Have you ever found yourself in this situation?
You’re on a business trip. In the morning, you walk down from your hotel room feeling a bit groggy from traveling and sleeping in a room with poor circulation and a below-average bed. You have to eat breakfast before you head to your meeting or appointment. Here are your options:
- Omelet bar
- 3-tiered tray of muffins and pastries
- Table with bagels, bread, toaster, butter and jam
- Belgian waffle bar (complete with whipped cream and strawberries floating in a sugary syrup)
- 5 big stainless steel containers of hot food: bacon, hashbrown potatoes, sausage, cheesy grits, scrambled eggs
- Oatmeal bar
- Cold cereal (most of them highly processed and sugary) and milk
- Flavored yogurts with granola
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Fresh fruit – usually apples, oranges and bananas
You could take a couple of different paths here:
Eat an enormous breakfast, try a little of everything and bring a pastry to-go. After all, it’s free right?
Have a hard-boiled egg and a banana, or some oatmeal with fresh fruit, which are both similar breakfasts to what you’d eat at home.
I’m not saying it’s terrible to go big when you travel, but just be aware of your decisions. Big breakfasts are usually eaten on special occasions, like Christmas morning after you’ve opened your stockings; Easter brunch with friends and family; the day after a wedding when everyone is gathering to rave about the night… but not necessarily before a business meeting. You need energy and fuel for the day, but keep in mind you are traveling, and until you get home, you will have minimal control over your food options and you probably won’t have time to exercise.
It’s sort of human nature to eat more if there is more food to eat. We have this subconscious need to try a little of everything and clean our plate. And when it’s free, we are even more likely to overeat.
But you don’t want to feel uncomfortably full. You want to feel alert and energized. Also, keep in mind that one scrambled egg prepared at the hotel probably has more calories, sodium and fat than one scrambled egg you cook yourself at home. They most likely use an unhealthy oil and add extra salt.
So stick with the basics and focus on whole foods. Some well-rounded hotel breakfast buffet combinations include:
- A bowl of oatmeal with some fruit and nuts; water and tea/coffee
- 2 eggs, scrambled or hard-boiled, a piece of whole wheat toast with peanut butter, a banana, water and tea/coffee
- 2-egg omelet with lots of veggies; 1 piece of sausage or ham; apple; water and tea/coffee
- Yogurt with nuts and fruit; 1 piece of toast with butter or peanut butter; water and tea/coffee
Try to stay away from the same things you’d normally avoid at home on a regular workday: pastries, muffins (unless homemade!), donuts, sugary juices, enormous waffles, a huge serving of sausage, etc.
The PWN reader who gave me the idea for this blog post was recently in a hotel where the options included things like white bread toast, powdered eggs, and lots of sugary pastries and muffins. This reader ended up having 2 hard-boiled eggs, a couple bites of sausage, a piece of toast with peanut butter and a banana. Sometimes you’ll be at a place where you don’t have as many choices as the full spread I mentioned above – in these situations, do what you need to do. Either eat whatever you think is best from the hotel options, or go to a coffee shop or deli where you can get something better. I know the hotel breakfast is free, but spending a few extra bucks on something that will give you more energy and make you feel better all day long is totally worth it, in my opinion. When I used to travel for work I would always spend my own money on good coffee, because I typically don’t like hotel coffee.
Again, it’s okay to enjoy the hotel breakfast buffet, but just be aware. If you have a team lunch, happy hour and dinner lined up for the day, you may want to take it easy on breakfast to avoid feeling awful when you return from your trip. It’s the mindless eating that gets us into trouble, and hotel breakfast bars are just one more place where we can work on being more conscious of the foods we are choosing to put into our bodies.