Moving to a new duty station doesn’t have to come with the sick feeling of way too much junk food. A lot of permanent change of station (PCS) activities can get in the way of a healthy eating routine. It may sound impossible, but healthy PCS food options can be a reality. Packing up all household items—including cookware—can create food prep challenges.
Spending lots of time in cars, on planes, and living in hotels and temporary living facilities (TLFs) can make grocery buying difficult. Arriving at a new location, especially without housing, can be so hectic that healthy eating is delayed. What if healthy PCS food options could be quick, easy, and tasty?
Healthy PCS Food Options – They Really Do Exist!
Here are some tips for healthy PCS food options:
Try to schedule road trip stops around areas with healthier food options. If there is a city or larger town about an hour ahead, search for restaurants in the area. Call in a carryout order for the time you plan to be passing through. Fast food doesn’t have to be the only choice.
When requested, most restaurants are able to steam vegetables, grill a piece of chicken, and toss a salad with lemon juice instead of dressing. Simple, no-fuss food is the best when eating out. Water is a solid choice and if you are brave enough to ask for your food without extra salt, you’ll be one step ahead.
Look for restaurants that focus on health
Freshii, First Watch, and Chipotle all aim to offer a variety of healthy choices. Their ingredients tend to be more natural than alternatives and they allow for meal customization. If you can’t find a restaurant that specifically talks about their healthy options, we’re sure you can find a healthier option than a burger and fries, even at a fast-food joint.
Pack a mix of nuts and raisins in a purse, diaper bag, or carry on. This allows for quick and easy snacking. Having something on hand makes it easier to hold off on ordering food until a healthy option is available. Why get gas station donuts when there is an exit with a healthy restaurant further down the highway?
Pack food for the plane
Liquids may be restricted, but food items are allowed through security. This can be anything from planned snacks to leftovers from the previous meal. A foldable bag can be used for food so that it can be packed inside another bag at the end of the trip when the food is gone.
Stop at a grocery store
It’s not always practical to bring all of your food with you when you’re traveling, but you can certainly find somewhere to stop and go grocery shopping. You can buy anything you need or want, and at a lower price than a gas station. This applies to car food, plane food, and hotel food. Some travel-friendly options include clementines, carrots, cucumbers, bananas, and apples. Salad bars are another great option for a healthy lunch or dinner to eat on the road or bring back to the hotel.
Plan for messes
Messes are going to happen. Planning ahead can reduce the drama when they do. When traveling with sticky fruit or messier foods, pack baby wipes. Keep one of the plastic grocery bags—or a reusable container if you’re trying to be eco-friendly—handy for food scraps like clementine peels and apple cores.
Think about food when booking hotels
When staying in hotels, try to get a room or suite with a small kitchen. Many hotels and TLFs on military installations do have at least small kitchens. If that is not a possibility, even a mini-fridge and microwave can go a long way. Bags of frozen vegetables are easy to heat. Old fashioned oats can be cooked with water from a coffee maker. As a bonus, cooking in the hotel is generally much cheaper than eating out!
When PCSing in the heat, Starbucks can save the day with a healthy, less messy, cold treat. It may not be on the menu, but they will put fruit, coconut milk, and ice in a blender without anything else.
Use Your Resources
There are many free resources available to help with maintaining a healthy lifestyle while traveling and when schedules are full. Find some favorite sources and follow them for tips, suggestions, and guidance.
Sticking to your healthy lifestyle may seem like an impossible feat in the face of a PCS, but it doesn’t have to be. Healthy food options can be found all around the world, and sometimes it’s just a matter of thinking outside the box. Be creative and enjoy your adventure, regardless of the crazy twists that come with a military move!
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Photo Credit: Eastern Sky Photography