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the efficient traveller

Restaurateur Zark Fatah, at his Blowfish eatery in Toronto.Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail

Zark Fatah travels great distances around the world but is never very far from a healthy snack.

If Mr. Fatah had to pick just one tip from his own (admittedly) strict diet playbook to help other busy entrepreneurs eat right while on the road, that would be the golden rule – eat properly. "It's all about being planned and prepared," he said in an interview from his Toronto office.

Mr. Fatah, 41, is the entrepreneurial force behind a string of Toronto hotspots, including Blowfish restaurant, Portland Variety café and the Everleigh nightclub.

It's an all-consuming kind of job. If he's not in his Portland Street office, he can usually be found at one of the six businesses within his Capture Group empire, where he has been known to rub elbows with Drake and other celebrity elite.

At least once a month, though, he boards a plane on his way to meetings and events in the United States, Brazil, Europe or South Asia – and that's when his eating regimen can really get messed up.

Adding to the complication, Mr. Fatah is an amateur competitive bodybuilder. His passion for the sport has earned him the title of regional master's champion in the men's physique category, and a chance at the national title in 2016.

Preparing for competition requires complete devotion to fitness training, regardless of the time zone he finds himself in.

"There are times when, after I land [from a flight], the first thing I do is drop my bags and go for a run," he said.

Mr. Fatah is equally rigorous when it comes to food. Sure, he enjoys a cappuccino and a glass of wine with dinner, but otherwise stays well away from high-fat foods, butters and anything deep-fried.

He takes no chances of being caught out at an airport or hotel. Instead, he relies on meal-planning services to prepare daily meals and snacks for him that meet a strict calorie and nutritional intake standard.

In countries, or cities, where he isn't certain he can access the foods he needs, he packs premade frozen servings in his suitcase.

"That way, I always have healthy, tasty snacks with me all the time so when I get hungry I'm not grabbing a sandwich, but having a proper meal of chicken breast, broccoli and rice instead," he said.

Mr. Fatah's attention to detail and discipline might not work for everyone. But Christy Brissette, a Toronto-based registered dietician and president of 80 Twenty Nutrition, a communications company that specializes in nutrition and food, said business travellers can reap measurable health benefits by thinking through their diet prior to boarding the plane.

Between time zone changes, and a disruption of sleeping patterns, airline food, client dinners and after-work cocktails, "eating healthy when you travel lots for work is a challenge," she said in an e-mail.

That said, Ms. Brissette said there are some easy steps everyone can take to get through a business trip without doing damage to your heart – or the bathroom scale. Her top suggestions include:

Eat small amounts every three hours you are awake

It doesn't matter if the clock says it's meal time. Keeping your body on a regular schedule will keep your metabolism burning.

Watch the carbs

Meal and snack options on flights, at airports and in meetings are usually high in "fast carbs" that are high on the glycemic index. (Think doughnuts, plain bagels, crackers, pretzels.) Always make sure you're choosing something high in protein to keep you more alert, with some fibre-rich carbs such as vegetables, fruit and whole grains. Carry the protein-rich options you packed in your briefcase or laptop bag just in case.

Avoid airline meals

Many of them have more sodium than you need in a day. Pair that with being dehydrated on the plane and you're going to get a headache and feel tired. Even the snack boxes are more of a meal than a snack, averaging 600 calories. If you must eat airline food, some airlines are now offering healthier menus with lighter options. Pick something from there.

Take supplements

Your gut bacteria actually have their own circadian rhythm. Getting off your usual routine typically causes your digestive tract to get thrown off. Not pleasant. Bring a probiotic and a fibre supplement that mixes into water to help keep things on schedule.

Look up grocery stores close to your hotel and their hours

This is your best bet for loading up on healthy snacks, breakfast essentials and things to bring on the next flight. Having a lighter breakfast will help you avoid all of the saturated fat, calories and sodium from oversized hotel breakfasts. You can pick up some healthy essentials including fresh fruit, precut veggies, mini containers of hummus, salads, roast chicken or yogurt.


Always bring your running shoes and workout clothes. Load up some exercise videos on your iPad or laptop and you can fit in 20 minutes in your room if your hotel doesn't have a gym. Keep in mind that no matter how tired you are, exercise combats jet lag.

Order right when dining out

Order a protein-rich option such as grilled calamari or chicken skewers and a salad from the appetizers list. If you're ordering a main, get a half order if possible. Get dressings and sauces on the side, and if your salmon or chicken comes with two sides, ask for double vegetables.

Pass on booze

Alcohol calories add up fast. Men should try to limit their consumption to two standard drinks a day, women to one a day.

Manage stress

Stress can lead to cravings. Download a mindfulness or meditation app or a yoga video so you can take a five-minute breather when you get back to your room.