I once read an article that said to eat healthy while traveling pack a cooler full of fresh organic fruits and veggies and bring that as your carry-on on the the plane so that you wouldn’t be tempted to buy junk food or eat airplane food when you got hungry. I’m not sure what fantasy land of health and human nature that person was living in but, really? There’s got to be more practical ways to eat healthy while on the road, and I’ve spent a lot of time on this trip figuring it out.
I might not be the healthiest eater (or drinker), and I am in no way any kind of health expert, but I do try try to listen to my body and what it needs. And I think that is the most important step of eating healthy while traveling. If you’ve been eating a lot of fried food you are probably going to feel crappy and it’s time for some veggies. My body does not appreciate it when I feed it delicious crap constantly. At the same time I do like to try the food of any place I am visiting no matter how unhealthy it might be. All that wonderful fried street food in Asia must be tasted.
So as with most things in life, eating healthy on the road is a balance of getting food that is good for your body and food that makes you happy.
I have a few guideline that I try to follow to keep my body feeling happy, while still feeling like I can try all the food that I want. Because if I feel deprived I will totally binge on junk later and that’s no good.
Try to have fruits and or veggies at least once a day.
Whether it’s fruit salad for breakfast or rice and veggies for dinner getting those vitamins and nutrients is key for feeling good. Plus, I can then delusionally justify eating something delicious and fried because vegetables will cancel it out right? (I know, not so much)
Make sure to get protein everyday.
I was a vegetarian for 8 years in my youth, and while traveling I never really paid attention to what I was eating, which was mostly beer and chips. Consequently that lack of protein left me feeling tired and lethargic a lot of the time, and that’s no fun when you are exploring a new country. I’ve come a long way from my carefree college days and terrible eating habits, but I still sometimes need to remind myself to get some good healthy protein everyday. Things like grilled chicken, fish, or beef, and beans or legumes are my favorite forms of protein.
Alternating healthy meals with not so healthy meals.
If I have fruit and yogurt for breakfast then I don’t feel so bad about having a burger and fries for lunch. See balance! I would probably opt for a healthy or light option for dinner after that burger though.
Traveling means eating out a lot, but you don’t have to eat out for every meal, because that gets expensive and eating restaurant portions at every meal is kind of ridiculous. Go by the market and pick up a few things. I usually like to grab yogurts and granola for breakfasts, and fruit, nuts, meat, and cheese for snacking and/or easy packable lunch. I also like to get whatever is fresh and local from wherever I am.
Pick and choose your vices.
If I’m out to dinner and dessert time rolls around, I’m more likely to have a second (ok, third) glass of wine rather than have something sweet. It’s not that I don’t like ice cream or pie, because I definitely do, but I like wine better, and having both is kind of a lot. So if there is something unhealthy you want to have, go for it, don’t deprive yourself, just opt out of having something else. Want that milkshake with lunch? Maybe go for a salad to eat rather than the fried chicken with it. You get the idea now.
Eat when you are hungry rather than according to a schedule.
I think we get caught up in the idea that at noon, it’s lunch time and we must go eat. If you’ve been lazing on the beach all day you probably aren’t too hungry, and don’t need a big meal or any meal at all. At the same time if you went for a big hike and are starving at 4PM go for the big early dinner/late lunch meal. What I’m trying to say is, listen to your body, and eat when you are hungry, not because it’s meal time. You’re on vacation meal time is whenever you want it to be!
Your eating habits while traveling won’t always be perfect but as long as you listen to your body and try to feed it as much good stuff as possible you’ll be just fine. No need to pack a cooler full of food as your carry on, because then where would you put all the trashy magazines and romance novels?