Travelling to Brussels on business may only be a short trip, but nevertheless change to your usual eating pattern, food selection, changes in activity and inadequate fluid intake can all impact on your work performance when you arrive at your destination or upon your return. Knowing what is available en route is a step towards ensuring optimal performance and well-being.
If you’re booked on Eurostar for business travel to Brussels, then the following tips will aid your choice of healthy eating options and well-being.
1. Best purchases for hydration
The first consideration is to ensure you have sufficient to drink on route, preferably water to sip, so that you maintain apposite fluid intake throughout your day and arrive at your destination for your business meeting as fresh and alert as possible.
Becoming dehydrated is much easier when travelling as your regular routine has been interrupted and before you may realise you’re becoming dehydrated, you’re already thirsty! Thirst is only one symptom of dehydration. Others include headache, fatigue, irritability, mental lethargy, vague discomfort, lack of appetite, impatience, nausea, poor work performance and constipation, all at the primary stages of dehydration (1 – 5% water loss from your body). The risk of dehydration when travelling by train will be greater during warmer weather despite cool air conditioning once on board.
One great aspect of travelling via Eurostar is that you can take fluids through security checks before boarding the train. So you can either choose to bring your own bottle or purchase a bottle of water before security without fear of it being confiscated.
Which means you can also evade being overcharged for the same size bottle of water post security where fewer options are available for purchase. Generally, speaking buying a bottle of water at the cafes after security or on route can be two or three times more expensive than buying before security.
There are plenty of outlets at Kings Cross St Pancras to choose from, however the convenient stores are among the least expensive, and you will still need to choose wisely. For example, Marks and Spencer sell a 500 ml bottle of water for £0.80. Similarly, you can purchase the same size bottle of water for only £0.60 at Boots, while WHSmith sell the same quantity (500ml) for £1.59.*
The price for the same size bottle (500ml) post security at Cafe Nero in the departure lounge is £1.40 and £1.70 at the Continental Bar.* Better not to leave it until you board the train either, as you will pay the premium price of £1.90. Best option is from Boots.
*Please note: Prices at time of publishing
2. Pre purchase your travelling sandwich or snack
If you are travelling standard class, then take heed: sandwich or quick snacks on the Eurostar are available from the buffet car but are limited in selection. Waitrose supermarket currently supply fresh, good quality hot (toasted) and cold sandwiches, but there are only 5 items in total to choose from.
So if it’s a selection of items that you prefer to choose from, then sandwiches in Kings Cross St Pancreas station are a plenty. As there are no restrictions on what you can take on board the Eurostar, you are free to pre-purchase or better still pre-order and collect if time is short during transit.*
You will find freshly made to order as well as pre-packed sandwiches in a variety of cafes and sandwich bars, both pre and post security. But if your require nutritional information to aid your purchase of a healthier sandwich or one which does not contain a specific allergen, then best you stick with the pre-package sandwiches from one of the station’s convenient stores which provide a full list of ingredients, allergens and nutritional information on their packaging. Marks and Spencer have a good selection of pre-packaged sandwiches, as well as WHS Smith and Boots.
Post security you will find freshly prepared sandwiches at the Continental Bar and pre-packed sandwiches at Cafe Nero. The Continental Bar offers rather large baguettes ranging from £4.75 for a delicious tuna, onion and cucumber filling to scrambled eggs and smoked salmon bagel for £5.95, or cream cheese and smoked salmon bagel or even a croquet monsieur for similar prices. But don’t underestimate the portion size! These items are suitable either for the very hungry, tall, athletic types or for sharing as a lighter lunch if small stature and not so active. There is also a small selection of pre-packed sandwiches available, along with pastries, muffins and rice cup cakes.
At Cafe Nero, post security, you will find oodles of prepared/packed sandwiches to choose from. These are slightly smaller in portion size, offer information on the labels, and also slightly less in price than its competitor next door.
* Please note store collection is not currently available at Marks and Spencer, Boots, or WHSmith, but you might find the smaller shops are willing to offer a pre-order, especially if you are a regular traveller.
