Traveling is an essential part of life. Whether it is for work or vacation, we all do it at some point or another.
From refusing the free pretzels on the flight to skipping the bagels at the breakfast buffet, there are so many conscious food-related decisions to make while traveling that you probably don’t have to make on a day to day basis.
On top of that, you’re out of your element. It’s nearly impossible to stick to the same routine you have at home when you’re sleeping in a hotel room, sitting in client meetings for 8 hours, and trying to navigate an unfamiliar city. All while adjusting to a new time zone.
Traveling is hard. But there are several ways to make things a bit easier for ourselves.
Pack Plenty of Snacks
A failure to plan is a plan to fail.
The first step to traveling keto is to be prepared. Pack keto-friendly foods into your carryon, especially those higher in fat. It’s easy to find low-carb options on the go, but it can be challenging to find high-fat foods.
These are some of my favorite travel snacks to pack.
Nuts are a great travel snack because they are shelf-stable. Also, they calorically dense, so a small serving is a filling snack that will keep you full of energy for a day of traveling.
Pili nuts have the highest fat content of any nut. They are also the lowest in carbs. Pili nuts have a buttery texture and their flavor is similar to a macadamia nut. You can buy them online from Pili Hunters in single-serve packs that are easy to stick in a carryon.
Pili Hunters also sells pili nut butter. The nut butters are sold in individual packs as well, which makes them perfect for traveling.
You can shop Pili Hunters pili nuts at the link here and use the code HEALTHCODEHACK to save 10% on your order!
Meat Sticks and Jerky
Beef jerky is easy to travel with, and can be great for a ketogenic diet. Watch out for beef jerky brands with excess sugar in the ingredients.
Opting for meat sitcks, like these ones from Duke’s might be a better option. Traditionally, beef sticks are lower in sugar than beef jerky. Also, they’re usually higher in fat, and therefore more optimal for a ketogenic diet.
MCT Oil Powder
Eating high fat while traveling can be difficult if you’re not prepared with extra fat sources. MCT oil is a great fat for keto because it will give you a boost of energy, and it doesn’t have any protein or carbs.
However, MCT oil is not easy to travel with. In its natural form, MCT oil is a liquid, and therefore very messy and not travel-friendly.
There are several brands that sell MCT oil powder, which is just MCT oil bound with a fiber. Make sure to purchase MCT oil powders that use acacia fiber, because this fiber does not impact blood glucose levels.
My favorite is from Perfect Keto. They have chocolate, vanilla, and salted caramel flavors. You can shop using this link to save 15% on your order.
To mix the MCT oil powder in a drink, I’d recommend also traveling with a milk frother. It is easy to pack and it makes blending drinks on the go much easier. You can buy a milk frother on Amazon for about $10.
If you are traveling with friends or family and trying to stick to a low carb diet, it can be difficult to skip dessert while everyone else is indulging.
Packing low-carb desserts like dark chocolate will give you a sweet treat to enjoy so you don’t feel like you’re missing out. Lily’s Sweets has tons of sugar free chocolate bars that are great for a low carb diet.
I have an article about the best keto-friendly chocolate bars here that includes more brands that offer low-sugar chocolate bars, and brands to avoid.
Traveling, especially by plane will dehydrate the body rapidly. To combat this, it’s important to drink plenty of water, and stay on top of electrolytes.
The main electrolytes to keep in balance are sodium, potassium, and magnesium. You can read more about the importance of electrolyte balance here.
For more keto-friendly travel snacks, check out my article about the best low-carb snacks that can be bought online. If you’re looking specifically for bars, this article has a list of keto-friendly bars that are available in grocery stores.
Stick to a Routine
Do you workout in the mornings? Find a new gym to visit in the area on your trip.
Does every morning start with a cup of coffee and the news? Explore a local coffee shop and enjoy your latte.
Do you wear retainers at night? Make sure to pack them in your carryon!
