How to eat healthy when traveling on the road and master the Christmas Buffet

Content by: Ashleigh Feltham

It’s that time of year again! Time for celebrations! You may be travelling to a friend’s or family’s place for Christmas and not sure how to plan to keep your best health during this time. Christmas lunch or dinner often includes a buffet style. It can be easy to get lost in the mountains of food. This blog will help you to navigate your way through both travel and the Christmas buffet to help you to feel your best during this season.

Travel Tips

When you go on road trips do you accept this period as an eating disaster full of fatty foods and sugary drinks? If you answered yes, then here are some easy tips to help you make this a thing of the past, the key word is preparation!

Below is a logical step by step approach of things to do before you leave and how to stick to the best choices while on the road:

  1. Create a shopping list:

Buy mostly products which are long life and don’t need refrigeration. Some long-life meal options can be made from things like:

  • Your favourite packets of wholegrain crackers or a loaf of wholegrain bread.
  • Canned vegetables (try draining the salted water or if possible, wash the vegetables using a strainer)
  • Beans (kidney, chickpeas, baked beans)
  • Tuna canned (aim for the tuna canned in spring water)
  • Boiled eggs -boiled eggs can be safely kept in your fridge for 1 week (store in cooler bag)
  • Pre-cooked meats (keep frozen until just prior to leaving and store in a cooler bag to be able to eat the meats safely later in the day.)
  • 100% nut butters

Side note on perishable items: these need to be stored at a maximum of 5 degrees and consumed within 4 hours after being above this temperature. Do not let food poisoning wreck your road trip!

Snack choices can be made from:

  • Fresh fruit and to prevent any bruising package in a lunch box that fits the fruit well or buy a special container especially for that fruit type.
  • Muesli bars (although check the amount of added sugar and if there are whole grains and fibre).
  • Small tuna cans (around 95g and these come in a range of flavours but the flavour can add a lot of extra calories, so I suggest sticking with spring water or Italian flavours).
  • Nuts and seeds (aim for unsalted, these can be bought in bulk and shared into small individual bags of around 30g or a small handful to make a serve).
  • Canned fruit in water or if in juice you can wash or drain the juice before eating.
  • Dried fruit (eat these sparingly as one and a half tablespoons is a serve of fruit).
  • Long life soups (aim for the soup lowest in added sugar and salt (400 mg of sodium per 100 g is considered moderate salt and less than 120 mg of sodium is considered low).


  • Long life low fat milk
  • Fortified soy milk or alternative (if substituting for dairy make sure there is at least 100 mg of calcium per 100 mL of drink).
  • Long life fruit or vegetable juice (aim for no added sugar).
  • Water! Free of calories and so good for you, drink away!
  • Instant coffee and tea bags.
  • Sweetener (I recommend using stevia which comes from a plant and is a natural non-caloric sweetener).



  1. How to eat when on the road:


  • Plan when you are going to eat!

It may sound simple enough but when you let yourself run into ravenous hunger (otherwise known as ‘hangry’), it can be difficult to choose the healthier options you have packed over the cheeseburger with large fries and a coke. Plan your day and when you will stop for meals and snacks.

  • Enjoy the travel experience

Take the time to enjoy eating. Take the scenic route and enjoy the locations you travel through. Maybe pack a picnic rug and select somewhere nice to enjoy the scenery around you.  Take the time to appreciate the meal or snack you are eating. This will decrease the likelihood of an upset stomach and foods spilt everywhere in the car. You will also be more aware when your body has had enough to eat.


Master the Christmas Buffet

Now that you have arrived at your destination, the next step is to master the Christmas buffet. You would not be the first to overindulge and plate up multiple servings for each course. Then there is the regret or sickly feeling from the experience.

To navigate your way through the Christmas buffet, here are a few handy tips:

  1. Set the number of plates for each course to one.

This means you will select the foods you really want rather than trying everything and anything being served as an option.

  1. Remember the half and two quarters rule.

Try serving each plate with half vegetable or fresh fruit and then a quarter protein source and quarter carbohydrate or grains. This balanced plate model will help you feel satisfied and not wanting to go for those extra servings.

  1. Remember water!

Selecting still or sparkling water over soft drink, juice or alcohol means you are not drinking extra energy. Drinking with the meal will help you eat less and keep you hydrated, especially if the food choices are salty.

  1. You can judge a book by its cover!

Aim to enjoy in only moderate amounts or not at all foods which are fried, creamed, crispy, breaded, scampi-style, creamed, buttery or au gratin. Try to select dishes which are steamed, boiled, charbroiled, broiled, poached or in a marinara tomato sauce base. Try looking for low fat or no fat options for dairy such as yoghurt, cheese, or milk.

Sauces are an easy way to add many extra calories without any effort at all. Aim to skip these or enjoy in moderation.

  1. Take a chill pill.

We often overeat when we eat fast because it takes time for our brain to process the feeling of being full. Try to enjoy each bite of the meal. It can help to put your knife and fork or spoon down between each mouthful. Savour the taste and enjoy the experience of eating.


Take home message: At the end of the day, this time is an important time to connect with the people who matter in your life. These tips are guidance to help you to feel your best over the silly season but please remember to enjoy the experience of Christmas. Remember that if things do not go exactly as planned this is not the end of the world.


Ashleigh Feltham

This blog features Ashleigh Feltham. Ashleigh is a practicing dietitian and owner of Feed Your Future Dietetics. She is passionate about helping people achieve their highest quality of life through nutrition, mental health, and exercise.

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