How to Eat Healthy When Travelling

Travelling is amazing! It takes you out of your comfort zone, broadens your horizons and brings new experiences - the benefits are endless! Yet it also breaks your healthy routines and habits. Long journeys or business trips can make you feel sluggish, tired, or even stressed.

We all know it: eating healthy while travelling can be a real challenge!

Yet if you follow some basic guidelines, you can avoid the common mistakes and the guilt. Expert dietitians and weathered travellers say you can maintain a healthy routine even while travelling. And their advice can be brought down to two simple rules: Plan and prepare.

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Plan your meals

meal plan blocks in a plate

Travelling to new places often means you have to make an extra effort. Breaking the daily routine is invigorating and exciting but going without food for the whole day as you haven’t really planned the snack/shopping/cooking or eating out is not.

Eating a balanced diet is even harder for those who travel extensively for work. They often eat at irregular hours or find it hard to get at least two balanced meals while on the road.

So simply try to plan ahead. 
Finding an answer to the tricky question of What shall we eat today? may actually lead to an adventure.

On holiday

The cheapest and healthiest option while on holiday is to stay at a place with a kitchen. Airbnb can help you recreate your daily routine easily. All you have to do is search for the closest grocery and farmer’s market and do some shopping. If you get the basics - some granola, fruit and yogurt, plus some meat, eggs and veggies, you’re all set. You can grill the meat, boil some eggs, add your favourite veggies and you have the perfect healthy lunch to go. This may turn into an opportunity to try some local herbs or sauce or an exotic vegetable or fruit.

Alternatively, if you’re staying in a hostel or a hotel and you have no access to a kitchen, you can eat out.

This is also one of the good things about travelling. I love experiencing new cultures through new flavours and the famous local dishes. I wouldn’t skip on these, although some of them may not be on my typical healthy-food list.

A healthy self-prepared breakfast or a balanced lunch eaten on the go also means that you can try the local specialties without feeling too guilty about the calories.

On the road

Travelling for work may mean long hours in the car and lots of junk food.

You can avoid this with some preparation and a simple google search. Look up ‘healthy restaurants + [your location]’ (say ‘healthy restaurants Munster’) and find the closest one on your route.

Alternatively, you can also search for ‘health food stores’ and do your own shopping or grab a snack that you can easily eat on the road.

Pack snacks (and avoid junk food)

plate with protein bars

When travelling - be it a business trip or a well-deserved vacation - we sometimes tend to overindulge, eat the wrong food, cast caution to the wind and then feel guilty about it. The easiest way to avoid junk food is to prepare your own snacks.

At the airport and on the plane

If you bring your own light snacks for the journey, you can easily say no to the pretzels, crisps or sugary treats. Be smart in your food choices and pack some healthy snacks in your carry-on for the plane.

Dried fruit, nuts and protein bars are typical healthy food options that are allowed on planes and can be easily packed. You can also make a wrap or a sandwich with your favourite ingredients.

And don’t forget your water bottle - staying hydrated and eating well can help you fight fatigue and jet lag!

On the road

A lot of people who travel for work spend hours driving and need something more substantial than nuts and dried fruit. Same goes for holiday makers like me who make ambitious plans to see all the basic sights for a day (I love walking!).

So, the basic rule of thumb is to think about your P-F-C: Proteins, Fats and Carbs.

  • Protein: healthy options that can be easily packed in your backpack include dried salmon or beef jerky. You can also take some packets of tuna and boiled eggs or add some of your favourite lean meat to your wrap. Also nuts, lots of nuts - make your own trail mix and go for it if you get peckish or are dying to munch on something. I also eat lots of yoghurt - the plain Greek kind which is super high in protein and has the additional probiotic benefits.

  • Fats: Some high-fat foods are actually super healthy, like avocados, dark chocolate, nuts (again), chia seeds and coconut (the dried version is easy to pack and rich in fibers so a great addition to a balanced diet!). You can also use nut butter for your sandwiches and wraps or add some olive oil to the veggies in your lunch box.

  • Carbs: if you want to stay on track with eating healthy meals, you’ll have to plan this carefully. Go for oats and whole grain foods, quinoa, buckwheat and brown rice are easy and smart additions to your diet. Also try to add veggies with every meal if you have the option of cooking or eating out.

Common mistakes to avoid

man on a plane looking inside a bag

When you travel, you usually focus on things you want to experience and see and not so much on eating. Business travellers, on the other hand, are typically faced with a hectic schedule and may sometimes even forget about their healthy eating habits. So here are some do’s and dont’s related to the common meal mistakes we all do when travelling.

At the airport and on the plane

  • Drink enough water.
    Try not to get dehydrated when travelling. When packing your things for the plane, make sure you take a water bottle in your carry on. Although you will not be allowed to go through security with any liquid above 100 ml, you can refill your water bottle once you’ve passed the TSA screening. Staying hydrated is especially important as dehydration sensations mimic hunger. This means that drinking enough water can help you avoid snacking on unhealthy foods during the day.

  • Don’t eat out of boredom.
    Long-hauls can be especially hard. If you have to spend 7 hours on the plane, a nice snack may seem like a good way to pass the time. Yet try to resist the temptation of salty potato chips, candied cookies and sugary drinks. Pack your own snack and hit the dried fruit and nuts once you feel the urge to munch on something. Also, you can find better ways to have fun on long plane journeys - read our blog post for ideas.

  • Check airplane menu in advance.
    When your flight includes a meal or you decide to order food on the plane, experts advise that you go for kosher or vegetarian. You can skip plane food altogether, if you pack your own lunch, of course. Just make sure you include protein sources and a full litre of water.

  • Think twice about airport food.
    If you have a long layover, it’s always a good idea to check airport eateries online first. Some airports offer food that is both tasty and healthy - for example, San Francisco and La Guardia. Others, however, may have limited healthy food options so bringing back up never hurts.

During your trip

  • Never skip breakfast!
    If you’re on a business trip, you’re probably in for a busy day; if you’ve planned sightseeing or a trekking holiday, you’ll also need lots of energy. So start off your day well: eat breakfast. Eating a healthy breakfast in the morning also keeps your metabolism running. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. A quick bowl of fruit and cereal will give you the energy you need for the day.

    A quick note: Dietitians warn that you should try and avoid continental breakfasts in hotels with all the breads and pastries, and all the sugary food. Go for the yogurt, some granola, nuts and honey. The most important meal of the day can be both healthy and delicious!

  • Go easy on the coffee!
    If you’re on a busy schedule and cannot get enough sleep, the smarter choice is to eat well, drink lots of water and do some exercise. You’ll feel much more energised!

  • Don’t give in to social pressure.
    Business trips typically end with late night dinners and after parties. And these often mean overindulging, heavy meals at odd hours and too much alcohol. Try not to give in. Make good decisions and you’ll see you’ll feel good about your body and self-esteem later.

Remember: you don’t have to be perfect, you simply have to do your best and try to be consistent.

Safe travels!