3. Hot food
If time allows, then you will find healthy hot food more plentiful in Kings Cross St Pancras station pre-security than post security. Post security is a good back up option if time is short, but it will limit your healthy options.
Hot food is available but narrow in selection on the Eurostar. If you are travelling standard class and using the buffet car, then there is a choice between chicken tikka masala, mushroom risotto and green vegetable soup, along with oven baked pizza (margherita pizza is possibly healthier than the pepperoni, but difficult to tell without nutritional information). Many of these items would be naturally high in salt too, so something that you may want to avoid if you know you have high blood pressure.
Cafe Nero appears to cater well for travellers who wish to choose low calorie options, and they are reportedly trying to reduce the salt content of their items. Although this is particularly difficult when there is salt used in the making of bread, paninis and soups comprising their stable ingredients and menu items. If it is a hot item you are after, then try one of their hot paninis. The Chicken Arrabbiata and Bacon Paninis is reportedly only 363 Kcals. Other healthy hot options include their soups. Such as the carrot and coriander soup (180 kCals), or the potato and leek soup (132kCals). If you add the ciabatta bread at another 180 kCals then you will still only be consuming 360 Kcal or 310 kCals in total. But watch out on other items to accompany your meal, particularly some of the hot drinks which can be notoriously high in energy.
4. Fruit and Vegetables
Travelling can upset your natural routine and rhythm. So it’s essential to grab fruit and vegetables whenever you can as they not only provide essential nutrients to maintain your health, but it also provides water helping you keep hydrated and fibre to help your gut stasis and keep you regular.
The Eurostar buffet car for standard class passengers offers a prepared fruit salad at £2.20 from the Waitrose brand. There was no provision of single whole fruit on the day I travelled, which would offer greater satiety value and possibly more suitable for those battling with their weight or controlling diabetes. There were also no salads on offer to choose from.
Both post security cafes offer fruit salad as well. The Continental Bar’s fruit salad is more exotic and slightly more expensive at £2.75. However, they did do offer whole fresh fruit (the usual banana, apple or orange) at £0.50 per item. Cafe Nero also offered fruit salad at £2.20, very similar to what is on board the Eurostar, plus a couple of salads.
There are other options pre-security including whole fresh fruit, fruit salads and prepared vegetables or salads from Marks and Spencer of a greater variety than in Boots or WHSmith or anywhere else in Kings Cross St Pancreas that I could find. So if you want a punnet of strawberries, blueberries, apricots, peaches or nectarines, prepared vegetable strips or salads…. then Marks and Spencer probably is the best option to take your pick from.
5. Standard Premium or Business Class Dining.
If you are travelling standard premium or business class, then many of the options above will probably not be necessary. It really depends on how much control you want over your food choices. Eurostar have teamed up with Raymond Blanc on business class so you will be offered a tasty three course menu with two main items to choose from. But choice is only with the main meal, so it is still up to you if you wish to select something else before boarding.
Hot beverages are inclusive, although you should still consider carrying a small bottle of water to sip if there is still some travelling to do before reaching your destination. Fresh fruit (or even a salad/vegetable sticks) is also a good idea to have in your hand luggage as it doesn’t seem to appear often on the business class menu.
For standard premier, you will be offered a selection of pastries, yoghurt, juice and a hot drink for breakfast, differing slightly from business class with the exclusion of breads and cold meats. Alternatively, you might find the muffins, rice cup cakes, pots of yoghurt and honey (with oats and fresh strawberries), or very large bagel with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon from the Continental Bar in the departure lounge a preferred option or even food from various cafes in Kings Cross pre-security.
If you require a meal to match specific dietary requirements when travelling standard premium or business class, then you need to make this known at the time of booking to allow Eurostar sufficient notice to have your meal prepared. Special menus range from vegetarian, religious food restrictions, low fat, low salt, and allergen free.
Lastly, if you are still unsure of what the best healthy buys are when travelling to Brussels Midi on the Eurostar, then we have done all the hard work for you by checking out all the eateries in Kings Cross St Pancras and Brussels Midi, detailing suitable options in our Healthy Travel Guide for Business Executives travelling on Eurostar Kings Cross St. Pancras to Brussels. Available September 2014
Bon Appetit! A votre santé!