7 Tips to Eat Healthy While Traveling
Traveling is one of the best things you can do for your health and well-being. Visiting new places boosts happiness and helps people decompress and destress. It also keeps you active and moving, which is essential both for physical and mental well-being.
But there’s one area where traveling can hurt your health, and that’s when it diverts us from mindful eating. It’s easy to fall into bad habits when traveling takes so much of your time and energy. From skipping breakfast and choosing all the wrong snacks to leniently choosing junk food and take-out as your go-to, there’s so much that can go wrong with your eating habits while on the road.
Now, you shouldn’t have to deprive yourself of indulgent and exciting foods when vacationing. But you also don’t want to end up feeling unwell and depleted due to unsavory choices. Luckily, there are ways to stick to healthy eating no matter where you are. Here are 7 ideas to help you with just that.
1. Pack Non-Perishable Snacks
Hunger can strike at any time when you’re on the road. If that happens when you’re at a gas station, airport, or next to a fast food place, you might end up with limited snack options, most of which are bad for you.
To prevent this scenario, packing healthy, non-perishable snacks will help keep you full until you reach your final destination. Roasted chickpeas, trail mix, seed crackers, peanut butter, snack bars, freeze-dried fruit, and beef jerky are some great examples.
The best road trip snacks, however, are those that provide plenty of protein. Studies show that increasing the protein content of meals boosts satiety because protein stimulates the release of hunger-suppressing hormones, notably glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1).
2. Research the Area Before You Go
Search local restaurants and diners and check out their menu before your trip. Chances are there will be at least one place that offers healthy meals at reasonable prices where you’re going. And chances are that you’ll likely want to enjoy what the area has to offer.
And if you think healthy eating means either going to pricey, fine dining restaurants or sticking to salad at a fast food place, think again! There are tricks to get healthy food orders at any chain. Items that are grilled, steamed, baked, and seared are generally better than deep-fried and breaded options. Choose leaner cuts of meat with whole grain bread and veggies on the side and skip soda for plain or sparkling water. It really all boils down to minimizing the fat and added sugar in your order.
3. Don’t Forget Probiotics and Prebiotics
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast that are added to yogurt or sold as supplements to promote health. Prebiotics are specialized dietary fibers that stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.
Taken together, these can keep you feeling your best while you’re enjoying your road trip or vacation. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are the most widely consumed probiotic strains, and they’re known to improve gut flora, boost the immune system, reduce blood cholesterol, and even prevent diarrhea.
Prebiotics can help the above strains of good gut bacteria multiply, thus preventing food-borne illness and other causes of microbial imbalances. You can find them sold as supplements or get them directly from foods like almonds, bananas, artichokes, chicory root, and pea fiber.
4. Stick to a Healthy Breakfast
Your vacation may be filled with endless to-do’s, but don’t let that tempt you into skipping breakfast and thinking you’ll find something to eat as you go. As the most important meal of the day, eating a healthy breakfast every day will keep you feeling full throughout the day and prevent overeating later in the day, at least according to some studies.
To save yourself time and reduce the amount of mental labor that goes into breakfast planning, choose one or two healthy breakfast ideas you’ll stick to on your trip. Great examples include oatmeal with fruit, avocado toast (with egg), banana and PB, Greek yogurt parfait, and granola.
And as far as things to avoid goes, waffles, processed cereals, sugary pancakes, and full English breakfast are not the best choices due to their high fat and sugar content, while being low in fiber, protein, and micronutrients.
5. Bring a Water Bottle
Long-haul flights and long road trips can not only leave you feeling dehydrated but can also make you reach out for energy drinks and soda (which is easily available everywhere). So, to avoid filling your body with sugary and caffeinated drinks, bring a handy water bottle with you.
You don’t have to limit yourself to water, though. Lemon juice, green tea, kombucha, and a DIY isotonic drink made with coconut water, salt, and lime can be even more refreshing. In fact, research shows that drinks with a bit of carbohydrate and sodium in them are way more hydrating than plain old water.
6. Focus on Fruits and Veggies
If you make sure to eat as much fruit and veg as you can while traveling, you’ll be doing your health a big favor. Fruits and veggies are rich in fiber, micronutrients, antioxidants, and other beneficial compounds while having no saturated fat and very little sugar. Most are also low in calories, especially if prepared the right way.
The problem with fresh produce, though, is that it’s exceptionally perishable. That’s why your best bet is to pack your fresh produce in a cooler or purchase it once you arrive at your destination. Or when eating out, scan the menu for these items: protein salads, fruit salads, broccoli stir-fry, vegetarian options, and skip the fries.
7. Cook Some of Your Meals
If you’re booking a place to stay, choose one with a kitchenette or that allows kitchen access. If camping, a gas canister along with other cooking tools is a must. Now, you don’t really want to spend too much of your vacation cooking, and most places won’t have fancy kitchen tools for elaborate meal planning. That’s why it’s best to stick to simple and quick meals for yourself and the family.
Examples of quick and easy travel meals include sheet pan chicken with veggies, pasta and noodle meals, canned bean stews, and casseroles. Choose one-pot or one-pan recipes and avoid those that involve multiple courses. And since this is your time off, it’s ok to opt for instant mashed potatoes, quick-cook noodles, and frozen veggies.
Bonus Tip to Prevent Food Poisoning
The last thing you want on your trip is to have it ruined by a stomach bug. To keep your risk of getting sick on the road to a minimum, follow these tips:
- Wash your hands often and use disinfecting wipes.
- Eat airport and gas station food within an hour of purchasing.
- Avoid street food vendors and stick to restaurants.
- Keep refrigerated items cool at all times and don’t cool warm foods.
- Avoid raw and undercooked food, soft cheeses, and anything unpasteurized.
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Gwin JA, Leidy HJ. Breakfast Consumption Augments Appetite, Eating Behavior, and Exploratory Markers of Sleep Quality Compared with Skipping Breakfast in Healthy Young Adults. Curr Dev Nutr. 2018;2(11):nzy074. Published 2018 Aug 28. doi:10.1093/cdn/nzy074
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