Business travel tends to bring out the worst in a traveler’s eating habits. It happens for a variety of reasons. Most business district restaurants are built around the lives of 8 to 5 employees, crescendoing at the busy lunch hour and then buttoning up service at 6 or 7 when workers have gone home to their families. At the Comcast Center, where I occasionally work in Philadelphia, the underground food court is opulent and packed at 12:30 on a Tuesday. By 8 p.m. it’s a ghost town.
There’s also the mentality of being on the road for work. Out of one’s comfort zone it’s easier to splurge on meals that are more convenient or for special occasions. It also helps when someone else is paying. But the cost goes beyond the pocketbook – your health is also on the line.
We’re all frequent travelers at Gadling Labs, so we compiled our best tips for eating well on the road and put them into this handy list for business travelers.
1. Escape the room service blues. Wouldn’t you know it? Sitting Indian style in front the television isn’t the ideal posture for consuming your after-meeting engorgement. Moving over to the desk is a better approach, but an even healthier option is to get up, get out of your room and find your food. The exercise that you get on the way will do plenty to counteract the carbs that you’re about to consume. And you’ll probably find something better than what the room service is going to provide.2. App it up. Yelp is the number one resource for any business traveler who wants to eat healthy. Those stuck in central business districts may find that the only visible nearby options are big box franchises, with smaller, more thoughtful places scattered thin. A quick search on Yelp will show the best-ranked restaurants in the area and will give the traveler an idea of what sort of fare is best received. Tip: “Healthy Food” is actually a searchable genre.
3. Home cooked meals are always the best, because you know exactly what ingredients are going into them. Check out the components of this barbecue sauce (only three tablespoons of brown sugar!) and you’ll see what I mean. The problem, of course, is that it’s difficult to cook while on the road. You can get around much of that by finding a hotel with a kitchenette. Homewood Suites and Elements are two great brands that feature stoves and utensils in each room. Stop by the grocery store on your way home; pick up an onion, a zucchini and some pasta and you’re in business.
4. The grocery store is your friend. Even if you don’t have the time or resources to bring food back to your hotel, there are myriad opportunities to find ready-to-eat meals at your local grocery store. Most outlets have prepared meals made from their produce sections, and barring that option there are big-brand-curated meals. Just stay away from the salt-rich TV dinners and you’ll be in good shape. As an extra bonus, it’s also cheaper.
5. Talk to the locals – the real locals. Think your hotel concierge has the best take on dinner options? Maybe. Or maybe he’s going to send you to the same Hard Rock Cafe that the tourists go to – or to somewhere that gives him a cut. Real locals, the ones on the street, have the best opinion on nearby food; you just have to work up the guts to ask them. Take a hint from Gadling’s culinary czar David Farley and ask a cab driver.
[Flickr image via Hamed Saber]