I always pack a snack in my carryon bag. I tend to carry cashews for protein and cheese-filled cracker sandwiches for carbs. (Last time I was in New Orleans I lived off my box of cheese-filled crackers because I didn't feel like leaving my hotel room.) Fruit leather and unsweetened dried fruit also make great snacks. As delicious as candy bars and protein bars may be, they're packed with sugar and will exacerbate any inflammation you may have (injuries, blemishes, illnesses). Try to consume foods without added sugars. Look for things that you like that don't have many preservatives.
Restaurant eating is a challenge. Visiting places that are new to you presents overwhelming temptation to eat like you're never going to eat there again. So many options, so many appealing things. I love eating but I have to make choices that will support my adventures, not choices that indulge my inner foodie. It's been a struggle to not eat all the things. Locals always suggest getting their favorite thing. That favorite thing may not be quite what you need. My eyes are typically bigger than my stomach, and I don't always have a way to store and reheat my leftovers.
Here are my tips for restaurant eating on the road.
- Read the menu. Look at the things the locals recommend and look at other tables so you can at least get the aesthetic of the temptations without actually consuming them. See if you can get a bite of the temptation from a friend without ordering it for yourself.
- Stick with simple meat and protein. Get the broccoli instead of the french fries. Get the sauce on the side. Skip the breading and the pasta. Eat the croutons on the salad or a slice of bread with your meal if you really want the bread taste. Chicken and shrimp are my go-tos.
- Order a la carte. Do you really have room in your dancer tummy for a protein and two sides? Most places have an a la carte menu so you can get the protein and one side. It may cost the same as an entree with two sides but you won't feel compelled to eat everything on your plate so nothing goes to waste. Can you dance well with a tummy full of rice, fries and chicken? Just get the rice and chicken. You won't waste as much.
- Take out half. If you're going back to your room right after your meal and you have a refrigerator, you can get a regular meal and ask your server to bring you a takeout container while the food is hot. Put half in the container and close it up. You can tell your server you don't want to be tempted to eat too much if you feel like you need to justify it.
- Split meals where you can. If you're traveling with a fellow performer who has similar tastes, you can split an entree and get side salads.
- Avoid bonus carbs. Carbs are great for you but meals in sit-down restaurants frequently have bonus carbs. I know I can eat the hell out of a basket of tortilla chips without thinking twice about it. Skip the complimentary chips, mini loaf of warm bread, basket of breadsticks. If you can't avoid them, ask your server to package them up for you because you want to enjoy them after you dance. Most servers don't mind, especially if you leave them an extra buck or two for the effort.
- Be smart about dessert. If you don't have room after your meal then don't order it. Go family style on a dessert so you only get one or two spoons of it. Skip stuff you can get back home.
Late-night post-show restaurant trips with the cast present their own challenges. You're going to bed soon and you don't want to overload your system but you still need to "eat" with the group.
- Skip caffeine so you can get your rest. Get some juice, ginger ale or hot chocolate. An Italian soda is a fancy late-night drink. Avoid the alcohol as well. Pass on the refills and drink water instead.
- Stick to appetizers and a la carte offerings. Have some hash browns or a single egg. A veggie side or some toast are great for late-night eating. Fresh fruit pie or simple cheesecake are nice options if you want to treat yourself after a great gig.
- These late-night outings are more about social intercourse than actual nourishment. You can get away with just ordering one beverage and slowly sipping it as you visit with people around the table. Be sure to tip well.
It takes a while for something to become a habit. You have to start somewhere. You may notice you feel better, have more energy and poop regularly when you make smart food choices.