This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Atkins. The opinions and text are all mine. Today’s post includes simple keto travel tips to help you easily stay low carb on the go, with no stress!
When I first started eating low carb almost 8 years ago, I was traveling 3-4 times some months between personal and business trips. As an international speaker and business & marketing consultant, I’m on the go a lot!
It was easy enough to stay on track at home but I had to get creative while traveling, navigating airports and restaurant menus and catered events – plus camping, road trips, social outings and fast food options – just to name a few.
I discovered that was the biggest challenge most people had, staying on plan on the go, which is how this Traveling Low Carb blog got started. ?
Tips For Sticking To Your Low Carb Lifestyle On The Go
I recently had a 6-day business trip from Tennessee to California to attend the Metabolic Health Summit. Between the flight, hotel and event venue, it was a super busy week with limited food options.
To give you some real-life examples and tips for sticking to your low carb lifestyle on the go, I’ll share a photo tour of my trip to Long Beach and back in this post…
The absolute MOST important thing in any situation, from traveling to local and social events, is your MINDSET. You must walk into any situation committed to your low carb lifestyle and your goals – period.
There are always options and there are always excuses.
Choosing healthy, low carb options is ideal when you’re traveling because that’s the ONE time you want to look and feel your best!
You have to eat anyway, so it’s simply a matter of choosing WHAT to eat.
For me, staying in nutritional ketosis when I travel is a high priority because it keeps me out of chronic pain and it keeps my legs from swelling up too.
Carbs promote inflammation in the body, and there’s nothing worse than feeling stiff and miserable when I’m on a busy trip.
Or worse: not being able to fit (comfortably) in the outfits I packed, or my ankles being too swollen to slip into the dress shoes I need to wear! ?
Knowing What To Eat Is Key!
Knowing which foods to choose when you’re on the go is key so you can keep it simple and stick to the basics. When I first started, I kept Atkins Acceptable Low Carb Foods List for Atkins20 handy at all times to refer back to when in doubt.
I still refer to that list often to find new low carb foods to try, or to mix things up when I find myself eating the same things over and over.
On an Atkins low carb lifestyle, you want to stick to a balance of high-fiber carbs, optimal protein and healthy fats, which includes a variety of foods such as: steak, seafood, chicken, nuts, cheese, heavy cream, butter, eggs and more than 50 low carb vegetables to choose from.
I’ve also added in low glycemic berries while otherwise sticking to the original Atkins Phase One food list. I eat them in moderation (usually just 1/8 cup or 18 grams) and count those in my 20 net carbs per day.
Berries have a very low glycemic index compared to fruit. They’re also full of nutrients and health benefits, plus they’re delicious!
✈ Low Carb Travel Tips
Below, you’ll find a photo tour of my low carb trip to Long Beach, CA and back, which should prove very helpful in making smart choices the next time you’re on the go.
Here are a few of my TOP low carb travel tips too, to help you better prepare the next time you’re headed out…
- Commit to staying on track throughout your trip.
- Eat light on your travel day.
- Map out your trip. Use Google Maps to locate nearby restaurants and stores where you can easily grab a quick low carb meal or a few staples once you arrive.
- Pack low carb travel snacks such as nuts, string cheese, beef sticks or Atkins Peanut Butter Granola Bars (my favorite, with 16g of protein!).
- Drink more water and less caffeine and/or alcohol while traveling to avoid dehydration and cravings.
- Educate yourself on Atkins Acceptable Low Carb Foods List to choose from while you’re traveling.
- Consider it a FUN challenge to find low carb options on your trip, and plan to ENJOY a new variety of low carb foods while you’re traveling.
- Look up restaurant nutrition facts from your phone on the go and/or stick to known or whole foods on the menu to avoid what Atkins calls the “hidden sugar effect” — when carbohydrates convert to sugar when digested. You don’t see the sugar, but your body does. When in doubt, ask!
That’s one of the things I love most about traveling: all the new foods to try while still staying on track. There are so many beautiful low carb foods to enjoy, and it’s a really nice change from my usual meals at home.
Drink plenty of water when you’re traveling. Flying can dehydrate your body quickly due to the low humidity inside a plane, causing fatigue and headaches among other symptoms.
The cabin pressure in flights can also cause bloating and constipation, and the lack of movement can cause circulation issues such as swelling of the legs and feet.
You’ll notice many of these same symptoms on longer road trips as well.
I tend to eat light while traveling, skip green vegetables and cheeses that day, drink plenty of water, wear compression socks, move around as much as possible, and of course: stay in ketosis!
