How to Eat Healthy and Still Enjoy Your Travels
It is fitting for me to be writing this in the Hong Kong International airport on my 5 hour layover in Bangkok. I just gone done scouring the surrounding shops for a snack and some caffeine (the struggle is real after 16 hours of travel with roughly 8 more to go). Walking through 7 Eleven (yes, they have 7 Eleven here) was my first adventure of the trip.
Instead of the familiar candy, chips and cookies lining the aisles of American convenience stores, the shelves are filled with colorful instant Ramen bowls, candied fish chips and the refrigerated section is stocked with seaweed wrapped rice pockets filled with various types of fish, fruits and eggs. Was I going to be able to grab my typical protein bar or beef jerky? Nope, that is not a thing here in Hong Kong.
I take my time looking at all the packaging in true tourist fashion. Sure, I am analyzing each package looking for the perfect protein packed, macro friendly snack, but I am also thoroughly intrigued by the fact that half of the items I pick up, I set back down still unsure of exactly what they are.
The thought of eating healthy while on vacation whether it is at home or abroad, by plane or by car, for a weekend or a month can be overwhelming. Often people throw up their hands, accept defeat and decide before the trip even begins that they are just not planning on eating healthy.
“I will get back to it after vacation.”
Wait, wait, wait! Hold up! So you're telling me all that hard work and amazing habits you have built are just out the window? Come on, you know I got you!
Through A LOT of trial and error I have figured out a foolproof way to eat healthy and still enjoy my time visiting new places which ALWAYS involves amazing food. Point and case the Ramen I just inhaled at the Hong Kong airport. Was it perfectly macro friendly? Probably not. Did I make it work with portion control? Absolutely.
Travel does not have to be all or nothing. I am not asking you to eat only salad while your family and friends enjoy the local cuisine. This is about striking a balance, honoring your goals and feeling good upon returning home.
So here we go, Amy’s foolproof way to finding a healthy balance while traveling. This actually begins before you leave. Knowing that your travel may look different depending on where you are going, I am going to keep this general.
This is a recurring theme in our HellaBella nutrition strategy and traveling is no different. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. God that quote can be annoying sometimes! But it is reality.
Before the big vacay decide what foods are “no go’s” and what foods are you willing to let slide. You may be dairy sensitive or gluten intolerant. Making the decision to skip these temptations will not only spare you mental stress, but who wants to spend their vacation glued to the toilet, am I right? For the sake of actually enjoying your trip, I highly recommend avoiding those foods and if needed you can bring your own alternatives.
Depending on the length of your trip, where you are traveling to and how much room you have, you can easily take a variety of perishable and nonperishable items with you that are easy to pack in the car, in your suitcase, or even in a carry-on. If you know me at all, you know I packed my suitcase full of snacks for my three week trek through Thailand. I think that may have been one of the heaviest parts of my carry-on. Good thing I will have eaten them all by the time I am on my way back so I can substitute snacks for souvenirs. This time around I chose not to take perishable items to avoid any trouble through customs but here are some general suggestions.
Travel-friendly “no fridge” necessary foods:
Packaged foods or foods that don’t need immediate refrigeration make great meals and snacks, especially when overseas or when you are away from the hotel for long periods of time. Pack them in your suitcase or carry-on to grab when hunger sets in.
- Jerky: Epic Bars or Chomps
- Bars: RXBars, Lara Bars, Pure Protein Bars, Quest Bars, etc.
- Nuts & seeds or trail mix
- Dried/freeze dried fruit, fruit leathers
- Individual Packets of nut butter
- Individual Packets of instant oatmeal
- Individual Packets of protein powder (I love Shakeology & I tried Primal Kitchen Collagen Fuel on this trip for the first time and I am OBSESSED. Maybe because is is chocolate coconut flavor and I cannot get enough coconut! They are also dairy, whey and soy free, Paleo friendly, and #collagen. Basically a necessary addition to your protein line up.)
- Fresh fruits such as apples, oranges, or bananas
Travel-friendly perishable foods:
Take some sort of a cooler bag with ice packs to keep these foods cold during your travel time. If you are unsure of whether your ice pack is security friendly, keep a zip-lock bag in your cooler and get ice from a cafe in the terminal. You can also freeze items such as smoothie bags which double as an ice pack!
- Veggies: carrots, celery, sliced bells peppers, broccoli (toss them in olive oil or dip in nut butter!)
- Hard Boiled eggs (Make your life easy and pre peel these!)
- Meats: Shrimp, chicken, beef pre cut into easy to eat strips (I often freeze these before I travel. They double as an ice pack and are ready to eat upon arrival.)
- Single serving packets of guacamole and hummus
- Cheeses: string cheese, baby bell cheese, etc.
- Pre-made salad (Yes, you can get this through security!)
- Smoothie bags: pre made & frozen (They will usually begin to get slushy and can be poured into your travel water bottle to sip on!)
For long flights, dry foods are perfect for your carry-on. Consider how long your flight is and take as many items as you will need. I like to pack a big salad with meat & dressing to eat during meal time. Those in-flight, carb heavy meals are not my jam! That way I am happy and satisfied until I land. Flying to Asia, the flight was too long to pack a salad, so I chose my food wisely. If I ate the rice in my entree, I chose not to eat the dinner roll and slice of cake that went along with it. Find the balance that works for you!
Take a reusable water bottle and coffee mug to use on your trip. This will eliminate the cost of buying water bottles which can really add up! Especially if you are getting in your 3 liters of water.
- Does your hotel have a mini fridge? Then you are golden! Keep those health promoting foods in your fridge and as an added bonus you will save money on going out for every meal. It is a win, win.
- Speaking of meals. Do a little research. What does your hotel breakfast offer, especially if it it included in your stay. Stock up on hard boiled eggs, fresh fruit or yogurt from the breakfast buffet. All are perfect snacks or a light lunch on the go.
- Find a local market or grocery store and stock up on simple things like bottled water (unless you brought your handy dandy water bottle) and perishable items like veggies, fruit and dip.
- Throughout your stay, you can reuse the containers you brought along with you to pack meals or snacks while you are working or out exploring all day. Tuck them in your backpack or purse and head out.
Again, I want to be clear, I am NOT saying in order to eat healthy while traveling you must avoid experiencing the local cuisine! That is often one of my favorite parts of a new place. Finding a balance between enjoying and going off the deep end is always my happy place. My go to rule of thumb is to pick one treat each day. If I know I want to indulge in the delicious ooey gooey Mango Sticky Rice after dinner or a freshly baked pastry at breakfast, then I am more than likely going to choose healthy items for the remainder of the day. I am not depriving myself of the traditional cultural dishes, but I am enjoying in moderation. Some days I enjoy more than others and that is OK! Don’t stress yourself out. Enjoy and feel gratitude for the opportunity to experience something new. You will come home satisfied and rejuvenated.