Traveling can especially take a toll on pregnant women, so it’s important to stay hydrated and keep a bottle of water on hand.
Since flying on airplanes can be dehydrating, pregnant women should stay away from foods high in sodium and instead pack food that’s rich in fibrous carbs, healthy fats, and lean protein — like nuts, fruit, and whole-grain crackers.
Getting adequate sleep is just as important as eating right.
Have you ever felt drained and gross after a work trip? Chances are, you don’t eat as healthy as you could while on the go. This, combined with the stress of traveling, can put anyone in a funk. When you’re pregnant, business travel can leave you feeling even worse, and is even harder on your body. So how can you stay relatively healthy, and get you and your baby the nutrients you need, while on your trip? With a little advanced planning, and a more mindful approach to your meals, you can stay in control of your food choices while on the go, and feel better about yourself when you return.
Airplane and airport food is terrible. It’s unappealing, sometimes weird, and always overpriced. Even the fruit is unattractive – a monopoly of Red Delicious apples, wrapped in plastic, in a fake wooden bin. Can’t we get a Pink Lady in here? Here are some tips to make the most of your airport and airplane confinement.
- Drink water – It’s easy to forget to drink water when traveling, but water is one of the most important nutrients when you’re pregnant. And, you need to drink even more when traveling. After security, buy the biggest water bottle you can find, or fill your cup if you brought your own, and start sipping. Water won’t replace food, but it can help prevent a major hunger breakdown.
- Eat before the airport – Even if you’re up at 3am, eat something before you leave or bring something in the car. A slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter, a bowl of cereal and fruit, oatmeal with fruit and a glass of milk are all good options. Lauren Schmitt, Registered Dietitian and Certified Personal Trainer, is the Owner of Healthy Eating and Training, Inc, in Los Angeles, CA. She offers this advice. “Look for a blend of fibrous carbs, lean protein and healthy fat to ensure you meet all macronutrient needs. This combination will also help keep you feeling satisfied longer so that you don’t give into the less nutritious options surrounding you.” Otherwise, by the time you get through security, chances are you’ll be hungry or worse, starving. Starving leads to bad decisions.
- Plan snacks and buy ahead – Bring your own snacks. Shop for them when you’re in a good mood and feeling healthy. Tie it into a regular shopping trip and add something specific to your list (ex. dried apricots, popcorn, nuts). Schmitt suggests, “Look for snacks that are portable but not highly processed. For instance, grab an apple and a snack size peanut butter packet or bring a homemade muffin and applesauce instead of a bag of chips or cookies.” This goes for both sides of the trip…make sure you refresh your snacks for the ride home.
- Bring a lunch/meal – Don’t be ashamed of brown-bagging your lunch…while airlines sometimes describe their food with enticing terms, it never lives up to the description. You know what you’re getting with whatever you pack, and it’s not a dry, tasteless, 3-day old “gourmet” ham and cheese sandwich that cost $15. “Try packing something with all of the major food groups,” Schmitt advises. “Soon enough you will be packing school lunches so this is good practice. It can be as simple as a string cheese, whole grain crackers, fruit, carrots, a hummus packet and edamame. Altogether, those form a complete meal that will keep you satisfied.” Nervous about the room in your carry-on? Spread peanut butter on a wheat tortilla and roll it up – it will take up less space and doesn’t squish easily. Combined with the other food groups, it will travel well and you will feel good about it.
- Don’t wait until you’re starving – You already know it’s a bad idea to go grocery shopping when you’re hungry , and even worse when you’re pregnant and hungry. The same mentality applies at the airport. It’s okay if you slack on the planning and have to buy something at the airport. But get something as soon as you can, or when you feel the slight pang of hunger setting in. Otherwise you’ll probably make a less optimal choice that you will regret later.
- Avoid salty, processed foods – Traveling can wreak enough havoc on your pregnant body, with increased chances of dehydration, swelling, and exposure to a lot more germs when your body is less apt to fight them off. “When buying something in a package with a label, watch out for added sodium. The last thing you want while pregnant is extra sodium which causes water retention. The altitude while flying will already cause water retention so you don’t need sodium to add to that issue as well. Snacks with greater than 200 mg of sodium should be avoided,” Schmitt recommends.
When you get to where you’re going
It can still be hard to stay on track even when you’re at your destination. You’re off routine. Many factors can steer you toward more comforting, less healthy food choices, like all-day meetings and work dinners, sleep deprivation, and the overall stress of work travel. Try the suggestions below to stay mindful of the decisions you make.
- Drink water – This is important enough to mention multiple times. You and your baby need water , and lots of it. Traveling dehydrates you, so drink a few more glasses than you normally would at home, and increase it even more if you notice any symptoms of dehydration. Keep a water bottle with you at all times.
- Eat a solid breakfast – Grab a solid, healthy breakfast at the beginning of your work day, that contains all the macronutrients – fibrous carbs, lean protein and healthy fat. Even if breakfast is provided at your meeting/event, it’s often sugary pastries that provide limited nutritional value and leave you feeling hungry in an hour. A solid breakfast in the morning will set the stage for better choices throughout the day.
- Snack frequently – Sometimes snack breaks are not easy to come by on a business trip. But when you’re pregnant, it’s important to eat small meals frequently to maintain your energy. Remember those nutritious snacks you bought for the plane? Bring them with you and nibble every couple hours. If you have time, check out a nearby grocery store and buy some healthy, fresh essentials to keep with you, like fresh fruit or some pre-cut veggies.
- Build in exercise – It’s hard to exercise on a work trip, and you may be even more sedentary than normal, due to all day meetings or sitting in conferences. Build in little opportunities for exercise where you can. Walk to dinner with coworkers instead of taking a short cab ride. Ask a coworker to walk and talk for a meeting instead of sitting. Take the stairs, or go for a walk on your lunch break. If you can’t do any of these things, even a 2 minute child’s pose in your hotel room counts. You’re pregnant and tired…do what you can, but try to do something.
- Consciously choose your meal – You’re exhausted, it’s been a long day, and now you’re at a work dinner when you just want to crawl into bed. It can be tempting to gravitate toward comfort food, which for many, is not very healthy. Take a deep breath, think about you and your baby. Consider how much better you will feel if you go with a healthier option. And make your choice. Even if you still go with your comfort entree, do it consciously, not mindlessly.
- Sleep as much as possible – Similar to the choices you make when you’re starving, if you are sleep deprived, you might make unhealthy food choices . Plus, you and your baby need to rest. So if you’re faced with the decision of heading to the bar for a nightcap with your colleagues, or snuggling into bed, consider the missed networking opportunity as an investment in a healthier day for you and your baby. For some pregnant women, this is a total no-brainer, since you’re not drinking anyway, but for others, you may need to give yourself permission to not be working the entire time you’re on a business trip.
Keep in mind that these tips are not about depriving yourself! In fact, cut yourself some slack if you’re on a business trip. It’s stressful enough to travel without feeling like you have to be perfect in terms of your diet or activities. The best goal is to stay in control of your choices during your trip. Don’t wake up covered in candy wrappers with melted chocolate on your sheets and wonder how it happened. If it’s going to happen, make it happen on your terms…not because of a moment of weakness, but because of a determined and decisive plan.
Shannon Irving is the founder of Pregnancy Plate, LLC , which makes it easier to eat healthy during pregnancy with week-by-week meal plans. She is passionate about the benefits of a healthy diet for mom and baby, and strives to make a healthy diet attainable and realistic during pregnancy for all moms-to-be.
For more great stories, head to INSIDER’s homepage .