Prior to going low carb I was always miserable with bloating and swollen ankles when traveling. Staying in ketosis and staying hydrated prevents that, and allows me to step off my flight feeling ready to ENJOY my destination. ?
Traveling Low Carb – My Trip To Long Beach And Back
Between last minute packing and catching my flight on time, I didn’t get a chance to make breakfast at home before my 90-minute drive to the Nashville airport.
Being in a rush is never an excuse to eat junk food though!
I stopped at the McDonald’s on the way and grabbed a coffee plus two sausage patties and two round eggs. Their round fried/poached eggs are cracked on site, and their sausage actually has less ingredients in it than the sausage I cook at home.
The fact that they serve All Day Breakfast now makes McDonald’s an easy go-to for a quick stop when you’re traveling.
This is one of the things I love about Atkins20 / Keto – it’s easily sustainable no matter where you are! The meal above is only 2.8 carbs.
Low Carb Travel Snacks at Airport Security
I pack a variety of low carb snacks when I travel, but when you’re flying you want to avoid taking liquids as those won’t pass airport security.
I love my Coffee-Mate Sugar Free Hazelnut Coffee Creamer, and on this trip, I couldn’t find a store near my hotel to pick some up when I got there.
What I do is take a SEALED container of the powdered creamer, which is very convenient when traveling since it doesn’t need refrigeration.
I also brought MCT Fat Tea and nut butter packets, and I pulled all of those liquid/powder type snacks out of my carry-on bag along with my little baggie of liquids (lotion, toothpaste, etc.) when I went through security.
If you take them out and put them in a bin with your sealed baggie of liquids and/or laptop, they can scan it real quick and you’ll get through airport security super fast. ?
Not pulling out your liquid/powder snacks, or not packing them in the original sealed containers, can cause a big fuss in the security line!
Another great money-saving travel tip for you…
If you plan to get an Uber or Lyft ride from the airport to your hotel or destination, don’t get in a rush. Stop and get a coffee first, stretch your legs, grab a low carb meal even!
Why? Because ride share services have “surge pricing” which can cost you DOUBLE or more if you get in a rush and try to book your ride at the same time as everyone else right after flight arrivals. ?
I arrived at the LAX airport and took a nice stroll from the Southwest terminal over to the Delta terminal and enjoyed a sugar-free, keto friendly iced coffee from Starbucks before requesting my ride.
That nice coffee break saved me almost $40 on my ride from LA to Long Beach!
My favorite Starbucks order is an iced coffee with no classic syrup, heavy whipping cream and sugar free cinnamon dolce & vanilla syrups.
Smart Low Carb Restaurant Choices
When you’re traveling you’ll be dining out a lot more than usual, so it’s smart to be prepared and know in advance what types of foods to look for on restaurant menus.
Referring back to my Atkins20 Acceptable Low Carb Foods List, which I pretty much have memorized by now, I know to stick with a balance of high-fiber carbs, optimal protein and healthy fats when dining out.
I arrived in Long Beach and had a nice walk down the pier, then stopped in at the Chili’s restaurant for dinner. I ordered a beautiful ribeye steak topped with herb butter, plus fried avocado on the side.
I noticed the fried avocado on another dish, and simply asked for that as my side in place of the broccoli. As my second side I got a Caesar salad with no croutons, but asked for that in a to-go box.
Tip: Restaurants often serve large portions of food, and you’ll have less appetite eating low carb – and also get satisfied much quicker on moderate protein and healthy fats. Consider meals you can order that will make good leftovers when you’re traveling.
I generally have less appetite after a long travel day too, so I ate about half the steak and avocado and took the rest to go as well.
The avocado ranch dressing at Chili’s restaurant is super low carb, and my favorite!
I had a refrigerator in my hotel room but no microwave, so I knew this restaurant meal would be a smart choice as something I could make two meals out of – saving both time and money!
The next day I enjoyed the rest of the steak & avocado on top of the romaine with the avocado ranch dressing for a filling salad. ?
It’s About Limiting Your Carbs, Not Your Lifestyle
As you can see already, being low carb is ONLY about limiting your carbs. It doesn’t have to limit your lifestyle in any way at all.
I can still stop at McDonald’s, enjoy a Starbucks coffee, go out to eat, have a nice big steak for dinner, travel & socialize – all while easily staying on track!
For even more ideas & inspiration, see: real-life restaurant tips from Atkins Success Stories.
Packing Your Favorite Low Carb Snacks Makes It Easier To Stay On Track
For breakfast my first morning I had a low carb bar and an FBOMB nut butter packet, both compact low carb travel snacks I had packed and brought with me.
