How To Eat Healthy On The Road

French market

It’s been a while since I’ve had a guest post from another blogger on the site and I couldn’t think of a better person to break that long stretch than Will who today is sharing expert tips on how to eat healthy on the road. (He’s also British, so please excuse the UK spellings)

After receiving his Law degree and becoming a box shuffler for a local legal practice, Will realized that, other than writing about himself in third person, his true passions were travel, fitness, and nutrition. Combining these passions led to the creation of Travel Strong. Travel Strong is about traveling like a boss, eating like a king and training like a warrior wherever you are in the world.

 

We’re surrounded by unhealthy food. It’s everywhere. Restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, supermarkets, airports and train stations all offer meals and snacks that are less than good for you. Whether you’re backpacking, on holiday, or on a business trip; it’s impossible to avoid seeing and smelling these foods everywhere you go.

It’s tough enough avoiding unhealthy foods when you’re settled into a routine, but it can seem impossible if you are rushing for a long train journey and you’re not sure where your next meal is coming from.

That’s all part of life on the road – it’s important to accept that you won’t be able to settle into a normal routine. You won’t be able to follow a particular diet, or get smoothies and protein shakes.

And that’s all OK.

Eating well starts with having a plan and knowing a little bit about how the foods you eat affect your body.

Without a plan, it’s all too easy to give into temptations and go home in worse shape than when you set off.

Spanish food

Decide To Go Home In The Best Shape of Your Life

For some people, travel is a not just a holiday, it’s a part of their lives. Whether it be for business or a long term trip, no one wants to get sick, have an upset stomach, or feel weak and tired whilst travelling.

Eating well might not always be the easiest option. You might have to put some forethought into it, cook your own meals or walk a bit further to find a grocery store rather than a McDonald’s, but it will allow you to keep travelling in good health and continue to have amazing experiences.

The truth is, all it takes is a decision to be healthy and some forward planning.

Where To Eat

A bit of research will go a long way. Before heading to a new location, do a quick search on Google, Yelp or TripAdvisor for some great places to eat and even exercise. Look for restaurants with a reputation for great food. Eating out is almost inevitable, so you might as well do it in style. You can peg these meals down as cheat meals (which should be limited to once or twice a week) and have whatever the chubby little kid inside of you so desires, or you can make some savvy choices and keep your diet on track:

  • Meat and fish are the way to go, especially if they are steamed, broiled, baked, grilled, poached or roasted.
  • Try to pick a dish with some steamed veggies.
  • Don’t eat the entire basket of bread.
  • Try to limit the amount of dressing you have – I’m looking at you, mayonnaise.

McDonald's Jordan

Avoid food chains and eat locally. Not only will this save you money, it’ll be easier to eat real, whole foods as opposed to the highly processed crap that fast food chains and Westernised restaurants churn out. This way, you’ll also be immersed in local culture and make the most of your time in a new location.

Locals might be able to give you some tips and point you in the direction of the best street vendors in the area. The cheap and fresh food you can pick up from these vendors takes some beating.

Find a grocery store. This is where the bulk of your food should be coming from. You can use the foods you pick up here to cook yourself healthy meals and prepare some snacks for long days. Stock up on water, veggies, fruit, nuts, eggs, yogurt, fish and meat.

localgrocerystore

Stay Somewhere With a Kitchen

Cooking you own food gives you complete control over the food you eat. As well as being a massive money saver, cooking your own food allows you to brush up on your culinary skills by learning how to make some seriously healthy dishes – plus, everybody loves somebody who can cook.

If you manage to find a grocery store the possibilities are endless. My go-to websites for recipes are Bon Appétit and BBC Good Food. There are literally thousand of recipes on these sites, so there’s guaranteed to be something for everyone. That isn’t to say that all of these recipes are good for you, so here’s what to look for:

  • The primary ingredient in any meal should be some form of protein (meat, fish, eggs, beans, lentils). Protein can’t be stored by the body, and therefore needs to be obtained from food. It encourages weight-loss, is used to build and repair tissues, and improves your cardiovascular health. What’s not to like?
  • Don’t be afraid of fat. Fat is grossly misunderstood. The problem is trans fat, which is man made and typically found in fast food restaurants (think McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King etc), so don’t be put off by recipes that include fats from natural sources. This includes the fat found in red meat, olive oil, fish, butter, avocados, olives, nuts, seeds, coconut oil and Greek yogurt.
  • DO limit carbohydrate intake. Try to avoid starchy carbohydrates such as pasta and bread, but aim to eat a tonne of fruit and vegetables. They are packed with nutrients, and will be one of the biggest factors in your overall health. If you really need a replacement for pasta, go for rice or sweet potatoes (yams) instead. There’s a reason why many Japanese aren’t overweight.

You might have picked up on this already, but the general idea is to opt for natural foods over those that are man-made.

train italy

What About Travel Days?

The above advice is all well and good when you have a bit of time on your hands in a new location, but what about those days where you are catching a flight or a train, or you’re going to be stuck on a long bus journey?

