As a certified health coach, one of the questions I get asked a lot is: “how do I eat healthily when travelling?” And I have to admit that it can be tricky. If you travel, and don’t have an opportunity to cook your own food, it can be very challenging–especially if you follow a specific diet or have food sensitivities.
I am vegetarian, dairy-free, and avoid gluten. Over the years, I have seen it all and had endless conversations with waiters who were adamant that my soup is still vegetarian even if it has bacon in it. My friends were no better. I remember one conversation when my dear Italian friend tried to feed me salami she brought from home. When I protested that I don’t eat meat, she said, “this is salami, it is not meat!” It is not easy being green, as Kermit the Frog would say.
I love to eat, and I love to travel. I also like to stay relatively healthy, and keep a level of sanity when away from home, so over the years I have developed a number of coping strategies.
1. Decide what’s non-negotiable when it comes to your diet. For me it is meat and fish, which I simply won’t eat under any circumstances. I can be a little bit more relaxed when it comes to gluten, but reluctantly, as I know I will pay a price for eating it.
2. Plan and prepare. Before I go away I usually spend an evening with Google and research the food scene of the place I am going to. I look for farmers’ markets, vegan/vegetarian eateries, health food shops, salad bars, delis, etc. I also prepare some snacks I can take with me like nuts and seeds, protein bars, gluten-free bread.
3. Eat fresh produce at least once a day. Think fruit (I can’t recommend berries strongly enough), green juice and/or smoothie, fresh salads (but go easy on the dressing). Snack on carrots, baby tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.
4. When eating out, make friends with your waiter, ask them what’s available, and adapt the dishes accordingly. Some places will allow substitutions; some will just let you leave the unwanted ingredients out. I went to lunch with a friend today and spotted a “super green smoothie” on the menu. Suspicious as I am – I asked what’s in it and had to decline it as it was made with yogurt.
5. Don’t forget the basics – drink water. If nothing else – it will keep you hydrated.
6. Do your best to not skip meals and include healthy snacks –you will be less likely to binge on unhealthy food in the evening if you keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the day.
7. Befriend the locals, especially if you are staying a little longer in one place. They will be help you find little gems you would have no chance of locating otherwise.
8. Keep your meal routine as much as possible. If you usually eat breakfast, lunch and dinner try to stick to it, including meal times. This will allow you to keep your cravings in check and avoid binging.
Eating well and following your diet when away can be challenging. It requires planning, preparation, and, sometimes, creativity. You also need to be flexible and open to compromise. The rewards far outweigh the difficulties, though.
I would love to know how do you keep healthy when travelling? What are your tips?
Also by Joanna: Lemon and Garlic Fava Bean Salad
Related: 9 Tips for Stress-free Packing
Photo: Wyn Lok via Flickr; Mary Hood