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5 Tips for Eating Healthier on the Go When You Work in the Bar World

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(illustration: Adela Kang)

Whether you’re moving between shifts or time zones, eating healthily can be a challenge for busy beverage professionals. As Alba Huerta, of Julep in Houston, says, “My body has taken a beating over the years, and now I’m treating it more kindly because I’m traveling more and want to be at my best for the long haul.”

From fueling pre-shift to the best snacks for travel, Huerta and other industry road warriors share their tips for eating healthy on the go.

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1. Fuel Your Body Before Work

For Nicola Riske, a European brand ambassador for The Macallan, the old adage holds true: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. “I’m on the road between 150 and 200 days a year, and this is the one meal I can control. I want it to be as balanced and supercharged as possible,” she says. She suggests skipping the pastries and Nutella at the hotel breakfast bar and opting for more nutrient-dense options like scrambled egg whites or boiled eggs, fresh fruits and whole wheat bread with a spoonful of extra virgin olive oil.

Similarly, while it’s common for bartenders to graze before work and then eat (and drink) late into the night after, Huerta says eating her largest meal pre-shift has “dramatically improved” her health and stamina for the job. “I heard someone say you should fuel for your shift, rather than repair yourself after, and it resonated with me,” she says. “I now eat at 1 p.m. and not 1 a.m. I sleep better, wake up earlier and feel more prepared for work, mentally and physically.”

2. Be Prepared

Umberto Luchini, an endurance athlete and the founder of Wolf Spirit Distillery in Eugene, Ore., travels with snacks like nuts and dried and fresh fruit. He also tries to book hotels within walking distance to a grocery store so he can shop for additional healthy options on the road.

Riske says that packing snacks like almonds, walnuts, apples, bananas, pears, herbal tea and instant miso soup also keeps her from raiding a hotel mini bar. At home, she stocks up on frozen vegetables, nuts, quinoa, chickpeas, whole wheat pasta and other staples so she can throw together quick and simple meals between trips or meetings. And to avoid temptation, she recommends skipping the junk food altogether. “If I don’t keep it in my house, I won’t eat it,” she says.

Huerta agrees. “Whether it’s a meal kit or going to the farmers market or grocery store, if you are more prepared, you’ll end up consuming better food and feeling better overall,” she says.

3. Don’t Forget to Hydrate

“Water is my superpower,” says Huerta, who avoids eating on airplanes but says drinking plenty of water before and during a flight keeps her hydrated and full enough for the duration.
She also drinks three to five liters of water a day when at home in Houston given the hot climate.

Struggling to drink enough water? Riske recommends carrying a water bottle with you at all times so sipping during the day becomes habitual and you can wean yourself off dehydrating pick-me-ups like coffee and soda.

4. Load Up on Supplements

Because she travels up to 300 days a year as a global ambassador for the Diageo Reserve World Class program, Lauren Mote carries supplements like electrolyte water tabs, Amazing Grass protein superfood powder and adaptogens like ashwagandha and marine collagen to boost energy and augment meals if needed. “While a salad or fresh vegetables seems like the most nutritious option while traveling, in some places, it can be more harmful for you,” she says. “Do your research before traveling to a location, but having these supplements on hand means I’m still getting the nutrients I need even if I can’t get them from food.”

5. Know What Works for You

Regardless of your approach to healthy eating, the experts agree it’s important to know your limits and understand what works best for you. Mote follows an intermittent fasting plan and eats between 12 and 9 p.m. with several small meals and snacks, while Huerta doesn’t snack, as she finds them “a slippery slope. I’d rather sit down and have an intentional meal rather than a lot of unintentional snacks.” Luchini tries to limit rich meals to the lunch hour to allow time for better digestion, sleep and recovery before his morning workouts.

Riske, a lacto-ovo vegetarian, acknowledges that not every diet or plan works for everyone. So it’s best to experiment or work with a health professional to determine what feels best. Luchini also says he has learned by trial and error while traveling and recommends listening to your body. “It will tell you what it needs,” he says.

And ultimately, according to Riske, eating better leads to better habits with exercise, sleeping and drinking, which allow her to be the “best version of myself possible, in work and in life.”

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