Eating Clean On The Road

How To Survive Your Next Trip

Are you completely baffled by the idea of eating clean on the road? I’ve been there!

You find yourself in a plane or car without a fridge for all your clean foods, only to arrive at a hotel that seems to have even fewer amenities. Your only hope is to eat out of the ice chest you managed to drag along. Inevitably, some of your food goes bad or gets soaked with water from the ice. Then, of course, you’re left with a lovely array of fast food restaurants and coffee houses that sell more doughnuts than coffee.

While taking several trips in recent months, I took notes! And out of all my chicken scratch and scribble, I figured out that there are six main topics to consider when traveling as a clean eater. Here’s what I did to stick with eating clean on the road.

Before you leave:

  • Be sure you have the “Holy Hotel Trinity” – a microwave, coffee maker and refrigerator in your hotel room. If not, consider another hotel.

Foods that travel:

  • Plenty of chicken breasts, pre-cooked oatmeal, distilled water and hard-boiled eggs.
  • A ton of veggies prepared ahead of time and stored in zip lock bags.
  • Plenty of tea bags and use the coffee maker in the hotel room for hot water.
  • Water. (Hotel water is so very expensive!)
  • Whole wheat tortillas to make wraps
  • Plenty of “finger foods” that don’t need to be kept cold such as apples, oranges and nuts.
  • Protein powder. (amazon affiliate link)
  • See the end of this post for a specific food list of foods that travel well.

Supplies and utensils and dishes, oh my!

  • Plastic is best, but bring at least one glass bowl for microwaving.
  • Three containers. A cooler for cold foods, a large bag for dry foods and another bag for dishes. It’s easier if you keep things separated.
  • Wash the rotating plate in the microwave so you can put food directly on it.
  • Bring a plastic bowl, plate, cup, and plastic ware set for each person. (These are great to buy at the drug store during the summer months when all the picnic stuff is on sale)
  • A clean sponge in a zip lock sandwich bag for doing dishes.
  • A small container of dish soup, unless you don’t mind using hotel bar soap to clean your dishes.

When get there:

  • Set up a “kitchen area” and unpack your food.
  • Call the front desk for a couple extra hand towels (for drying dishes)
  • If there is anything you waited to buy until you got there, go buy it. There’s no better way to slip off your eating plan than by not having what you need to eat clean.

When you eat out:

  • Most restaurants can cook any of their meats with nothing on it. Order a salad with no dressing (or use vinegar, or lemon juice), a piece of plain meat and lots of veggies.
  • Drink plenty of tea or water. It’s easy to dehydrate when you’re out of your element. So be mindful of water consumption.

When you leave:

  • Use the plastic bag that comes with your hotel room ice bucket to fill with ice for your cooler for the trip home. Clean up is so much easier when it’s all contained in a plastic bag!

More Information:

  • If you’d like a list of specific clean eating foods that travel well, here’s a list.

Article is an original work and is © Tiffany McCauley. It may not be reproduced for any reason without written permission by the author.

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  1. I am an outside sales rep and eating healthy has been a huge challenge as I cannot heat up any food – so it is sandwiches or eating out and then tends to usually be unhealthy. Do you have any recipes or suggests for foods that I can take that will be safe in an insulated lunch bag in my car in Florida? I really want to change my eating but am using this as an excuse and I just know there has to be a way around it! Your help is greatly appreciated.


    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Hi Audra,

      Wow! What a challenge! Good for you for trying to eat healthy dispite your job situtation. Eating healthy on the road is not easy, but it doesn’t have to be terribly difficult either.

      Sandwhiches can be made healthy, and there are so many snacks you can take that won’t spoil in a hot car, providing you eat them the same day.

      For your lunch bag, so long as it’s kept relatively cool, hard boil a dozen eggs at a time. When you leave in the morning, pop 4 of them in your bag (limit it to 2 if you are eating the yolks). Your sandwhich can be made healthy with whole grain bread. Even if you have a sandwich made at a deli, you can bring your bread into the deli with you and ask them to make the sandwhich on your bread. Get mustard, roasted turkey and lots of veggies. Try vegetarian sandwhich options too.

      For other snacks, try apples, oranges, raw almonds and other nuts in small amounts, dried fruit, whole wheat crackers like Ak-Mak crackers, and anything like that that you can keep in a car without spoilage. Another wonderful and clean snack for your lunch bag is low fat cottage cheese mixed with fruit sweetened yogurt. You might have to search for yogurt at a local health food store to find one without added sugar, but once you find a brand like that, you’ll find it was well worth the search efforts.

      Another snack that seems to handle a bit of heat are chickpeas. I wouldn’t leave them totally in the sun for hours at a time, but but enough for one snack will hold up fine for a few hours.

      If you get creative, you’ll see it’s not so hard. It’s all about making it work for you. Setting aside any excuses you like to use, and just doing it. You’ll find that the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it.

      I hope this helps. Let me know if I can help with anything else.

      Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  2. I am on-the-go for all meals at least two days per week (the rest of the week, it’s at least two meals and snacks). What I do is make and freeze “to go” meals that reheat well in a microwave. It’s easy when I’m cooking recipes at home to make up individual portions and freeze them. Then in the morning when I’m packing foods, I just grab my ready to go frozen meal and hit the road. It works well for me and keeps it easy to eat clean.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Great advice Candice! I’ve always been a true believer in the freezer. I often wish I had one of those deep freezers so I could really stock up on stuff.

