Travelling can be challenging for maintaining healthy habits. Whether you are relocating or visiting a new location, it is always handy to know how to eat healthy when travelling.
Before heading to your destination, do a little research. If you know someone who lives or has been to where you’re headed, ask for recommendations. Otherwise, search on the internet for highly-rated restaurants, markets, grocers and supermarkets.
If you don’t speak the language, make sure you install Google Translate in your phone to translate menus, food labels, etc.
At your destination
Check out what kitchen facilities are available at your accommodation. This includes refrigeration, cooking facilities, small appliances and utensils.
Go for a walk and double-check that the places you researched are there, take note of the opening hours and what they have available.
This is likely expensive and healthy options can be hard to come by depending on the location, however it is practical when you don’t have cooking facilities available or are just too tired or busy to cook.
Look for restaurants that offer options with vegetables and proteins, such as salads, salad bowls or roast-type meals. Good options usually include: Mexican, poke, Greek, chicken shops. Skip the fries, pastries and other highly processed, fried items.
Search online for meal delivery services available in your location. These meals are often cheaper than individual meals bought at restaurants and some companies offer options tailored to your needs, such as dietary requirements (e.g. gluten-free, vegan), low energy meals, etc. Many meal delivery companies also offer discounts when buying many meals at once. Once again, make sure you choose options that contain vegetables and protein.
Most major supermarkets and some other businesses (e.g. gyms) offer ready-made meals that vary in quality and macronutrient profile. These meals can be found in the freezer or refrigerated sections of supermarkets. There are also shelf-stable ready meals such as tuna & rice pots, curry pots, etc. Once again, make sure the meals you choose have some vegetables and enough protein to keep you going.
If you have kitchen facilities where you are staying (even a minibar), you should be able to prepare or cook some or most of your meals. This is the preferred option, as you can save money and ensure your meals are more nutritious than buying food that is made by someone else.
Depending on your kitchen facilities, you can put together many healthy meals, ranging from the most basic to the most elaborate.
If you don’t have a fridge you’ll have to resort to shelf-stable food:
- Fresh fruit and some vegetables will last for a few days without refrigeration (e.g. bananas, apples, citrus fruit, avocados, tomatoes, carrots, onions)
- Sources of protein include canned fish packed in water or extra virgin olive oil, canned legumes (lentils, beans, chickpeas) as sources of protein and dried meats (e.g. biltong, jerky).
- Canned or jarred vegetables such as tomatoes, olives and pickles
- Nuts and seeds, preferably raw or dry-roasted *
- Peanut butter or other nut spreads *
- Crackers, bread, etc., preferably high in fibre and/or low GI
* Due to their fat content I prefer to keep these items in the fridge or freezer, however they should be fine without refrigeration for short periods of time
Refrigeration, no heat
If you have a fridge but no source of heat (stove, microwave, oven, BBQ), you can expand your repertoire! In addition to the foods above, you may add:
- Dairy products such as yoghurt, milk, cheese and butter
- Delicate fruits and vegetables, such as berries, melons, leafy greens (e.g. lettuce, spinach, rocket), cruciferous vegetables (e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale), fermented vegetables (e.g. kimchi, sauerkraut)
- Frozen fruit and vegetables, which are often cheaper and last longer than fresh ones
- Vegetable-based dips such as hummus and baba ghanoush
- No-cook protein sources such as smoked salmon, BBQ chicken and good quality smallgoods
- Boiled eggs (yes, they sell them already boiled in some supermarkets)
If you have a kettle, there are some meals you can add to your repertoire:
- Shelf-stable dry soups and meals that are reconstituted by adding boiling water
- Quick oats and similar porridge-style foods
- Tea, coffee, hot chocolate, etc.
- Eggs (you can boil them in the kettle)
The whole lot
If you have a source of heat (i.e. a stove, a microwave, an oven and/or a BBQ) you’re in luck! In addition to all of the above you can add:
- Vegetables that require or can be cooked (e.g. potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, parsnips, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower)
- Fresh meat, poultry, fish and seafood
- Dairy you can cook with (e.g. cream, cheese, milk)
- Pasta, rice, quinoa and other grain/cereal foods
Below are a few essential items you should consider whether you are able to cook your meals or not:
- Bottled water if tap water is not safe to drink
- Disposable plates, cutlery and cups if you don’t have any available at your accommodation
- Food containers
- Resealable bags
- Rubbish bags
- Sealing clips for bags and packages
- Paper towels and/or napkins
- Supplements you take on a regular basis + a shaker bottle if required
In addition, if you are willing and able to prepare or cook meals, you will likely need the following ingredients:
- Salt and pepper
- Small containers that herbs and spices you are likely to use
- Oil you can use for salads and cooking, such as extra virgin olive oil
- A source of acid such as vinegar or citrus fruit
- Sugar or sweetener if you need it