Studies show that travelers need proper nutrition and hydration the most when they are in transit and sightseeing. Unfortunately, this is when travelers are most likely to make poor travel nutrition choices and ignore the warning signs of dehydration.
Long transit delays, gate changes, or an extensive sightseeing itinerary can overwhelm you and make junk food seem more appealing. Here are several tips to help you eat healthy while traveling:
Make a Plan
Don’t worry; there’s no need to plan every meal based on a strict calorie count. Rather, focus on eating healthy, but allow yourself to indulge occasionally.
If you’re a short-term traveler, I recommend using the two-for-one rule with meals, snacks, and drinks: eat two healthy meals and one cheat meal; two healthy snacks and one dessert; two bottles of water and one beer or wine.
For long-term travelers, I recommend one or two cheat meals per week but not every day. Since the road will be your home for several months or years, it’s best to treat it as such and maintain your healthy eating habits.
Setting a daily food budget will help you choose healthier options. For example, you’ll find that desserts, specialty coffees, and cocktails are typically expensive no matter where you travel, costing as much as one entrée or meal. With a daily food budget, you’ll be able to prioritize what is necessary and nutritious.
If you’re traveling internationally, research which restaurants in the area offer nutritious options. Google might only show commercial restaurants, which is why I recommend joining expat groups on Facebook or InterNations. You’ll be able to ask expats living in your travel destination about local restaurant menus and market locations, and find out which food carts are safe.
I also recommend planning your cheat meals ahead of time. When traveling, I always look for desserts that are unique to my travel destination, such as coconut ice cream in Bangkok or gingerbread in Nuremberg. If I’m going to indulge, I want it to be something I can’t find back home.
If you’re traveling without internet access, screenshot and save the names and details of restaurants to your phone or tablet. Evernote is great for compiling research, but be sure to save the information to your device via the app. I save restaurants, cheat meal hotspots, and landmarks in Google Maps, and then I download the offline map to my phone.
Bring Healthy Snacks
The day of travel can be busy and stressful. Bring snacks with you to avoid the temptation of overpriced and unhealthy options in the airport or bus terminal.
I recommend investing in a plastic container with a sealable lid. A durable plastic container allows you to carry healthy food during travel and sightseeing. It’s ideal for budget travelers because you can make your own snacks before you leave. Once you arrive, stock up on healthy options at the local market or commercial grocery.
When traveling, I always look for a combination of the following snacks that I put into my plastic container:
- Raw almonds
- Raw pumpkin seeds
- No or low-sugar granola
- No sugar added dried fruit (e.g., apple slices)
- Raw cacao nibs
- No salt or butter added popcorn
- Cheerios or similar cereal that is low in sugar and high in fiber
- Turkey or beef jerky
Making a snack mix with a combination of these items provides a balance of protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. You will feel satiated during travel and you will have energy when you arrive at your destination.
Work it Off
If you’re treating yourself to local food that is delicious but unhealthy, make sure your travel agenda contains plenty of physical activity to help burn off those extra calories.
Find a famous landmark that requires some physical effort such as the Nuremberg Castle in Germany or hiking Machu Picchu in Peru. Try sports that are unique to the place you’re traveling such as surfing on the Gold Coast, scuba diving in Bali, or mountain biking in the Midwest. Instead of a bus tour, sign up for a walking tour. I recommend sightseeing while jogging, or sight jogging.
If your trip won’t include many physical activities, you can use travel-friendly workouts, such as a park workout or hotel room workout. A park workout is a good way to see the city, soak up sunshine, and meet locals, and a hotel-room workout is ideal if you’re stuck indoors due to bad weather.
No matter what you choose, the idea is to keep your body moving so you can burn off the calories from those cheat meals.
Making Healthy Choices
Don’t have the time to research and plan healthy dining spots? Here are some tips for making quick travel-nutrition decisions:
|Water||Soda or Juice|
|Baked potatoes||French fries|
|Brown rice||White rice|
|Stevia or panela||White sugar or processed sugar|
|Soup or salad||French fries, beans, or white rice|
Traveling is supposed to be fun—a chance to make lifelong memories. Being healthy is important, but don’t sacrifice once-in-a-lifetime experiences to avoid a few calories. When you’re traveling, remember to focus on making better, not perfect choices.
How Do You Eat Healthy While Traveling?
What is your biggest challenge with travel nutrition? Do you worry about gaining weight while traveling? Do you have your own tips for eating healthier while traveling? Let me know in the comments below.