Eating healthy can be hard on its own, but traveling can pose unique challenges that make it difficult to give your body the proper nutrition. However, making nutritious meals, packing snacks, and maintaining a balanced diet can seem confusing when you have so much to explore on vacation.
That’s why we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to help seasoned and amateur travelers maintain their nutritional needs.
The Basics Of A Healthy Diet
Our body needs different nutrients from five food groups to support good health. This includes:
- Dairy: Milk, yogurt, cheese, lactose-free or plant-based milk, and cream.
- Protein: Eggs, poultry, meat, seafood, soy products, seeds, and nuts
- Non-starchy Vegetables and Fruits: leafy greens, root vegetables, legumes, whole fruits, vegetable or fruit juices, etc.
- Whole Grains: brown rice, oatmeal, whole wheat bread, barley, buckwheat, rye, quinoa, millet, etc.
- Healthy fats (in minimum quantities): olive oil, avocado, or canola oil and lard, tallow, ghee, etc.
Importance of Eating Well When Traveling
- Immune System: You may be exposed to millions of different microbes when traveling; maintaining a healthy diet of fruits and veggies will boost your immunity.
- Energy: Traveling comes with a lot of exploration, new places, and outdoor activities, which means your body needs the energy to support these hectic demands. Proper nutrition is a must to avoid feeling lethargic and sluggish so that you can enjoy your trip well.
- Weight: Indulging in cravings is inevitable when you’re visiting new places. Considering that foods across destinations differ from your usual diet, it can affect your weight.
- Digestion: When traveling, it’s common to deal with gastrointestinal issues such as constipation, diarrhea, acidity, etc., and the best way to avoid this is to ensure your body gets enough fiber.
- Expenses: Spending on fancy restaurants and fast food options can burn a hole in your budget, and these foods are usually unhealthy, too. Packing healthy snacks will help your cravings with a nutritious choice while saving your vacation money.
- Mental Wellness: Traveling can be stressful, especially since you’re in a new place with a completely different routine. Maintaining a nutrient-dense diet can mitigate anxiety, stress, and depression.
Nutrition Guide For Different Travel Scenarios
1) Traveling By Air
If you know that you’ll be traveling during mealtime, use this opportunity to eat your regular meal because airport or flight food should be your second option. Pick healthy snacks, such as nuts, protein bars, dried fruit, granola, etc., to pack in your carry-on luggage.
Avoid filling yourself up with foods that will cause bloating, lethargy, or make you feel nauseous because traveling can be quite stressful, and you don’t want to deal with this discomfort.
Keep in mind that airport and in-flight meal options are high in salt, sugar, and chemical preservatives that don’t offer the nutritional benefits of a healthy meal. So, choose wholesome options with lots of fruits and vegetables, energy crackers, and roasted peanuts.
2) Road Trips
Since your only source of food during road trips is pit stops along the way, you won’t have much choice besides burgers and fries. To avoid binging on greasy junk food, plan ahead and pack whole foods such as berries, bananas, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, veggie sticks with dips, etc.
Try to choose foods that will make you feel full without any stomach upset or bloating. A quick tuna or turkey sandwich with some veggies is simple and packed with complex carbohydrates, fiber, and protein to provide a boost of energy and maintain blood sugar levels.
If you have to choose outside, stop at gas stations because their mini-marts usually have fresh pre-made salads, fruit cups, subs, etc. Avoid sugary carbonated beverages, and stick to water, fresh juices, or electrolyte drinks.
Backpacking nutrition includes eating a combination of protein and carbs to give you extra energy and satiety. For example, try nut butter and oatmeal, beef jerky and dried fruit, and tuna with pita chips.
You should consume around 1.5 g of protein per kg of body weight daily and 5-10 g of carbs per kg to stay active throughout your hike, regardless of the terrain type, elevation gain, or weight of whatever you carry.
Lastly, stay hydrated throughout your journey because if you’re low on fluids, you’ll experience dizziness, lack of energy, headaches, breathlessness, loss of appetite and energy, and possibly confusion. You can carry healthy protein shakes containing whey, which is a great way to avoid dehydration and maintain your energy levels.
4) Dining Out
Trying different cuisines and flavors is part of every traveling experience, so you don’t have to feel guilty about exploring restaurants. Although, it would be wise to challenge yourself and get creative to find the healthiest options on the menu.
Luxurious foods can be dense and heavy, but you can still make it healthy by asking for grilled, boiled, or steamed options over fried. Look for lean protein and fresh veggies in your dishes and avoid heavy sauces or dressings since they contain many hidden calories; vinaigrettes would be more nutritious. Also, restaurants may serve large portions, so don’t force yourself to eat everything. Try local foods because these will be safer options since they belong to the flora and fauna of that region.
For example, You know you can trust the restaurants in coastal regions to serve fresh seafood, which means you can try nutritious lobster, mussels, oysters, clams, whitefish, etc. Similarly, mountainous regions commonly have high-altitude food options such as grains and red meat, so choose wisely.
To Sum It Up
You don’t have to restrict your diet to nutritious foods, but strive to eat as close to healthy as possible to feel good throughout your vacation. Enjoy your “cheat meals” and indulge, but ensure it’s in moderation.