Whenever I travel it’s common for me to pack ALL of my food. It allows me to; save a lot of money, help determine an estimate on calories, and aid in staying on track toward my goals. In this article I am going to tell you what I pack and why I pack it. Questions always roll in on YouTube and Facebook about how I stay on point, what foods were eaten at the hotel and what are some packing tips and tricks. I will explain all of that below.
First of all the first thing you have to do is know where you are staying. Flying versus driving can change certain things, which will be discussed later in this article. Start by calling the hotel (or look online) to see what is offered at the hotel or place you are staying. I always check to make sure there is a microwave and a frig as this helps plan other aspects of packing food. Without packing your food; you would have to spend countless time surveying your area to see what grocery store there is, what places to eat there are, and what you can bring into the hotel (George Foreman, and other accessories to make food and prepare food for hitting your calories). Its not always a very easy task, but there are some decent restaurants to get food.
Ones I would suggest would be for the following meals:
- Bob Evans
- Eat n Park
All have menu’s where you can order on the “Lighter” side and not to mention if you ask/tip nicely they will even be able to cook your food in cooking spray (seriously just ask!) its that easy!. Grab an egg white omelet with chicken, and veggies you can easily eyeball given what it states on the menu (most do around 3-4 egg whites per omelet). You can always order wheat toast dry and use a rough estimate on a slice of bread and the amount of carbs/fat/protein. Order hash browns or home fries (Steamed) to reduce on the amount of fat/oil used when cooking while in cooking spray (if possible) because a white potato cut up is not a bad option at all and honestly one of my favorites (I eat a TON of potatoes in both the offseason and pre-contest). If you are on more of the adventure side you can find the information for pancakes and other breakfast options (muffins for example) to fit into your macros/calories, but I am more on the side of getting my sources from those with higher micronutrients first and foremost and fitting in things later once I know I have met my minimums on protein, fat, and fiber for the day.
Go in and pick out steak or chicken and then your additions for a burrito or a rice bowl. What is nice about this is all the information is online for the amount of calories, protein, fat, carbs, fiber etc. Depending on anything you add you can simply click off a check mark and it will narrow down everything you did select and the overall calories and macro breakdown. Too good to be true right?
Subway is a decent choice as well and has very healthy options, quite a few subs are under 5g of fat and around 40-50g of protein and 40-50g of carbs to boot for a 6” with double meat, if you want a lot more carbs you could roll the foot long option depending on how much wiggle room you truly do have.
- Texas Roadhouse
- Longhorn Steakhouse
- Max n Erma’s
- TGI Fridays
- Smokey Bones BBQ and Grill
I could keep going on and on and on. All of these places will have very basic Chicken/Steak dinner entrees with some sort of potato and vegetable. They all offer great selections of salad’s (both chicken and steak) and some offer lower calorie appetizer options (I know Max n Erma’s has some lighter side asparagus you can order). There are so many other healthy options and lets not forget that these places do have online menu’s so again if you have any calorie tracking application it makes things a breeze to stay on course and actually calculate out your calories for the day. If you are not in any kind of tracking or in your offseason where you can have some leeway then don’t stress things too much but your main priority should be getting some decent food while also trying to hit your protein/fiber intake for the day.
Pack it up
Now that we know about some decent choices for eating out lets talk about what we could pack and what we should also place into consideration for the trip. The first key factor is how long is the trip? How far do you have to drive/fly, and what things could we consider for both scenarios. I have only heard of how some people had to freeze all of their meals (while in contest prep) and have it checked in to the plane for them when they landed so they could defreeze them and eat them while getting ready for their peak week (or final few days leading up to their show). If you are flying I would highly suggest that you just buy groceries upon landing and make sure you have adequate utensils to grill/cook your food at your destination.
My friend Kyle and I drove to the Arnold classic recently and for us it was about a 4-5 hour drive (kyle had an extra hour to drive than I did). We factored a 4-5 hour drive in the car. We brought a cooler to store our food. We pre-cooked the majority of our food to pack and store it in the cooler.
The things I like to pack/cook in advance would be the following:
Whey Protein. It’s so versatile used in shakes, used mixed in small milk jugs, small pints etc… also its great if you can buy 6oz yogurts and mix your protein powder in it to make a pudding.
I like to cook in bulk are chicken breasts and Lean Beef rolled into patties and cooked like burgers (you can cut them up prior to eating and re-heating in a microwave). It would also be wise to invest in canned chicken or tuna if you want to bring a can opener to help with cutting back on cost and making it easy to bring some whole foods along with you. Other things I have done in the past but can go bad real quick are hard-boiled eggs or already cooked up eggs to be re-heated in the microwave. This is usually my last resort unless I know I will eat them very fast.
There can be a vast amount here but ill go over my basics. Rice and Potatoes cooked in bulk. Very simple for rice grab a big box of instant rice from the grocery store should be like 3$ for a huge box that takes 5 minutes on the stovetop. Bring to a boil and drop in and cover for 5 minutes and done.
Potatoes are easy as well, grab a huge pot and bring water to a boil and then cook your potatoes for 12-15 minutes in the boiling water and they are done. I then like to cut them into cubes and store in Tupperware containers so I can easily pull out what I need weigh on a scale and eat them with my chicken/beef and then throw in a frozen vegetable bag to make an easy stirfry.
- yogurts (bought from the store and kept in the fridge)
- trail mix
- rice cakes (flavorered or unflavored to put protein pudding on top of)
- fruits (apples, bananas, berries)
- dried fruit (very portable source)
- small bagels or small loaves of bread (to make sandwiches)
- homemade baked goods
- Nuts – Any forms of nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts
- Small peanut butter packs – they now make individual peanut butter/almond butter packs in most grocery stores or if you want just pack the entire tub of skippy’s natural or any form of natural peanut butter to help hit your Fat intake
- Fish Oils – As easy as it may sound pack extra fish-oil because most of us have a hard time eating fish while on the go and on the road to getting adequate omega 3 intake.
- String Cheese – Sounds weird? But its true it’s a great source that is mobile while It may not be your #1 choice it wont hurt you in a pinch!
Key Packing Pointers
The key thing to remember is the duration of your visit. If you are staying in some places for over 3-4 days some of the meat can go bad after being cooked for a while, so be sure to factor the duration. If it’s only a weekend or a few days, you wont have to worry about things spoiling or going bad UNLESS you cannot keep them cooled to proper temperature. That is the #1 thing to remember when transporting food. If you keep it exposed to heat for a prolonged period of time you are really tampering with it going bad or spoiling very fast. Be smart and make sure you have it in a cooler or a thermal bag that will keep food cold/warm (depending on what you are trying to do). Taking extra ice packs with you is never a bad idea especially if you will be holding the food with you or packing a 6-pack bag that holds small Tupperware containers.
While I can use my cooking to my advantage while traveling, it helps to have meals pretty much done and ready to go. Instead of packing a Meal Replacement powder, I can literally make loaves, cakes, and muffins and just eat those to hit my fats/protein/carbs. I still will focus on getting adequate whole food to help ensure I hit protein/carbs/fat/fiber minimums with more micronutrient dense food. My diet is surely not full of baked goods as some make it out to be, but I make sure I plan accordingly. When worst comes to worst while traveling you sometimes cannot always eat chicken, steak, beef, potatoes, and rice at every single meal. I hope this article will help you in your future traveling as far as being prepared with meal preparation!