How to Eat Healthy While Travelling Long-Term
One of the biggest struggles for people that travel long-term is to eat healthy.
The constant rush of activities and changing locations make it tempting to stop at a fast-food outlet whenever hunger strikes and let us loose focus of our daily eating routine.
When I started my one-year trip I had not thought of this problem. I didn’t know getting the right nutrition could be a challenge for me.
Within the first 2 months, I ate…Not focusing on when and what, but I ate enough.
Then after 2 months I traveled to Peru and Bolivia and this was when my body hit rock bottom.
Altitude sickness kicked in and with it came appetite loss. This was also the time when I did long day trips every other day (seeing Macchu Pichu, Salar de Uyuni, the Rainbow Mountains…), meaning I was out on the road the full day without the chance of having regular meals.
Well, I wasn’t hungry anyways. Forcing down two bananas a day was normality. I lost 7 kg in just 3 weeks and was barely able to carry my backpack. I felt incapable of following any of the below advises.
When I reached Chile (and normal altitude), I started focusing more on my nutrition and on getting back to being healthy.
It can be very hard to control your diet when travelling long-term because not all the same foods are available everywhere and the ability to carry your food from home with you for months is simply impossible.
Because your “travel” may look different depending on the destination and travel style, you might choose to adapt these strategies for eating healthy while traveling based on whether you’ll be flying, road tripping, taking the bus or going on a road trip.
Pick the right accommodation
You may want to consider booking a hotel room with a fridge or ideally a kitchenette. Or even renting a house or apartment (Airbnb) so that you can do your own cooking.
Not only will you be able to house healthy foods in your room for easy access, but you’ll also save big money by having your own breakfast, lunch, dinner and/or snack foods.
Also, pick an accommodation that’s near a grocery store or a local market.
This one may seem obvious, but if it’s an option, do it! You’re much more likely to make healthy choices if they’re within reach. (or at least, within walking distance.)
Drink plenty of water
It’s easy to get dehydrated while traveling, but water is the key. And I know too well, the excuse is often something like, but I will be on the bus for 8 hours, I don’t know where will be the next toilet’. Been there. But staying hydrated is more important than anything else.
If you can, choose water over other beverages. Milk and juices are adequate, but avoid soda, coffee and an excess amount of alcoholic beverages (ermm, yeah it’s me saying this, who loves coffee and wine…)
Avoiding the latter is especially important for minimizing travel-related health conditions, such as jet lag.
Best is to keep a reusable water bottle clipped onto your backpack or day-pack and use it all day.
In some countries it is even safe to drink water straight from the tab.
Avoid fast-food outlets
Though fast-food may be a comforting choice when you’re in a new city, these kind of meal options are mainly high in fat and calories, and more importantly, they may cheat you out of experiencing the local culture.
That local flavor includes healthy options too! It’s okay to hit Mc Donald’s every now and then, but let it be an exception.
Enjoy local fruits and veggies
Simple snacks could be apples, bananas, berries or something native to where you are visiting. Personally I enjoyed fresh avocado in Mexico and fresh fruit juices across Central America.
It’s not only healthy and fresh, but also so inexpensive! And you won’t get bored, because every new country you visit has its own native fruits and veggies.
Make lunch your biggest meal
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And I am not saying, skip breakfast.
Just make lunch your biggest meal. Not only will you likely get more for your money on a restaurant’s lunch menu, but you’ll also have the rest of the day to walk it off and digest.
Get that protein
I don’t like fish or seafood, but still have to say that fish, seafood, and chicken dishes tend to be healthier than their beef and pork counterparts. So if you can, try to center the majority of your diet around these protein options.
Try to avoid the deep-fryer
Of course, you won’t want to avoid this completely. Even the healthiest of cuisines have a few deep-fried specialties – and they are worth trying! Just don’t make them the backbone of your diet and instead focus on grilled, steamed, poached, or roasted cooking methods for your daily meals.
Don’t let yourself get hungry
Nuts, seeds, healthy whole-food protein bars, (dry) fruits, veggies and even certain types of cheese (in moderation) can help stave off the hunger pangs until you can get your next meal.
Always keep a few in your day-pack to break into when you can’t get a real meal.
For day trips, I recommend bananas because they are filling and provide a lot of energy.
Stick to your routines
Somehow the most challenging point of all…(at least for me). Try to maintain a normal eating schedule: breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with a few light snacks in between.
This will help you to keep your blood sugar level consistent and to resist the urge to eat every time food is made available to you.
While all of these tips can help you eat healthy food while traveling, the most important thing you can do throughout your trip is to not stress about food imperfection.
In fact, one of the number one causes of digestive distress is stress. Which means, you could be following the most nutrient-dense diet there is, but if you’re stressed, you’re impairing the breakdown and absorption of your food.