Eat well on the go

bell peppers

Smart choices away from home

Learn how to plan ahead, think creatively, and choose wisely with these on-the-go ideas.

Plan ahead

Planning ahead can help you eat healthier and save money, whether you’re traveling or close to home.

  • Give yourself time each evening to plan your meals and snacks for the next day.
  • If you know you are going to be out for awhile, leave the house with snacks or meals on hand.
  • Pack healthy foods in your lunch such as sandwiches, fruit, nuts, veggies, yogurt, and water.
  • To make sure that you have these grab-and-go items available at home, stock your fridge at least once a week. If needed, re-stock during the week.

Get brown-bag lunch ideas.

At your favorite restaurants

Many restaurants are realizing that consumers want healthier choices. To pick the best options, keep these tips in mind.

  • Select a salad with the dressing on the side. Choose a light vinaigrette rather than a creamy dressing.
  • Choose a grilled chicken sandwich or regular burger and skip the cheese, bacon, and mayonnaise.
  • Forget the fries and get a baked potato, green vegetable, fruit, or side salad instead.

At the drive through

Try to avoid eating fast food or eat only it once a week as a special treat. To cut fat and calories from your meal:

  • Order the smallest hamburger or sandwich on the menu (a junior or kids' size). Leave off the cheese, mayonnaise, and "special sauce." Try a grilled chicken sandwich or wrap.
  • Get lean meat (turkey, chicken, roast beef) on your sandwich, and ask for chicken or fish to be broiled or grilled instead of fried.
  • Pick pizza with thin crust. Choose healthy toppings such as vegetables, chicken, Canadian bacon and pineapple. Ask for half the usual amount of cheese.
  • Ask for a green salad or fruit instead of regular chips or fries, or order a small regular size and share it with a friend.
  • Skip fried foods like battered fish, onion rings, egg rolls, or fried tacos.

Choose restaurants that offer healthier options. Some restaurants list nutritional information on their menus (or will provide a list if you ask for it). Look for items lower in calories, saturated fat, and sodium to help you make smart choices.

Learn more about how you can make healthy choices when you eat out.

From the vending machine

You can make good snack choices at the vending machine when you keep the following tips in mind.

  • Get a dose of healthy fats and protein with nuts and seeds that are plain or seasoned with spices, and not candy-coated or yogurt-coated.
  • Add a few servings of fruits and vegetables to your day by choosing dried fruits without sugar added.
  • Quench your thirst with non-sugary drinks such as water, flavored water (no added sweetener), unsweetened coffee or tea, and nonfat or low-fat (1 percent) milk.
  • Keep your salt intake in check with snacks that contain no more than 250 mg sodium.

In the grocery aisle

Healthy convenience foods can sometimes be a challenge to find, so be sure to take a peek at the label.

  • Avoid foods with a long list of ingredients.
  • Limit foods with large amounts of high-fructose corn syrup and other added sugars. The ingredients on the label are listed by order of weight.
  • Skip foods made with partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) and fractionated palm kernel oil.
  • Be aware of portion sizes. Although the calories per serving on the food label may seem low, there may be many servings in the package.

Get our tips for reading food labels.

When you're traveling

Airports, convenience stores, and highway rest stops are filled with tempting options, most of which are highly processed and loaded with sodium, saturated fat, and calories. Unhealthy foods, combined with sitting for long periods of time, can lead to weight gain.

  • Bring your own snack or sandwich so that you don't even have to look at the tempting, high-calorie fast foods.
  • If you can't prepare ahead, choose wisely. Rather than the chips, smoothie, or candy bar, pick water and whole fruit or nuts. 
  • If you need something more substantial, order a sandwich on whole-grain bread with veggies, lean protein (turkey or grilled chicken), and mustard instead of mayonnaise or cheese. Choose a wrap, salad, or small burrito instead of the pizza or cheeseburger.
  • Instead of reaching for juice, soda, or a fancy double mocha whip coffee, drink water. You could save 260 calories — that works out to ½ pound in just 7 days! 

See more ways to stay healthy when you travel.

Reviewed by: Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD, April 2016
Additional Kaiser Permanente reviewers

© 2016 Kaiser Permanente

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