That was super convenient while I was wrapping up a little work before I headed over to the event venue for my conference.
Lunch the next day was a little challenging because the conference had a VERY full schedule. I didn’t have time to order a meal in the restaurant downstairs, so I had to get creative with what I had on me…
I had some snacks (peanut butter low carb cookies, double chocolate keto cookies and Macadamia Coconut nut butter packets) in my shoulder bag – which I mixed together for a beautifully delicious late breakfast / early lunch on the go!
I just asked for a bowl & spoon from the restaurant downstairs. Easy!
You can see how I made this beautiful “dessert meal” in this video:
I knew I had a late dinner to attend that evening, and given I’d eaten such an early lunch (or late breakfast – I just eat whenever I’m hungry) I decided to have a quick bite in the late afternoon to power through until the evening gala.
I went downstairs to the restaurant in the hotel where the event was held and ordered two appetizers: bacon wrapped shrimp and roasted Brussel sprouts.
I skipped the BBQ sauce and enjoyed the protein & greens with another bottle of water – then headed back upstairs to the conference.
The evening gala was a big event with lots of entertainment where they also served a very fancy low carb meal, starting with a beautiful wedge salad topped with blue cheese dressing.
I was attending the Metabolic Health Summit which is a keto-friendly event. Otherwise I would have eaten dinner before or after the evening social, or maybe just have the salad and some water while there.
The main course was a beef filet and a chicken breast served over Brussel sprouts.
They also served a beautiful sugar-free and low carb chocolate mousse topped with real whipped cream and sugar free chocolate chips. ?
The hotel restaurant downstairs had a few low carb options on the menu. I got “deconstructed sliders” (mini bunless burgers) and deviled eggs.
There was a catered social that evening where I chose a combination of roasted high-fiber vegetables and cheeses from the beautiful spread they offered.
My lunch was pretty filling, so this made for a nice light meal while I was enjoying the social.
Eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini and cheeses are all on my memorized “acceptable foods list” from the Atkins site.
One of the best tips I can offer you is to ENJOY the event or the people, and make that the focus instead of the food.
All too often we go into social situations focused on the food instead.
I’ve found that simple mindset shift to help me stay on track, but also to make these events so much more enjoyable!
It also forces me outside my social comfort zone too, as a true introvert. ?
Cravings? Always Be Prepared!
It helps to have low carb snacks and keto friendly treats on hand when you travel too, in case you do have cravings – or simply WANT something sweet.
I kept a sugar free chocolate bar in my bag to nibble on if I wanted a little something sweet for example. Even just a bite is enough to satisfy a craving, or half a serving of this bar will easily power me through between meals on the go.
Whether you’re “dieting” or just want to live a healthier lifestyle, that doesn’t mean you can’t ENJOY beautiful foods and even chocolate bars. It’s all about making better choices, like low carb chocolate instead of sugar-filled candy bars. As Atkins says, “Eat Right, Not Less.” You never have to feel deprived!
I travel A LOT so I’m pretty strategic about booking my trips. You can scope out options and distances on Google Maps before you choose your hotel or book your trip. Look for stores within walking distance where you can pick up low carb snacks and staples on your trip, and look at nearby restaurants too so you can plan out your meals in advance.
For this trip I chose a nearby hotel that was close enough to walk back and forth, which was great for getting a little physical activity before and after sitting most of the day.
I also knew from Google Maps that there was a Starbucks on my short walk between my hotel and the event venue. I had my own coffee creamer in my hotel room so I stopped in for a black coffee and also picked up a variety of cheeses, which are always good for a quick snack on the go.
On my last morning in Long Beach I decided to have a bigger breakfast in the restaurant at my hotel before catching my flight home.
I wanted a good solid meal before I headed out, knowing I would probably eat light the rest of the day while traveling.
I always scour the menu for options to see what all they may have in the kitchen, and often order a la carte.
Look for low carb foods like: strawberries, avocado, bacon, cottage cheese, fried egg, etc that you can ask for to replace a carby side item.
That’s how I came up with my favorite low carb IHOP meal which I get often when I’m traveling! I noticed they had fresh strawberries and avocado in some of their meals, so I just order those as sides. ?
It goes back to knowing that Atkins Acceptable Low Carb Foods List (or having it handy!) so you can easily scan a menu and make smart choices anywhere you go.
This restaurant, like most, had a “side items” section where you could piece together your own meal – which was nice:
I asked about the side of berries, and then requested blueberries & raspberries only as they’re very high in nutrients and low in carbs. And they were beautiful!
