Expert Q&A

Travel and weight loss: Dietary suggestions and tips

I travel all the time. How can I plan meals to lose weight?

Presumably you are eating in restaurants frequently. If you start at home and then return to it each day, the best tactic is to take a sandwich or heat soup and carry it in a thermos. This way you can avoid the expense and calories of fast food or a regular restaurant. A small cooler can keep food fresh most of the day, so if you travel in your car you can use a cooler.

If you can’t prepare your own meals or you are away from your house for several days at a time, it’s important to understand how restaurants work. Restaurants must receive a certain minimum amount from each customer to make a profit. The food does not cost them very much, so giving you more food justifies a higher price and more profit. You believe you are getting a bargain, making you a satisfied customer. We tend to eat what we have paid for.

Additionally, many of us have a misunderstanding of how much we should eat. Perhaps we worry that we won’t be able to eat for a while and don’t want to be hungry. That attitude motivates us to eat more food. The paradox in eating is the more we eat, the more we want.

It’s hard to eat a balanced meal with fewer calories at a fast food restaurant without a plan. Double and triple cheeseburgers are far too much food for most of us. Fries add hundreds of calories, as does a regular soda. If fast food is the only option, choose a single, plain sandwich with no fries and a diet soda. Fresh fruit is available in most towns; one piece of fruit an hour or two after a meal can deal with hunger that may soon return. At a regular restaurant, order less. Many restaurants have smaller portions available and most will box up your leftovers for later.

The important point is to start with less and you will stick with less. Adjust your image of what is a normal amount of food by ordering less than you want. It will seem perfectly normal after a while. When the server asks if you left room for dessert, say “no.” Soon you’ll wonder how people at the other tables can eat so much.

John Messmer, MD
Contributing Expert

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