorites are: Cava, & pizza, Sweetgreen, Chipotle, and sushi. Usually, I do eating out in combination with my other 4 tips!

If you would like help meal prepping, make an appointment with one of our dietitians by calling 301-474-2499 or clicking here

Blog reviewed and updated December 2019.

Rebecca Bitzer loves to empower Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) and their clients.  Co-author of Welcome to the Rebelution: Seven steps to the nutrition counseling practice of your dreams and  Taste the Sweet Rebellion: Rebel against dieting.