Healthy Travel Tips & Chicago Highlights
Last weekend, Pat and I had the opportunity to travel to the city of Chicago! The company he recently started at hosts an annual team-building event in the city and family/S.O.’s are welcome to attend. Well, you didn’t have to tell me twice! Chicago has been on my bucket list of cities to visit for a while now and I wasn’t giving up the opportunity to check it off the list.
We were only there for a total of three nights and four days and it was a busy, whirlwind of a trip! We had lots of fun exploring and enjoying so much delicious food. I thought I’d whip up a blog post to recap the highlights, our favourite eats, and of course some of my go-to tips for feeling well while I travel.
Thursday was our travel-to-Chicago day. We were up at 3:30 in the morning, to the airport and through security by 5:00 am, ready for our 6:00 flight. By this time, we were actually starving – and this brings me to my first healthy travel tip.
- Fill Up on Fibre!
Ever sat in a car or a plane all day to arrive at your destination feeling bloated and uncomfortable as heck? Or 24 hours into your travels you’re feeling a little less regular than normal (if you know what I mean)?
All of the sitting, the change in dietary pattern, and change in overall routine that happens when we travel can totally mess with our digestion. I’ve been there and I know how uncomfortable it can be. That’s why I make a point to eat lots of fibre, especially on travel days where I know I’ll be sitting lots and moving less.
So for instance, on this morning I grabbed oatmeal from Starbucks with nuts and dried fruit – and a coffee, of course. By the time we landed in Toronto for our layover and got through customs and security we’d been awake for almost 7 hours, so we needed something else to eat. I grabbed a super-filling smoothie with fruits and veggies (carbohydrates + fibre) and soy milk (protein + fat) and knew I had a snack bar on me in the instance that I got hungry again after that.
After our arrival we headed out to the cutest, most Instagram-worthy spot like, ever. The Hampton Social. We weren’t super hungry and were eyeing the donuts we walked by on our way to the restaurant so we split a side of crispy Brussels sprouts and a delicious tuna and avocado bowl. Oh, and some rose cocktails because #RoseAllDay.
We then walked to the Navy Pier, which is clearly more happening in the summer because it was awfully quiet – but it still had some great skyline views of the city. On our walk back, we stopped at Stan’s Donuts to grab two of the best donuts we’d ever tried and some coffees to perk us up. After that it was back to the hotel to freshen up and head right back out to The Second City (in case you didn’t know, comedians like Tina Fey and Steve Carell once performed here) where we caught a super hilarious comedy show and got some appetizers and drinks.
Not gonna lie – there weren’t a lot of photo-worthy eats consumed on this day. This was the first day of Pat’s team-builder events, which included hockey at The United Centre – the Chicago Blackhawk’s home arena. We grabbed a not-so-exciting breakfast at the hotel before heading there and later grabbed some $2 tacos at the arena – lol!
I watched Pat’s first game before grabbing an Uber back downtown to do some (too much) shopping on my own. I was out walking around all afternoon and would have definitely become dehydrated if it weren’t for my next tip!
- Carry a Water Bottle!
This one is such an easy habit to start. All you need to do is go out and buy a reusable water bottle. If you’re feeling fancy, treat yourself to one that will keep your water cold (if that’s how you like it). I like Swell and Healthy Human for my water. Traveling can be super dehydrating if we don’t keep our water with us. To ensure we’re getting enough to drink, I recommend packing an empty water bottle in your carry-on bag and filling it up once you’re through security. This way you’ve got lots of water and don’t have to rely on those little plastic cups of water they give you on the plane.
It’s also smart to fill your bottle up in the morning before you go out exploring (or shopping) so you can stop and sip when you need to. This way you’re also saving money and waste than if you were to purchase a plastic bottle of water.
After my shopping I reconvened with Patrick and we got ready for dinner with some of his coworkers and their families. The dinner reservation was at a bar downtown called The Public House but we all ended up just ordering and sharing appetizers throughout the night. Also, it was dark so I have no photos. I told you there weren’t any photo-worthy eats this day!
Pat once again had some early morning hockey so I was on my own this morning after our hotel breakfast. We chose to do the breakfast buffet at the hotel each morning because they were included in our stay and let’s be real, traveling ain’t cheap!
I headed out to explore Whole Foods and Trader Joes which were both a mere walk from the our hotel downtown Chicago. As I follow many American dietitian/foodie accounts on my Instagram, I’m constantly seeing Whole Foods/ Trader Joe’s grocery hauls with lots of trendy health-food products. While these products are most definitely not necessary to have a healthy diet, I have a lot of fun checking out new-to-me brands.
