One of the best parts of traveling is getting to taste and savor all kinds of new and delicious foods, whether you’re driving across the state or flying across the world. And, without a doubt, it’s fun to let go a little and eat things you wouldn’t normally eat during a week at home, that’s part of the freedom and excitement of being on vacation!
But we all know the feeling when we’ve had way too much for too many days in a row: the total lack of energy, the bloating, dehydration, headaches, or hangovers, the pronounced jet lag, the increased susceptibility to getting sick. All of these things can really get in the way of maximizing your travel enjoyment. And if you’re someone with food restrictions, you know the added frustration of trying to find good food that will be good to you, too!
The great news is that it’s easier than ever to make the kinds of food choices that will keep you healthy and energized while you’re away from your usual routine. Here are some simple ways to eat great while you’re taking in the best moments of your trip:
- Plan ahead. Often when we’re traveling, we’re out of routine and aren’t eating at regular intervals. Sometimes we can go several hours without eating anything.
Contrary to the popular myth that you should hold off eating to “save room” for a big meal, going for long stretches without eating actually slows metabolism and causes your body to become sluggish and tired and hang on to calories. Our bodies experience these periods as “mini-starvations” and send our brains into panic mode. To keep blood sugar stable and avoid energy lapses (which can then lead to overcompensating with high-sugar or fried foods), aim for eating a little bit every couple of hours while in transit and while you’re out and about, in the form of foods that are nutrient-dense and high in lean protein. Pack snacks for easy access: nuts, seeds, hard-boiled eggs, firm fruits (like apples), veggies and hummus, or natural fruit-and-nut bars.
If you know where you’re staying, scout out restaurants in the area of your hotel. Check with your hotel or resort to peruse menus and see what’s available. Once you arrive, you can use an app like AroundMe to locate healthier restaurants in your area. And check out these smart phone apps that can help you find gluten- and other allergen-free options while you travel.
- Don’t forget the grocery store! A supermarket, and especially a local co-op, can be your best ally while traveling. You’ll have easy, cheap access to fresh produce and bulk healthy snacks. You’ll find a wider variety of great foods that are free of gluten, dairy, and other common allergens at a reasonable cost. Plus, many co-ops also have a deli where you can get delicious sandwiches, salads, or wraps to take with you during the day.
- Your mother was right: get your greens and take your vitamins. While you’re traveling, your immune system is exposed to tons of new pathogens-especially on airplanes and other mass transit. You want to make sure your body has what it needs to stay healthy and fight germs and process toxins. Don’t forget to pack your multi-vitamin and your other supplements! If you can’t get ready access to fresh greens, consider getting some powdered greens that you can bring with you and easily mix into a glass of water or a morning smoothie.
- Speaking of morning smoothies… if you’re really dedicated to getting your daily intake of fruits and veggies, you might even consider bringing along a travel blender. This might seem extreme to some, but consider this: most of them are under $20, fit easily into a suitcase or the back of the car, and can be just the thing to quickly make a power breakfast of fruits, nuts, and vegetables that will keep you going all morning.
- Drink way more water than you normally do. Planes and hotel rooms are notoriously dry. Walking around all day expends energy and dehydrates. Often people drink alcohol or sodas with meals, which also are dehydrating. Drinking more than your usual 8 glasses of water a day will keep you energized, hydrate your cells, keep your skin glowing, and will help flush out toxins.
- Drink less alcohol than everyone around you is drinking. This can be challenging especially on business trips, where drinking is a familiar pastime. But in addition to worsening dehydration and jet lag, tossing back more than two drinks leads to more unhealthy eating. (A study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that men take in an extra 433 calories on average from alcohol and food when they consume more than two drinks!)
- Try to get your eight hours’ beauty rest. Easier said than done, I know! But getting decent rest helps steady your metabolism, resets your adrenal system, and boosts your immunity. Being sufficiently rested will make every other choice you face on your vacation so much easier.
- Try the “one and done” rule. Let yourself have treats and enjoy them-just keep it to once a day. Get that gorgeous piece of chocolate cake. Have an extra helping of steak fries. Order the thing that’s happily doused with butter, and love every single bite. And then, be done with the less-than-healthy food for that day. There’s always more.