The easiest way to stick to your eating habits is to stick to your other habits. For me, I go to Crossfit every morning before work, so I make that habit while traveling as well. It will not always be convenient, and you may not want to go, but you will never regret walking in the gym doors.
Keeping a workout routine will help the day feel familiar. As a result, you will be less inclined to stray from other important parts of your routine.
On the other hand, skipping the gym will likely make it way easier to eat worse, go to sleep later, or make other non-healthy decisions that you wouldn’t otherwise make.
Okay, okay, so this kind of goes against the previous point, but hear me out. If we continue the theme from earlier:
Do you cook all of your meals at home?
Is Thursday laundry day?
Do you go by candlelight for an hour before going to bed?
Sure, depending on the situation, some of these might be feasible on the go, but they may not be worth the extra effort.
You can stick to your normal routine where it’s doable, but be flexible when it comes to the more cumbersome tasks. Making a home-cooked meal in a hotel room without a microwave can prove to be a challenge.
Instead, check out nearby restaurants for some good keto-friendly options. This article lists the best keto-friendly options at most chain fast-food restaurants around the US.
Research the Menu
95% of restaurants will have a decent low-carb option on their menu. When traveling, eating out for every meal is not uncommon. It is worth it to take the extra time to look up the menu online before dining out.
At first glance, you might not see a keto option on the menu, but substitutions are easy and doable at most places. There are a few classic keto substitutions, but get creative and order whatever will allow you to enjoy your meal and stay on track.
An easy substitution is to order a burger without the bun. For the side, ask for steamed veggies or a salad instead of fries. If you go for the salad, make sure to ask for dressing on the side and stick to a low-carb dressing like ranch or olive oil. If you pick the veggies, ask for extra butter!
My personal favorite way to stick to a low carb meal at restaurants is to order off of the ‘sides’ menu. This is especially useful at breakfast spots. I’ll typically do a side order of eggs, bacon, and sausage.
A third option is to pick an appetizer dip, like spinach and artichoke, and ask for celery instead of chips. This may sound like a strange request, but I’ve gotten away with it every time!
If you’re eating out with a group, and everyone orders dessert, order a cup of decaf coffee or tea. It’ll give you something to sip on that can help satisfy that post-meal craving.
I can also be helpful to ask the waiter if a sauce has sugar in it. They may not know offhand, but most sauces have added sugar, so it is helpful to double-check before ordering.
Also, check out my ultimate keto fast food guide for additional tips and tricks for ordering out!
Find a Grocery Store
A great way to experience culture in a new city is to take a trip to the local grocery store to pick up a few snacks or meals. Not to mention, it can save you money from eating out.
If you’re staying somewhere that has access to a fridge, I’d recommend picking up some cheese slices, low-carb yogurt, like Two Good, a small container of heavy whipping cream, and some deli meat. If purchased in small enough portions, these can all easily be consumed within a few days.
For shelf-stable options, you can go for pork rinds, macadamia nuts, or cheese crisps.
Any low-carb snacks that you can pick up at home, you can most likely find at a grocery store in another city.
Don't Try Something New
I’m not talking about exploring or trying new foods, so don’t panic. You should go do those things.
This point goes back to sticking to your routine. For example, if you don’t practice fasting while at home, don’t decide to throw in a 24 hour fast while you’re traveling. The stress of being in a new environment, plus trying to force your body to do something foreign will only result in disaster.
Stick to what you know, be realistic, and set expectations that you can achieve. Whether you’re traveling for work or fun, don’t let your diet or lifestyle consume you with stress. Your body is already dealing with adjusting to being somewhere different.
All of this being said, if you want to indulge while you’re, do it. Go bananas. It’s your choice. Don’t feel like you have to always stick to keto while traveling or work out super hard every day that you’re away from home.
However, if your goals are to feel as productive and energized as you do in your normal routine, then stick to that routine. You have to make that decision.