No matter how good your intentions are, and how well disciplined you are, it’s nearly impossible to eat well when you’re physically travelling. Airports and train stations aren’t known for the healthy options they have available, and the planes and trains themselves are even worse.

This leaves you with a couple of options.

Pack some snacks in advance. Nuts, fruit, and if you’re feeling crazy, baby food, are your best options.

travel snack

Feast or famine. To the uninitiated, the idea of going without food seems extreme. However, fasting has been shown to have lots of health benefits, and for travellers in particular it can be a great tool. Don’t throw yourself in at the deep end as you might find you have some horrible hunger pains, but try to increase the length of your fasts gradually and your body will quickly adapt. Here are some pointers:

  • Avoid unhealthy food by fasting until you reach your destination.
  • This puts you in a calorific deficit for the day.
  • Reward yourself with a fantastic meal when you reach your destination.
  • Due to the calorific deficit you’ll be in a better position to avoid weight gain.

Fasting can be made a complicated subject, but the above is the concept presented in its most simple form.

The Bottom Line

Deciding to eat well whilst travelling is the biggest step you can take towards improving your health, but it’s important to accept that at times you’ll need to improvise. Travelling is about having amazing experiences, learning about local cultures, tasting incredible food, and meeting new people. Your diet should be used as a tool to allow you to keep having these amazing experiences in good health, but by no means should it take over your trip.

I’d love to hear from you if you’ve got something interesting, unusual or just plain clever that enables you to eat healthily whilst travelling, so let me know in the comments.

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By: Will Owen

After receiving his Law degree and becoming a box shuffler for a local legal practice, Will realised that, other than writing about himself in third person, his true passions were travel, fitness, and nutrition. Combining these passions led to the creation of Travel Strong. Travel Strong is about travelling like a boss, eating like a king and training like a warrior wherever you are in the world.

11 Responses

  1. RTWgirl

    Always lots of water over drinks like juice, etc. The less sugar the better.
    Bring sneakers
    Buy food prior getting to the airport
    I snack on nuts especially raw almonds
    Go to farmers markets or markets to buy fresh unprocessed food
    I bring a protein bar so I don’t get hungry and pick up the first unhealthy snack I see
    I always try to pick up fruit at the market and bring it with me when I’m out wandering
    Walk as much as possible
    If your hotel/accommodation has a gym, use it. Some hotels have running maps and will lend out exercise gear
    Look for exercise studios that offer free classes or a weekly/monthly pass for new customers
    Check for meet up groups or free fitness classes where you are going

    Reply
  2. Carolyn O'Donnell

    Protein and fresh green vegetables are really important for nutrition and stabilizing blood sugar. I stay away from white bread, white rice and potatoes when possible. India was difficult, apart from getting ill and the sugary chai, I would stay at places where the evening meal would be rice, bread and oily potatoes, with maybe a tiny amount of green vegetable. No protein, and low quality oil. Erk. I bought nuts and snacks where I could. If I am staying in a decent hotel with a good breakfast buffet, I usually start with some fruit, then take advantage of any quality protein: eggs, steak, smoked salmon, etc. Maybe salad if they have it, you have to take advantage when these things are offered, especially in Asia. There’s rarely anything decent to eat on trains or planes, you have to think ahead. Always carry plastic cutlery and buy food beforehand that can be kept in a sealed plastic container. If you’re lucky, other passengers do the same. I was on a train in Vietnam and these ping pong players had the right idea – fruit, tubs of chicken and other dishes. They were a little displeased that I didn’t drink enough of their beer, but I did my best.

    Reply
  3. Diane

    All great tips – except maybe the fasting. Travel can be stressful and a lot of people get pretty cranky when their blood sugar gets low.

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      Definitely true and that’s where the author and I differ.

      Reply
  4. Rusty

    Good article. I like the tips about staying somewhere with a kitchen and fasting on long journeys. I’m currently traveling around Central America, land of the carb, and have done quite well maintaining a high fat low carb (hflc) diet for 5 months now. Staying somewhere with my own kitchen is really important as I like to know what’s going into the meals I’m eating. When I don’t have a kitchen it’s pretty easy to ask for meals sin arroz, sin pan y sin papas fritas (without rice, without bread and without french fries). You might get a weird look from the waitress but I hate wasting food so figure it’s better than leaving a stack of food on your plate.

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      Great suggestions, thanks for adding them Rusty! I know many people with food allergies and/or restricted diets, so this is important information.

      Reply
  5. Tim H

    I usually follow most of these tips, but sometimes to get a full experience while traveling it’s necessary to eat the amazingly unhealthy, but incredibly interesting local food you discover.

    Reply
  6. Kara M.

    I love this post! I eat healthy all the time but on vacation I start to bend the rules and buy treats and drinks I would never eat normally! However I hate how I feel sitting in a car or plane all lazy and overfed :) Thanks for the tips! We already do the kitchen thing when it comes to resorts and it helps a lot!

    Reply

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