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Healthy Tips for When You’re On the Go

Healthy Tips for When You’re On the Go

Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 7:24am
union station food court

Union Station's food court tempts travelers with a mountain of fast-food options. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Andres.

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As one of the nation’s most international and well-traveled cities, DC is a town where everyone’s constantly on the go. During my time in the District, I’ve taken quite a few lengthy flights, weekend road trips, and (of course) and endless number of grueling Metro rides.

Though I love traveling within and outside DC, it can sometimes be a challenge to stay healthy when you’re on a plane, in a car, or stuck in some form of mass communication… so here are my healthy travel tips!

1. Metro: Plan smart, take the stairs, and stand up. I know that taking the metro can be a time suck, but if you’ve got a few minutes to spare, consider walking to a station or bus stop that’s most convenient in terms of route, instead of time. For example, I live about a half mile from the Court House station (Orange line), but am about a mile from the Rosslyn station (Orange and Blue line). On the weekends, when I typically have to wait 15+ minutes for an Orange train from Courthouse, I’ll take those 15 minutes and walk to Rosslyn instead -- reducing my wait time (since I can ride either Orange or Blue) and increasing my walk time instead. Similarly, when I ride the bus, I’ll often “convert” wait time to walk time by taking a less direct route (example: taking the S9 express route and walking 0.3 miles farther home, instead of waiting for the S2 and getting off at your doorstep).

If all that time/space talk was too much for you to handle, here’s a no-brainer healthy tactic that also serves me well: Take the steps and stand up when you’re riding.

2. Train: Shop till you drop (but not for food!) If you’re a regular at Union Station, you’re probably aware that the entire building basically smells like pizza and french fries -- which can make unhealthy (and overpriced, by the way!) eating decisions pretty tempting. If you’ve got time to kill at the train station, I’d suggest burning your cash (and burning calories) at one of the station’s many non-food shops -- there are a ton of jewelry, clothing, stationery, and electronics stores on the upper and main levels (my favorites are Papyrus, LOLO, Ann Taylor, and Express!). If you are hungry, healthy options can be found! Check out Kabuki Sushi, Subway, Potbelly (skinny sandwich!), and a ton of smoothie shops in the food court. Or, even better, pack your own snack (see below). Once you’re on board, I’d recommend catching up on a healthy dose of sleep!

3. Plane: Sit in the aisle and snack smart. When you’re cramped up on a plane (especially a long flight!) try to sit in the aisle seat -- that way, you’ll be able to get up and walk around without disturbing your neighbor. When the hostess comes around with overly salted, sugary, or high-fat snacks (like oily, salted nut mixes and processed oversized cookies), opt for low-fat pretzels or simple roasted peanuts if possible. To drink? Stick with water, seltzer water, coffee, or tea -- and if you’ve got a taste for something exotic, dry tomato juice or Bloody Mary mix! Though these tomato-based drinks are typically high in sodium (and sometimes sugar), they’re full of vitamins and relatively low-calorie.

If you’re on a long flight with a meal served, check to see if the airline offers a healthy option meal choice -- you’d be surprised how many do! (Make sure to notify the airline at least a day in advance; if you try to do it at the gate, it’s often too late).

Everywhere: Pack snacks, sneakers, and a water bottle. No matter how you’re traveling, make sure you’re equipped to handle long delays and tempting junk food with healthy weapons like nutritious snacks, a water bottle, and your sneakers. Pack your sneakers in your carry-on bag or (large) purse to throw on when you’re ready to walk to the Metro, through the train station, or around the airport; and keep a water bottle handy to refill as needed (plenty of restaurants will give you water for free!). For snacks, some of my favorite portable health foods include: pretzels, peanut butter (on whole wheat crackers, or in individual travel packs), fruit (bananas, oranges, and apples have durable skin), hummus (also available in travel packs -- or pack your own in a small tupperware!), “real food” bars (like KIND bars, LARA bars, or 18 Rabbit Bars), Greek yogurt, and whole-wheat wraps.

About the Author

Mary Lambkin is a distance runner, writer, and fitness enthusiast in Washington, DC. She has run five marathons and is the Membership Director of the DC Road Runners, a local running club with more than 700 members. You can follow her on Twitter and her blog, Minutes Per Mile.