Our social media feeds constantly bombard us with delicious food images from travelers all around the world; Instagram alone is flooded with more than a half billion food images.
With all this foodporn going around, it’s hard not to be tempted into overindulging in culinary delights when we ourselves go on holiday. However, all this obsessing over food can have negative impacts to our health when we travel if we’re not careful.
Most of us are well aware of the importance of eating healthy. We make New Year’s resolutions to eat fewer calories or reduce our alcohol intake. Many of us are also motivated to look our best in the lead up to vacations, hitting the gym or cutting the carbs in order to get beach body ready.
From day one of our vacation, however, all that hard work and determination to slim down or eat healthier often comes undone as we begin to splurge on exotic flavors that beckon us like sirens.
While tasting foreign food is definitely one of the best parts of travel for many, it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your healthy eating habits. Check out the following top ways you can eat healthier while on vacation.
How to Eat Healthy Even When You’re on Vacation
Research Food Items and Make Better Menu Choices
Many of us are told by friends or family that we must try certain foods when traveling to a specific destination. While it’s always good to expand your palate and enjoy new foods, it’s a good idea to research what it is you are putting into your mouth.
Destinations usually have healthier alternatives that are still considered national dishes or local specialties. So do your research about what you plan to eat in order to find out what you should avoid and how exactly you should be eating local dishes.
If you’re headed to Alaska to sample some wild caught Alaskan salmon for example, Google “Is salmon skin good for you?”. What you’ll find is that while most people remove the skin from salmon, they are missing out on loads of vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids which can decrease your chances of heart disease.
Not all iconic dishes from various countries are exactly good for you. Did you know for example that Canada’s iconic poutine dish consists of deep fried fries and full fat cheese and gravy? The dish is extremely high in fat, calories, and sodium.
Over in Hawaii, you’ll discover all kinds of dishes made with SPAM like SPAM musubi and travelers often post pics saying you have to try local SPAM specialties when in Hawaii.
What they don’t know or don’t tell you is that SPAM much like poutine, is high in fat, calories, and sodium. It’s also highly processed and contains all kinds of nasty preservatives. Opt for a Hawaiian poke bowl instead which is filled with lean protein and healthy fats.
When soaking up the sun in Australia, ditch the famous meat pies which are far from healthy and opt for local kangaroo fillets which have very little fat and loads of protein. When in Spain, pass on the sugar-coated churros and stick with seafood paella instead.
The important thing to remember is that you can still try new exotic flavors, just don’t feel like you have to eat something because everyone says it’s a must. There are always healthier dishes available that are just as delicious and exciting as the sugary or fatty popular food favorites.
Book Accommodation with Kitchen Facilities
One of the best ways to eat healthy on vacation, while also saving a lot of money in the process, is by cooking your own meals. Booking accommodation with kitchen facilities will allow you to stock up on food, assuming you have a fridge, and cook breakfasts, lunches, and dinners on your own time.
It’s hard to know exactly what goes into menu items you order at a restaurant in terms of ingredients and nutritional information. Cooking your own meals means you can shy away from unhealthy fats and calories.
You can also prepare healthy snacks and meals on the go when you head out for the day to tour attractions such as museums. All too often, most of us who opt for a standard hotel room end up ordering fast food or getting unhealthy bites while out and about because they are quick, cheap, and convenient.
Cooking your own meals also allows you to take advantage of the local fresh produce markets. Here you can still taste new meats, fruits, and vegetables and learn healthier recipes than dishes being served by local food vendors or restaurants.
If you’re a backpacker on a budget, many hostels have shared kitchens where you can prepare meals and it’s a great way to meet people and share healthy cooking tips.
Avoid the Hotel Mini-Bar
If you’re staying in a traditional hotel room void of kitchen facilities, avoid the mini-bar at all costs despite how tempting and convenient it may be.
Most often, there is nothing healthy on offer through mini-bars. They usually consist of bags of salty chips, candy, sugary soda and processed fruit juiced, and of course alcohol.
Make a habit of stopping in at a local convenient store near your hotel before you check in. You can stock up on fruits, bottled water, mixed nuts, and Greek yogurt which you can keep fresh in your mini-bar fridge for whenever you want a snack.
Make Time for Breakfast
It’s long been said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. This becomes even truer for travelers whose days are often packed with adventurous activities that require a lot of energy.
Skipping the first meal of the day means you are missing out on essential nutrients your body needs to function each day and it becomes very difficult to make up for this deficit throughout the day.
