One of the most common difficulties every traveler eventually faces is eating healthy. The allure of foreign cuisines, the shifting availability of ingredients, and the rush of trying to sustain your body while saving all the time you possibly can for exploration, all of these factors combine to present a unique challenge for those attempting to remain trim and energetic, and consistent in their eating habits.
But foreign dishes and meals on the go don’t have to preclude a well-balanced diet. Despite the endless change of specific dishes and raw ingredients, countless lifestyle travelers all around the globe have mastered simple and practical steps you can take to ensure your meals stay healthy and delicious, wherever you may find yourself worldwide.
1 – Know Your Food Groups!
From infancy many of us have it drilled into our brains––the essential foundation of a well-rounded diet. Proteins and fats; vitamins and minerals and fibers; carbohydrates. Grains, meats and legumes, fruits and vegetables, and dairy . . . . People define them in many different ways but eventually, it boils down the same. Every human body needs a range of foods offering a range of nutritional values.
For most, this may seem incredibly basic. Shockingly, however, many many people are raised on diets deficient in one area or another, and they never take the time to question or redirect those lifelong habits. In western cultures, it is often too much sugar, or too many prepackaged and ‘chemically-enhanced’ foods. In Asian cultures (and many western as well) it is often far too many fats or oils. In many regions, it is a deficiency of the protein (meats and beans, primarily) or vitamins and minerals (fruits and vegetables).
The reasons for habits worldwide can vary. Diets can be determined by religion, climate, poverty, historical limitations, or even simple habit/tradition. Highly important in shifting to a healthy travel diet is ensuring that you know the basic nutrients your body needs, and which foods typically have which nutrients.
Keep in mind that every new culture or region has been developing for hundreds and most likely thousands of years. Rice may change to corn or wheat. Apples and pears may change to mangoes and papayas. Tuna and crab may change to moose. All these foods do have unique properties; wherever you go, however, the fundamental nutrients that you need will be generally available from some source or another, so long as you are deliberate about pursuing them.
2 – Know Your Body!
Every person’s lifestyle is different and every person’s body is different, and you have to know how both will affect your dietary needs. Genetically speaking, some people simply need more protein, or more sodium, or more fluids than others.
It is a part of nature. Hand in hand with what you should eat comes what you do with your body. The more active you are, the stronger your immune system and the more you can––the more you need to––eat. This also means you will be free to explore all those crazy delicacies in whatever country comes next!
3 – Cook yourself!
This one obviously depends on if you have a kitchen available. For quicker holidays and solo backpackers, finding accommodations with kitchen access is sometimes impractical or more expensive (Couchsurfing and other hosting programs are a wonderful and completely free exception!) For many expats or long-term travelers, however, and especially for families––a kitchen can be a very worthwhile investment. Cooking at home is not only cheaper than eating out––it also allows you to choose exactly what goes into your meals, to be certain it is fresh and thoroughly-cooked.
4- Pack lunches!
The meal most commonly under considered is probably lunch. Due to simple convenience, travelers will often buy the first thing they see when they grow hungry, trying to preserve as much time as possible for further exploration. This definitely has its sense––again, consider your priorities––but is not necessarily the healthiest or the cheapest option. Similar to cooking at home, packing lunches ensures that your meal has only ingredients you wish.
5 – Hydrate frequently and WELL!
This is perhaps one of the areas where people struggle most. Tea, coffee, alcohol . . . . drinks are a huge culture essentially everywhere in the world, but not all drinks are created equal. One of the largest sources of sugars in many of our diets comes through what we drink, and oftentimes we are addicted without even knowing. Even ‘healthy’ fruit juices are unbelievably high in sugars.
Nothing can truly replace pure water. The human body needs it, and indistinctly greater amounts than most people imbibe.
6 – Exercise!
Though not strictly falling under the umbrella of “dieting well,” the importance of an active lifestyle cannot be stressed enough, and this holds true even on the road. Far too many people don’t exercise at all in normal life. Among travelers, this is often only compounded.
For the quick beach holiday or a luxury cruise, a week or so of exercise can probably be overlooked. You are paying a lot of money for a short amount of time, and then your life will resume as normal (and you will promptly return to regular exercise, of course).
For longer-term travelers, on the other hand, building regular exercise into your routine lifestyle is of considerable importance.
So there they are . . . . the initial basic steps to defining and pursuing your ideal travel diet. As long as you are deliberate and mindful of what you eat, and willing to embrace new foods and habits, a strong and energetic body should be achievable wherever you may go.
AlignedSigns recommends you Cal Bailey and the site he runs www.MountainLeon.com – a travel blog he started after two years traveling around the world. If you are looking to read more about his life and his journey, read his blog.