How to eat well when you're travelling or on holiday.
When we’re trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, holidays or travelling for work can really put us to the test. Our routines and good habits are broken, we are immersed in different cultures and climates and are often surrounded by a variety of not so healthy food (and drink) choices.
It's important to enjoy cultural foods, new foods or favourite foods, that we may not choose when at home. When you’re travelling, especially if it's for a long time or if frequent travel is a part of your life, it's also important to choose foods that are nourishing for our body and keep us feeling well. Here are our top tips to help you eat well when travelling…
What to eat at the airport or when in transit
The first obstacle you will face is the airport. It can be tempting to kill time at the airport with a drink at the bar or food at the food court. Our advice is to take things to do at the airport, so that food doesn’t become your only method of occupying yourself. Music, crosswords, or reading a book are all good options. Or to feel really great, try writing and sending a few old fashioned postcards or letters while you wait. If you know you will need something to eat, plan ahead and take a handful of raw nuts, some fruit or a pottle of yoghurt to snack on. If travelling with kids, also remember to pack plenty of snacks for them too…and for on the plane. And don’t forget the water!
You can pop a herbal tea bag in your handbag and at the airport order a hot water and add the tea bag (instant healthy hot drink, and cheap). Remember to also take a reusable drink bottle with you too. While you won’t be able to take the liquids with you through Customs, it can be helpful to refill your bottle prior to boarding and you can also refill again once you’re at your destination.
What to eat on the plane
Most airlines have vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and allergy friendly foods available on flight. However, it's always best to ring the airline prior to your trip to ensure they are able to accommodate your food requirements. The other option is to take your own healthy snacks on board. Just make sure you leave any remaining foods on the plane when you leave, if travelling internationally, to avoid any unnecessary disruptions with Customs!
On long haul flights you need to be well prepared. As soon as you board, adjust your watch to the time of your destination. Try to keep a regular meal pattern, with at least one glass of water an hour (you may need to request this from the airline staff - again another reason to have a reusable water bottle with you to refill as needed). Alcohol and caffeinated drinks will add to dehydration, so avoid these where possible - you’ll be thankful later!
It can be tempting to eat everything that is put in front of you. However, you can end up eating more during a flight that perhaps you would have otherwise at home. Where possible, try to stick to your same snack and meal routine, rather than following that which is offered. Listen to your body and it’s hunger cues. While it can be tempting to eat everything that comes your way, especially out of boredom (because let’s face it long haul flights can get a tad monotonous despite binge watching the latest movies or shows), if you’re not feeling hungry when a meal comes around, let it pass. There will more than likely be something else in a few hours time, and snacks are usually available in-between or if you ask.
To keep the blood pumping, it is important to stay mobile. On long haul flights, aim to take a short walk around the plane regularly and while seated any small movements such as wiggling your toes or doing some calf raises are beneficial.
The secret to beating jet lag:
On arrival try to adjust your sleeping and waking, to the appropriate times for your current location (this will be on your cleverly pre-adjusted watch). Also make sure you get out in the sun! Sunlight helps your bodies circadian rhythms to readjust.
What to eat at your destination
Now that you’ve arrived at your destination, you need to do a little planning to help you maintain your great efforts so far. These are some simple tips for healthy eating on holiday:
If possible find a local supermarket or general store and do a small food shop.
You will want to include some breakfast supplies, fruit and vege, some healthy snacks and maybe even a few easy meals. This means you will not only have some control over what you are eating but you also don’t have to go out and buy every meal, saving you money.
Maintain a regular meal pattern as much as possible
Start each day with a healthy whole food based breakfast
When eating out, try to include as many vegetables as you can
Keep some healthy snacks with you when you’re out and about.
They will keep your energy levels up and prevent you from needing to purchase less desirable choices.
Get active as much as possible
Adding a morning swim or evening walk to your holiday routine is a great way to do this - especially if you find you have trouble sleeping! If your accommodation has a pool or gym, make the most of these facilities.
How to keep ‘regular’ when travelling
Unfortunately, one of the most unfortunate side effects of travelling, can be the effect it can have on your bowels. Your bowels are a creature of habit and travelling often results in different foods, drinks, changes in activity and a disturbed sleep pattern. Not to mention a lack of quality, comfortable toilet facilities in some places. Our tips for dealing with this difficult issue include:
Water, water, water. We can’t emphasise this enough, but remember to use purified water, if the quality in your destination is questionable.
If you’re suffering from gastro, you will also need to ensure that you keep your fluids up. An electrolyte drink can be helpful to restore lost electrolytes. It can also be useful when visiting hot climates too.
Keep active (movement stimulates the bowels)
Sitting for ling periods while your travelling can wreak havoc on your bowels. Where you can try to get moving as much as possible. Wether it be hitting the streets to take in the local sights or hitting the hotel gym, the more you can get moving the better.
Keep up the fibre (fresh fruit and vegetables are great for this)
Kiwifruit, berries, pears, apples (skins on), banana & prunes are high in fibre which can help to get your bowels moving.
Vegetables rich in fibre include artichokes, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and asparagus.
Whole grains breads and cereals, legumes and nuts and seeds are also good sources of fibre.
Don’t put IT off
Usually, the longer you avoid going to the toilet the worse the problem becomes. Go to the toilet when you get the opportunity and try and relax.
To avoid being 'caught short', always make sure you have some tissues with you.
Be conscious of food safety
Look out for hygiene signs in restaurants. If you are suspect about the hygiene go somewhere else. Avoid foods (especially meat, chicken, fish and dairy) that look like they have been sitting at room temperature for some time or have been undercooked. Make sure your food is piping hot or chilled.
Wash your hands regularly or use a hand sanitiser
When you are travelling you can come into contact all all sorts of things you mightn't back home.
If things don’t improve, seek medical help
If you are suffering from constipation and have found that none of the above tips have worked, it may pay to visit a local pharmacy to pick up a laxative. Laxatives should help to get your bowels moving within a few hours.
The same goes for if you’re suffering from a gastro bug causing vomiting and/or diarrhoea. Medications which can help to alleviate diarrhoea (such as imodium) and replace electrolytes (e.g gastrolyte, hydrolyte) can be helpful.
Alternatively, if you are going somewhere where you are unfamiliar with the language or unsure of whether you will be close to a pharmacy, take some of the above medications from home. It always pays to pack some of these in your medical kit ahead of time so you’re not caught short.
If you try to stick to your regular routine and eating habits, while still enjoying all the glorious cuisine in your destination has to offer, it is possible to still eat well while you’re travelling.
A note about the Author:
In a previous life, before ABC, Angela used to travel the globe for a large multinational food company. At times it often felt like she was out of NZ, more than she was in it! With so much travel, Angela experienced firsthand the pitfalls and juggle that comes with trying to eat and stay healthy when travelling. The good news is, that it can be done with a little planning.