When traveling, it’s important to always have a clear mind and make wise decisions. Eating breakfast greatly helps with this and has the ability to improve your mood so you can better enjoy your travels.
Foregoing breakfast also means you are more likely to overindulge in eating unhealthy foods later on due to greater hunger. But remember that eating breakfast is only beneficial if you eat the right types of food.
Donuts, chocolate chip croissants, or a mound of bacon won’t do much for your mind and body. Instead, stick with things like oatmeal, avocado on toast, fruit, yogurt, or hard-boiled eggs.
Watch Your Portion Sizes
Many of us tend to overindulge when it comes to eating while on vacation. Not only do we tend to eat more often throughout the day, but we are also more apt to eat larger portion sizes than we generally would back home.
We have been programmed to think that vacations and going out to eat are a time to let loose and enjoy a treat. While this is fine every once in a while, you’ll start to notice some unwanted health side effects if you adhere to this eating-freely mentality for the entirety of your vacation, especially if your vacation is spread out over several weeks or more.
Restaurants are serving us very large portions, with some studies showing that over 90% of all dishes served up by full-service restaurants have too many calories. Global obesity has nearly tripled over the past few decades because of this.
To offset the large portion sizes, opt to share a meal with someone you are traveling with if possible or don’t be afraid to have some of your meal boxed up as takeaway for later.
While on vacation, having a bunch of delicious food in front of us makes it tempting to want to eat fast and we end up not realizing just how much we are eating. Learn to slow down and take in the setting.
Eat with all your senses and enjoy where it is you are vacationing. Choosing restaurants with nice ambiance such as outdoor seating with a sunset or ocean view will help you to slow down with your meals.
Avoid buffets, often found in resorts, as this only promotes unhealthy portion sizes. Buffets are also known to have a greater potential to spread foodborne illnesses quite easily, especially those found on cruise ships.
Reduce Your Alcohol Intake
Many of us tend to drink more alcohol while traveling. It’s hard not to, especially when you have free alcohol flowing on planes and in airport lounges.
While enjoying a few drinks during your vacation won’t have a big impact on your healthy lifestyle, it can become harmful if you don’t keep yourself in check.
Beer is of course high in carbs and many cocktails including daiquiris and margaritas are loaded with sugar. In addition to alcohol not being that healthy for you, it also can have other negative impacts during your travels.
Over-consumption of alcohol can lead to making poor decisions and could even end up voiding your travel insurance policy. You also need to be aware that some destinations are known to have a high prevalence of alcoholic drink contamination or spiking, especially popular backpacking destinations like Bali.
Stay Active During Your Vacation
In addition to maintaining healthy eating habits while traveling, it’s equally as import to keep up with your normal exercise routine. Take advantage of hotel gyms or pools to do an early morning or late night workout session.
Join a free city walking tour, rent a bike to get around instead of hailing cabs, hike through a local national park, or attend an outdoor yoga session. There are many ways to stay active while on vacation, most being enjoyable and part of the reason why we chose a certain destination.
Play a local round of golf or take up surfing lessons to keep your body fit while traveling. And if you do happen to overindulge a bit during your vacation, you can easily offset this by partaking in more physical activities than you normally would do in a day back home.
Food Safety While Traveling
While you may be on top of choosing the right healthy food in terms of nutrition while traveling, it’s also important to understand some basics of food safety.
Some countries may not have as high quality standards when it comes to food handling or production. In some places, it is not safe to drink the local tap water or eat fruits and vegetables that have been washed with local contaminated water (if you’re worried about the level of chlorine or contaminants you can pick up a Chlorine Filter).
Enjoying food from street vendors is often a big part of the travel experience, but choose your vendors carefully as some may not have adequate facilities to maintain proper hygiene and food may be left out to the elements like heat and insects for long periods which can see food becoming contaminated or spoiled.
Another thing to keep in mind is that not all countries pasteurize their milk and cheese products. You should also keep an eye out for raw or undercooked food wherever you go.
You may need to be careful about food allergies or intolerances if you have any. You can find free dietary restriction or allergy cards online that have been translated into various languages around the world.
Simply hand this card to a local restaurant to ensure they understand your allergy and so that they may offer you safe meal options. If you have accommodation with your own kitchen facilities as discussed earlier, you can safely prepare your own meals to avoid contamination.
Enjoying food while traveling doesn’t have to result in an expanding waistline and regret upon your return home. By making the right food choices, staying active, and practicing proper food safety, you can maintain a healthy lifestyle and enjoy your travels at the same.