Some of my fave product finds included Perfect Bars (loved the Peanut Butter & Dark Chocolate Chip flavour), Siete Foods Tortilla Chips, Health Ade Kombucha, and the Trader Joe’s “Just Mango” unsweetened dried mango slices.
After my little grocery shop, I was starving by 11:30 am. I had spotted a Sweetgreen just a couple blocks away earlier in our trip so I headed there for a delicious lunch. When I arrived, I was super overwhelmed by the variety of delicious salad options so I asked one of the employees for a suggestion. She suggested one of their seasonal specials, the Winter Maple Squash Salad, and it did not disappoint! I ate it along side a super refreshing Spindrift sparkling water.
Not long after my lunch I received a call from Pat that he was on his way back from the rink. I went to meet him at the hotel and then we headed off to Millenium Park to see the Cloud Gate or “The Bean”. By the time we arrived it had really started to snow so it was hard to get nice photos, but we still had a fun little tourist afternoon exploring the park. It wasn’t long until we were freezing cold and hungry once again so we walked over to a café that was recommended to us called Goddess and The Baker. As always, we ordered way too much to eat alongside our warm mugs of coffee – a sandwich that came with a side of potato chips, a soup, a fresh-baked pop tart, and a coffee cake muffin.
We were fully satisfied after sharing the sandwich, soup and muffin so we saved the chips and pop tart for later. Knowing we had dinner reservations just a couple hours later we really shouldn’t have even gone for the muffin but it was just too good looking to resist.
Saturday evening we had plans to go to the Chicago Blackhawks vs. Las Vegas Golden Knights hockey game at the United Center. We joined Pat’s coworker for a Chicago classic – some deep-dish pizza at a restaurant called Gino’s East before the game. Okay, nobody told me how filling deep-dish pizza is but we could all barely make it through a slice! Nonetheless, it was delicious. Then off to the game we went!
On Sunday we had until about 2:00pm before we needed to get to the airport. So we had another hotel breakfast followed by what we planned to be a visit to the gorgeous 3 Arts Club Café. What we failed to realize until we had taken an Uber across town and arrived at the café was its popularity. We arrived to a large line-up and 60-90 minute wait. Unfortunately, we didn’t have 60-90 minutes to wait. So we walked a couple blocks until we came across a café called La Colombe where we grabbed some coffees and a croissant. As we had planned to spent a little while at the 3 Arts Club we now had some time to kill. So we walked around some, popped in to Barnes & Noble and TJ Maxx and then decided just to walk 30 minutes back to our hotel.
By this time it was about 12:30 and we were starting to feel ready for lunch at Shake Shack. I had spotted Shake Shack right across the street from out hotel when we arrived on Thursday and had wanted to eat there all weekend. We each got a burger and we shared a side of fries and cookies and cream milk shake, which were both to die for.
After our delish Shake Shack experience it was back to the airport and time to make our trek home to Halifax. We had two flights – Chicago to Toronto and then Toronto to Halifax. We landed for our layover in Toronto around supper time but didn’t feel like spending a ridiculous amount of money on a low-quality airport dinner. We opted to just share something small and dig into my snack stash – and this brings my to my last tip for today.
- Be Prepared – Pack Snacks!
Travelling can be so unpredictable. Flight delays and cancellations, long layovers and lineups. Despite my efforts to practice more mindfulness, when I get over-hungry it’s not always pretty. So for poor Pat’s sake (lol) I never travel without snacks. This way I can keep my energy up, avoid getting over-hungry and irritated, and save myself some money. Like I said, travelling isn’t cheap!
My go-to plane snacks are things that will last a long time in my bag. This includes protein/nutrition bars like Made with Local, nuts or trail mix, chocolate, and fruit like an apple or orange. I always just make sure that my carry-on snacks comply with airport security and customs depending on where I’m travelling.
As you can see, I only have a handful of healthy travel tips for you. I think that it’s important to remember that travelling is all about experience and trying new things. When travelling, so much of my excitement comes from trying new foods rather than sticking to my usual foods. I still like to feel my best – so that’s where incorporating fibre, adequate hydration and healthy snacks come in. But I’ll be the first one to tell you to try the donut, the deep-dish pizza, or the Shake Shack burger! Remember, your health is not defined by one meal, one day or even one week of eating. So I’ll leave you with my final healthy travel tip – just ENJOY IT! The more freedom you give yourself in your life to enjoy the experiences that excite you – the more room you’ll find for it all – salads, smoothies, pizza, burgers and all.