I also got two fried eggs and an order of bacon.
I always order fried eggs when dining out to avoid the “hidden sugar effect” in scrambled eggs or omelettes. Often, they add high-glycemic ingredients such as pancake batter to make them fluffier, so fried eggs are the safest bet on a restaurant menu. ?
It can get expensive to dine out for every single meal, especially when you’re special ordering or getting a la carte items, which is why I pack low carb travel snacks or stop and pick up staples at a local store when I arrive.
A few good meals on a trip is great, but I find it’s not necessary to eat three large meals a day. Especially when I’m busy and on the go.
The smaller appetizer-style lunches I had at the event venue like the mini burgers, deviled eggs, bacon wrapped shrimp skewers and roasted Brussel sprouts were perfect smaller sized plates to power through busy days.
Remember too that it’s smart to consider how you can make good use of restaurant leftovers, or order one meal that can easily serve as two.
I usually save the salad that comes with a restaurant meal if I have a refrigerator in my hotel, because you can always add your own nuts or sunflower seeds to turn a salad into a meal right in your room.
After my big breakfast of bacon and eggs with berries, I kept it simple while traveling home the rest of the day.
I had a nut butter packet and string cheese before my flight, and another nut butter packet with a Babybel cheese on the drive home from the airport.
I do tend to eat lighter when I’m traveling and just drink more water. I get travel weary and have less of an appetite with long flights or long road trips, so nutritious but simple is good!
Things like cheese, nuts and nut butter are very compact but also good sources of protein and healthy fats – so very satisfying even in small amounts.
Once I got home from my trip, I picked up a few low carb groceries so I could stay in and enjoy some simple home cooked meals for a few days.
The Atkins Frozen Meals are always great for a quick meal, especially when I’m jetlagged and recovering from a long trip. ?
Whether at home or on the go, I like to keep it simple.
I find EASY is what makes the low carb lifestyle and ketogenic diet so sustainable for me. Prepackaged foods like Atkins Meals & Bars and portable nut butter packets make it easy to get through those days when you’re too tired to cook – or out and about and nowhere near your kitchen. ?
Otherwise, I stick to simple foods like you see above: meat, eggs, cheeses, butter, low carb vegetables, etc. With those groceries I can easily make ham & eggs, ham & pimento cheese rollups, or fried ham with mushrooms & zucchini noodles sautéed in butter.
I recently did a 4-part series on the Atkins Instagram channel sharing A LOT of low carb fast food options for sticking to your low carb lifestyle on the go.
You can click on each of these images to see those posts, and use the arrows to scroll through for a photo tour of easy drive-through low carb foods:
While I do travel often and eat on-the-go a lot, when I am home, I make VERY simple meals. For examples see:
The meals in that helpful post are in line with the Atkins20 Phase One Acceptable Foods List, which is a GREAT resource for choosing whole foods you can mix & match for a wide variety of delicious low carb meals.
What many people don’t realize is that the Atkins20 or Phase One is “keto” – or a ketogenic low carb lifestyle plan. While the term “low carb” can mean anything 100 carbs a day or less, keto is MUCH lower carb at 20 net carbs a day (ie Atkins20).
Atkins 20 is comparable to the keto diet, but overall Atkins allows for more flexibility as they encourage people to incorporate foods back into their meals and find their carb tolerance level.
Dorian and I discussed this in our video: about experimenting to find your threshold for enjoying the most vibrant and enjoyable range of low carb foods to maintain nutritional ketosis and/or maintain your weight loss.
I hope you enjoyed this photo tour of my trip to Long Beach and the Metabolic Health Summit even, and all of my low carb travel snacks and low carb meals along the way.
Hopefully it gave you some ideas for your next trip. ?
For even more low carb travel tips & low carb meal ideas when you’re on the go, see these delicious trip posts:
I would love to hear YOUR favorite low carb travel hacks or low carb restaurant / travel ideas…
The more ideas the better!
P.S. I often refer people to the Atkins site for the Acceptable Foods List. The phase one list is low carb friendly and is exactly what I used to get started eating low carb.
You can also check out their site to learn more about the “hidden sugar effect” – when carbohydrates convert to sugar when digested. You don’t see the sugar, but your body does. Make sure you’re avoiding foods that you may think are healthy, but aren’t actually as healthy as you think.
On Atkins, you eat the right foods, not less – which I love! You never have to go hungry on a low carb lifestyle. ? They have a lifestyle book out by that title: “Atkins: Eat Right, Not Less” too that I recently reviewed.
You’ll get to read more about MY getting started story at that link too. ? *cheers*