Welcome to 2017! If staying healthy and traveling are both on your New Year’s resolutions list, you may find yourself choosing one over the other as the year progresses. It can be tough to keep your diet in check on the road — a lack of routine and all the delectable local food options can tempt even the most devoted of healthy eaters to splurge on high-calorie treats.
But a vacation or long-term travel plan doesn’t need to cost you an extra 15 pounds. Here are my top 10 tips on how to eat healthy while traveling.
Focus on your veggies
If you do one thing, this should be the thing. If you make an effort to eat your daily requirement of vegetables, you’ll find less room for the stuff that isn’t as good for you.
Try eating a salad before you dive into that amazing Italian pizza or Mexican queso fundido — you’ll get some good fiber into your system before the carbs and fat come calling. When you try to get the healthy stuff in first, you’ll naturally have a little less room for the waistline-expanding options.
Eat like the locals do
Traveling is about experiencing local flavor. That local flavor includes healthy options too! Trust me, the French are eating more than just cheese and croissants, and the Italians aren’t eating mountains of pasta every day.
If you look closely at the daily diet of the locals, you’ll usually see lots of lean protein, plenty of fiber-rich vegetables, and little processed food. Step out of your comfort zone and try more than just the uber-famous dishes of the country that you’re visiting. I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how healthy food is done all over the world, particularly Vietnamese food!
Try to only eat your calories
This means things like fruit juice, soda, and energy drinks should go out the window. They lack the fiber necessary to make you feel satiated, so they end up being empty calories.
If you’re an OJ fanatic, eat an orange instead. It will help you feel fuller longer, and you’ll still get the citrus kick you love.
Limit your alcohol consumption
This one is a toughie for many of us who like a good glass of wine, are beer enthusiasts, or party animals (I may or may not fall into all three categories).
I’m not saying to go stone cold sober, but maybe try to lay off the sauce a couple nights per week. The old adage about alternating water and booze also helps with both calorie count and hangover prevention. Enjoy your travels and drink if you like to, but try to mix in some moderation.
While we’re talking about hangovers, let’s talk about water consumption, too. Keeping yourself hydrated is one of the easiest ways to make sure your body is sending you the right signals.
It’s easy to assume you’re hungry if you’ve gone all day with only one glass of water. Keep a reusable water bottle clipped onto your backpack or daypack and use it all day. It’ll help you feel full between meals and you’ll have more energy.
Don’t let yourself get hungry
I’m one of those people who can go from “fine” to “hangry” in about 2.5 seconds. And when I’m in hangry mode, I’m looking for the most calorie-laden meal I can get into my belly immediately.
Prevent this situation by always having a few healthy snack options handy. Nuts, fruit, and even certain types of cheese (in moderation) can help stave off the hunger pangs until you can get your next meal. Always keep a few in your daypack to break into when you can’t get a real meal.
Get that lean protein
Fish, seafood, and chicken dishes tend to be a little healthier than their beef and pork counterparts, so try to center the majority of your diet around these protein options. Fortunately, nearly every culture and country has some amazing methods of cooking these meats, so you won’t have to sacrifice flavor for your waistline.
Swap pasta for rice
Backpackers the world over will groan at me for saying this, but try to avoid eating too much pasta while on the road. Instead choose rice, such as brown, basmati or other long-grain or wild rice. The reason? Most store-bought pasta is processed, and many include trace amounts of sugar. If you’re noshing on pasta every day, that can start to add up. Rice bowls loaded with lots of veggies and chicken or fish are easy hostel-kitchen meals you can cook for yourself. Just be sure the majority of the meal is veggies and protein and not rice!
Try to avoid the deep-fryer
Of course, you won’t want to avoid this completely. Beer-battered fish tacos in Baja California, street doughnuts in Hoi An, kwek-kwek in Manila… even the healthiest of cuisines have a few deep-fried specialities – and they are worth trying! Just don’t make them the backbone of your diet and instead focus on grilled, steamed, poached, or roasted cooking methods for your daily meals.
Don’t be too strict with yourself
You’re traveling for life experience and to enjoy yourself, so don’t put yourself on a crazy diet regimen and beat yourself up if you can’t stick to it. Cut yourself a little slack and indulge once in awhile! I firmly believe that a little indulgence is part of a healthy diet. As with anything, just be sure there is balance. And have fun!
Do all these tips seem pretty obvious? That’s because they are! It’s not that hard to keep yourself full and healthy while on the road. In fact, it’s crucial to make an effort to do so. You’ll need plenty of energy for exploring all the amazing places you’ll be visiting, and it won’t happen on a diet of junk food. If you make the commitment to take care of yourself, everything will fall into place.
About the Author: “Jetsetter” Jenn Brown is an adventurer, amateur chef, and wine-lover who has been on the move since 2012. Past adventures include swimming with whale sharks in the Philippines, solo hiking the mountains of Montenegro, and apprenticing at a dairy farm in Spain. This summer she is working aboard a tourism charter boat in Southeast Alaska as their chef. You can follow her adventures at her site, JetsetterJenn.com, or on one of her many social media channels: Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.