How To Maintain A Healthy Diet While (Travelling) Abroad
Travelling abroad: the magic and the mystery, the agony and the ecstasy. Whether it’s for business for pleasure, finding oneself on foreign shores is an invitation to indulge in all manner of foods you might not normally eat. Street vendors may carry some enticing delicacy, or perhaps a famed restaurant demands some extracurricular fine dining. Long business lunches might tempt you to temporarily suspend your low-carb diet, or you may find yourself in an airport with nary a scrap of good food to be found (and who among us hasn’t?). Perhaps it is simply the – understandable! – feeling that away from home the normal rules don’t, or even can’t apply. All this and more can make following a healthy diet while travelling abroad a challenge (particularly if you can’t bring a private chef along to keep you on track!).
Nevertheless, just because you’re off somewhere to find yourself among strangers doesn’t mean that travelling abroad and healthy eating must be strangers as well. To that end, we’ve collected some tips and tricks to help you maintain a healthy diet and have an enjoyable trip as well. A little planning before you leave will save a lot of stress and unhappy choices, as well as allow you to enjoy good food on your trip.
For example, go to Portugal unprepared and you may as well wave your vegan diet goodbye at the airport or face long nights dreaming of your fridge.
Going abroad means travelling and this is where the potential for trouble starts. Airports and stations, planes and trains are as about as know for catering to a healthy diet as for hosting punk concerts. Of course, given the recent trends for healthy eating and healthy living there are more healthy food options available than before. Nevertheless, you’re still more likely to find a grilled sandwich and a coke than an avocado salad. The key to maintaining your healthy diet in such places is to maximize your control over your food by planning ahead.
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As any frequent flyer will tell you, all the security regulations involved with taking to the sky can leave you at the mercy of the airlines when it comes to food. Luckily, you have options. When you book your flight it is well worth checking what your options are for in-flight meals. It is usually possible to specially request a meal that caters to a specific diet (for example, a vegan diet, low carb diet or a religiously prescribed one). They’re even healthier and taste better! However, flying like a pro requires bringing your own food along so you’re sure to stick to your healthy diet. This is especially important on flights as the combination of stress, sitting long hours, lack of sleep and jet lag make the temptation to give in to unhealthy snacking all the greater.
So, bring your own snacks! Since you’re not allowed to take liquids through customs pack healthy snacks like dried fruit, nuts, dark chocolate bits – anything nutrient-dense, non-perishable with sustaining calories, the cornerstones of keeping a healthy diet on your flight. If you use a cooler bag as your carry-on luggage you can even take fruits and other perishables! Eating your snacks about once every two hours will keep away the munchies and any unhealthy cravings. Limiting the amount of alcohol and carbonated beverages you drink will stop you dehydrating, and a stone-cold flight-hack to bring your own healthy beverage onto a flight is to put slices of fresh ginger in a thermos and ask an airport café to fill it with hot water. Fresh ginger tea on the plane: beat that! (Needless to say, all these tips will work for trains and road-trips as well, in fact they make for an easier time sticking to your healthy diet).
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Destination Diet: Holidaying and Healthy Living
How you maintain your healthy diet while abroad depends on where you are and why you’re there. For example, if you’re in Paris on business it should mostly be a matter of opting for the salad for lunch, going easy on the drinks and studiously ignoring the ice cream in the mini-bar. However, if you’re there on holiday then half the reason you’re there is to sample real croissants, crème brûlée and boef bourbignon, surely! This, again, requires a modicum of planning and moderation: treat yourself, but within limits.
The first thing to do is to know where you are. Knowing where the good local restaurants are – and if you’re vegan or have certain allergies, which ones cater best to your diet – will spare you a lot of slogging around and help you avoid the mediocre tourist traps. It may sound a little short on spontaneity, but in fact some research allows you to uncover some real gems.
As for your hotel, the best you can do is scope out the breakfast buffet for the healthiest options, unless they have a menu for breakfast. If you feel this doesn’t afford you enough control to keep up your healthy diet consider booking a room with a kitchenette (so you can buy your own soya milk, etc.), or even just rent an apartment for the duration of your stay. Then maintaining a healthy diet abroad will be as easy as it is at home, and you’ll be able to cook with local market ingredients!
Non-Dietary Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Diet
Keeping up a healthy diet while travelling abroad isn’t only about eating the right things and not eating the wrong things (even a private chef will tell you that). Healthy living is a holistic practice, and so is healthy travelling. Keeping up an exercise regime, even a lighter one than you would at home, will do as much good as sticking rigidly to your low carb diet (as well as help if you can’t stick to it).
Check whether your hotel has a gym affiliated with it, go jogging to explore the neighbourhood or plan some active excursions (bike trips, etc.) to complement your fine dining. Boredom also often follows hot on the heels of travel, and is a precursor to all kinds of snacking so take games or books with you on your flight to keep yourself entertained. Gorging on food for thought is a lot better than gorging on regular food, after all.