International · Travel Tips

Eat Well, Travel Strong

Or: How to Eat and Drink When Traveling to Feel Great and Not Get Sick.

For today’s Travel Tips I’m breaking down diet into seven categories: water, breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner, alcohol, and last but not least, mindfulness to tie it all together.

1. Water

On the one hand you should drink a lot of it; on the other hand you have to make sure it’s safe and clean.

Salads too can be your best friend or your worst enemy, depending on how the vegetables have been washed and cleaned.

2. Breakfast

Personally, I find that sticking to a fairly consistent breakfast is the best thing for my health. I’ll typically go with some kind of oats, preferably steel-cut or rolled but instant will do if it’s my only option. As always, though, the less processed the better.

Ideally, I’ll have my oats with yogurt since the probiotics are a great way to keep your stomach in good shape. Instead of sugar, I throw in some raisins for sweetness and texture.

Finally, to add protein and make the meal more filling, I like to throw in a tablespoon of peanut butter.

Typically I’ll drink a cup of black coffee with breakfast as well, but whether or not you’re a coffee drinker is of course completely up to you. As great as it is for some of us, it just doesn’t agree with others.

If you don’t have or enjoy eating oatmeal, try something else with fiber, such as whole wheat bread, with an egg or another source of protein and some dark leafies like spinach for an added super charge, if you have access to fresh greens.

3. Lunch

If you’re eating a solid breakfast with fiber, probiotics, and protein, plus drinking lots of pure water, then lunch is your time to be adventurous.

Try something new and exciting, as long as it looks like it’s been reasonably well prepared. Think about how it’s been handled and cleaned if it’s uncooked and if it’s something like meat make sure it’s been cooked properly.

Beyond that, the world is your oyster and it’s full of exotic street food. Get out there and try it!

4. Snacks

Pick up some of your favorite nuts at a supermarket, plus some dried fruit and chocolate if you care for such things, and mix it all up together. Grab some mini zip-lock bags at the store too so you can portion your DIY trail mix and toss one your backpack or purse whenever you go out.

I recommend doing this over buying pre-made trail mix because you control exactly what you put inside, your ingredients list is going to look better, and it will cost you less.

Getting hungry but can’t find a good place to eat? Don’t settle for fast food or processed snack. Have some trail mix to hold you over until you can sit down for a proper meal.

Another option is to buy seasonal fruit wherever you see it. In most tropical countries you can find fruit stands on many a roadside. Go with something that has a peel; it may be harder to eat in some cases, but your stomach will thank you when you don’t get sick.

5. Dinner

Since you’ve been snacking on trail mix, you should never get too hungry and that means you’re less likely to find yourself splurging on a heavy meal at the end of the day.

Instead, opt for a dinner that’s light and try not to eat it right before bed.

Go for a good source of protein–whether that’s animal-based, vegetarian, or vegan is up to you–plenty of vegetables, and enough minimally processed complex carbs such as red, brown, or even black rice, whole wheat bread, or pasta to satisfy your hunger.

If you’re not too hungry or you’re watching your weight, feel free to skip the carbs at dinner. Along those lines, if you must snack before bed, go with something light with protein: cottage cheese on multigrain crackers (easy to pick up at the supermarket) for example.

6. Alcohol

I like being healthy but, come on, I also like to drink. Whether you’re traveling for pleasure or business, there’s a good chance you’ll be having some drinks too. Here are some ways I (usually) keep myself in check and remember my health when drinking.

First, we’re back to water. Ideally, you’d drink a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage consumed, whether that’s a beer, a glass of wine, a shot, or a whiskey on the rocks.

This will make tomorrow’s hangover a lot easier to deal with, by the way, since a big part of that lousy headache is dehydration.

Think of drinking alcohol as the opposite of drinking water: it dehydrates you. Balance yourself out with extra water consumption and you’ll be alright.

Second, try to have at least a few nights where you don’t drink (much) so you can get up early to exercise the next morning.

Give yourself the chance to sweat out any excess alcohol in your blood and feel healthy again. As a bonus, exercising should make you want to eat and drink healthy and make it easier to keep your alcohol consumption in check.

7. Mindfulness

Generally speaking, the best approach to eating well (and drinking responsibly) is mindfulness. This means thinking about where your food comes from and how it’s been prepared or reading the label before grabbing something at the store.

It also means eating slowly, paying attention to the flavors, and savoring each bite of food. When you drink, savor each sip and be mindful of how it is affecting you before it gets ahead of you. This way, it will take fewer calories to satisfy you and less alcohol to enjoy yourself.

Be aware of your hydration levels as well. By the time you start to feel thirsty, your body is already suffering from dehydration. Stay ahead by being mindful of how much water you should be drinking and making sure you have access to clean water throughout the day.

If you can do nothing but go slow and be mindful of what you’re eating and drinking, you’ll be less likely to have digestive problems or feel bloated after meals.

That doesn’t just go for when you’re traveling, by the way: it works great at home too.

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