      Really great advice! Thanks so much for stopping by!

      1. Homebase628 says:

        One thing I have done recently is freeze soups or casseroles in the large muffin tins, I even freeze my breakfast porridge (brown rice, steele cut oats, wheatberries and flax..yum) that way I have no excuse, I am like every other busy mom, and have to be out of the house by 7:30am, we get a healthy breakfast, grab a frozen soup puck and lunch is done! Easy… and best of all the leftovers now get eaten!

        1. Anonymous says:

          Homebase – Yes! Freezing is one of the best ways to stick to a clean eating plan. Good for you!!!

  3. What a timely post! My husband and I are traveling this weekend and just got back from our first round of grocery shopping for the trip. We picked up some eggs to boil, some apples {we’ll also take along peanut butter}, some cucumbers, refillable water bottles, bananas, granola bars…and then other than just sandwiches for 2 straight days, I wasn’t sure what else to do. We probably won’t have access to a microwave, but will have our cooler. I was at a loss as to what else to pick up!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Hey Peach!

      Sounds like you’ve got some great items lined up there. I assume you are asking about “main meals”? Remember that whole wheat tortillas are great to take along. As long as you have a fridge at the hotel, you can cook some chicken breasts ahead of time and make wraps. Salad is another great meal to plan for. Some produce won’t need to be in the fridge, such as carrot, cucumbers, tomatoes bell peppers and so on. And don’t forget a can opener! Take some cans of beans with you, or even re-fried beans are great if you can find a clean version (I get mine at Trader Joe’s). You can also take other canned items such as hearts of palm (love those!). The possibilities are endless. You just have a get creative because you won’t have tons of fridge space.

      I hope this helps. Have a fun trip!

  4. Wow, Tiffany! You make it sound so easy. I think I am about to the point of starting to incorporate clean eating. You have given me some great ideas here. Thank you!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Vicki – You’re welcome! I’m glad my tips helped!

  5. Hi,

    I am a flight attendant on private planes, and have been for about 15 years. Eating on the road is always a struggle. Your ideas are great for car trips but what ideas do you have for airplane travel? Since I never know what hotel I will be at until I land and can’t count on having a refridgerator or microwave. I tend to pack things like nuts, protein bars or muscle milk, oatmeal and whatever fruit I can bring that wont get too beat up in a bag for a week at a time. I look forward to hearing your ideas!


    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Carrie – Do you usually fly the same routes? Or does it constantly change? How long are you in one place, just overnight? What kind of storage do you have available on the plane? What kinds of things are you allowed to take with you on the plane? A hand blender? A protein shaker cup? Utensils? Anything at all other than fabric? ( I haven’t flown in a while, so I’m not sure what the regs are now). If you can give me a complete picture of your “typical” routine, I can try to figure some things out for you.

  6. Trying Again says:

    I can’t begin to express how thrilled I am to come across this blog! I had an idea of what clean eating was, but you break it down in such a way that it isn’t as intimidating as it seems! The tips you give are awesome! I never post to anything on the net, but you have truly inspired me!

    Thank You So Much,

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      TA – Welcome! Happy to have you here! Let me know if you have any questions, I’m happy to help. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. graciouspantry says:

    Kathleen – Congratulations to your daughter! I’m so happy you found this useful!

  8. These are great tips!

  9. Love your site, the ideas and recipes!
    About travelling ideas, i like to bring with us the electric water boiler, I can make teas and also boil eggs in it! Use the water to make oatmeal too.

  10. graciouspantry says:

    The lemon juice thing was a typo. Fixed now, thanks.
    As for the microwave, it may remove some nutrients, but I’d rather eat clean foods with a few less nutrients than eat fast food with nearly no nutrients and a hail storm of chemicals. It’s all about making due with what you have and doing the best you can.

  11. Thanks for the post! I travel for months on end and eating clean, or healthy in general, is one tough cookie. While I have figured out some of these techniques myself, I have learned a lot more from you sharing your personal experiences and food list. Thanks again!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Melanie – My pleasure! Glad I could help. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. I have a travel dilemma coming up. I am traveling overnight and all day for work, but my hotel does not have a fridge or a microwave. smh! I will be at a conference all day one day. They will serve breakfast and lunch, but from my memory that food is NOT what i need to be eating. ANy ideas of things i can do to get me through the day?

    thanks so much!!!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Jameika – Start by packing plain, quick oats. You can make them using the coffee pot in your room (or just order hot water). Add nuts and a little sucanat or coconut sugar for sweetener. Pack that in ziplock bags and breakfast is taken care of. I would plan to allow yourself 2 not-so-clean meals if you need to. Focus on meats and veggies in restaurants. Also, don’t be too hard on yourself if it’s not a totally clean trip. Sometimes, we just have to do the best we can in difficult situations.

  13. I just recently discovered your blog and have been pouring over every post. Thank you for sharing all of your knowledge with us! Something I like to add when I’m on the road (and someone may have already mentioned this, I haven’t read all of the comments) is regular or sweet potatoes. You can cook them in the microwave!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Korie – Thanks, and welcome! ๐Ÿ˜€