How to Cook Healthy Meals in Your Hotel Room

When it comes to travel, most people focus on their destination, what they should pack and how much fun they are going to have while away on vacay. Then there is me. When traveling the biggest question that comes to my mind is, “What the heck am I going to eat while away?!”

how to cook healthy meals in your hotel room

Earlier this month, I was posted up in a hotel for one week as I covered Expo West and was challenged to channel my creative culinary side in order to maintain my healthy lifestyle. Here’s how I lived in a hotel for one week and still maintained my whole foods diet. All you need is a microwave and one (or two) Target runs.

What to do before you travel

Before you venture on your next vacation, I recommend doing a few things prior to heading to the airport:

  • Research the local area and see where the closest grocery stores are located. On my most recent trip, my grocery stores of choice (Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods) were located 7+ miles away, but there was a Target less than a half a mile away. Target for the win!
  • Bonus points for remembering to pack a reusable bag for your haul—although if you don’t want to pack a reusable bag, sometimes hotels have plastic laundry bags in your closet. You could also empty your oversized bag or carry on and use that for your grocery haul. #genius
  • Especially when traveling, daily hydration is important for optimal health, so pack a reusable water bottle to refill at the airport and at your hotel.
  • The worst thing when traveling is being left hungry and without any food, so pack snacks for the actual travel part of your trip. Easy to pack snacks include fresh fruit like an apple or banana, vegetable sticks, individual nut and seed butter packets and whole nuts and seeds. A word of caution: If you plan on packing snacks in your personal bag or carry on bag, keep in mind you may get slowed down in security. My Tupperware of black chia seeds and individual packets of wild caught salmon and tuna got me pulled over in security…twice. Hey, a girl’s gotta eat!
  • Finally, if you have any daily supplements you cannot live without, make sure to pack those in your personal item or carry on bag. Keep your supplements in their original packaging too; this will cut down on any questions from TSA.

When you arrive: ask about amenities or extra utensils

When you arrive to your hotel and are checking in at the front desk, think about any kitchen utensils you may need to make a meal. For instance, I had given my first dinner meal some thought beforehand and knew I would need a can opener. However, I was not about to pack a can opener in my suitcase, (explaining chia seeds was about all I could manage), so I simply asked the hotel concierge if they had a spare can opener I could use. Odd, perhaps, but if I couldn’t get my hands on a can opener I knew I would need a new dinner idea, so think about what kitchen utensils you may need to get your top chef on and simply ask. The worst they can say is no.

Another hack: since I had missed the complimentary breakfast that morning, I also missed an opportunity to snag some key cooking tools like paper plates, bowls, napkins and cutlery. Ask the front desk for these utensils! They usually have a stack of spares for guests.

Next: make your grocery run (plus, my real-life shopping list)

When staying in a hotel room for one week, I only had access to a refrigerator and a microwave, but with my culinary MacGyver skills and a pre-planned shopping list, that’s all I needed. Here’s what I grabbed for my grocery cart:

  • Avocados
  • Premade salad kits
  • Canned tomato sauce (hence the can opener).
  • Chicken. Who knew, but Target has already grilled chicken available for purchase in their fresh produce section. That’s right! If you ever needed another reason to love Target, now you’ve got one.
  • Fresh fruit. I recommend snagging fresh fruit from the morning breakfast bar as most hotels offer apples, bananas and oranges each morning, but if you have something specific in mind, grab it.
  • Frozen cauliflower rice
  • Individual packets of avocado il or algae oil (I purchased a large bottle because I love avocado oil and knew I would use it all week).
  • Pre-chopped lettuce
  • Salsa
  • Microwaveable vegetables (i.e. broccoli, Brussels sprouts and green beans)
  • Taco seasoning packets

Three easy hotel-room meal ideas

Once your grocery run is complete, it’s time to get cooking! If you need some ideas on what to make, here are three meal ideas that helped me maintain my healthy diet while traveling:

Homemade burrito bowl

Simply cook a bag of frozen cauliflower rice in the microwave (follow instructions as listed on the packaging). Once cooked, add in the canned tomato sauce and some taco seasoning, then top with grilled chicken, lettuce, avocado and salsa. I even added in a scoop or two of chia seeds, which I brought from home, for some additional fiber.

Chicken & veggies

When traveling, I miss a home cooked meal and sometimes crave something as simple as chicken and fresh vegetables. Luckily, this meal is simple enough you can make it in your hotel room! Simply heat up grilled chicken (once again, thank you Target) and steam a bag of your favorite vegetables. While traveling, I made a bowl of broccoli and Brussels sprouts and drizzled them in avocado oil for an additional source of healthy fats.

Fresh green salad

Why try and recreate your favorite green salad when stores like Target already offer perfectly proportioned salad kits? Forget dinner in a take out bag. Instead, enjoy a more mindful (and much more budget-friendly) option by grabbing a salad in a bag. Top with any leftovers from the week, like avocado, salsa, or microwaved veggies, and dress it up with your oil of choice.


Maintaining a healthy diet when traveling doesn’t have to be an anxiety inducing experience. With some proper planning, a microwave and one or two Target runs, you can have the comfort of a home cooked meal in your hotel room.

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About Ashley Martens

Ashley Martens is a Wellness Writer based in Chicago, Illinois. With a background in a digital marketing coupled with her knowledge of general nutrition and a lifelong passion for all things health, wellness, fitness and nutrition, Ashley offers a healthy alternative to traditional writing. You can learn more Ashley and her writing over at her blog, Three to Five a Day.