I get asked all the time “what should I eat while I’m on vacation in ________?” Usually, I answer on a case by case basis, but I think the ACTUAL issue, is: “Usually on vacation I pig out and gain weight, because it’s vacation and that means I can eat whatever I want when I want.” Ohh, wrong mind set; let’s change it.
My oldest daughter, Megan, has been traveling the world for 4 years this coming May. Seriously, she comes home and works to make some money for a few months here and there, and then she leaves again. She’s lived in Alaska, Hawaii, Central America, South America, and Europe. Right now, she’s in Guatemala.
She’s been able to do this through a couple “work-for-room-and-food” sites, called WWOOF ( world wide organization of organic farms ) and Help-eX ( Help-Exchange). I’ll let her tell you more about them in future Posts, but for now, if you really want advice on what to eat while you’re _______, read her Post. If anyone can answer that question, she can.
As to the actual discipline of eating healthy while you’re away from home and your kitchen and your grocery store, the answer to that is Mind Set and Planning.
Seriously. If you’ve been dreaming about all the food you’re going to eat and indulge in on your trip, you’re doomed to go overboard, gain weight, and possibly have a hard time getting back on the wagon. If you don’t plan on eating healthy, and the steps you need to take to do that, it won’t happen.
If you don’t eat processed foods and flour and chemicals and overdose on alcohol, because you think they cause cancer, inflammation, stomach bloat and disease, then it’s really not that hard to stay away from them. Practice the mental associations that lead to that mind set!
Here’s Megan’s Post, along with some of her latest pictures. If you’re interested in following this particular journey that started December 31, 2014, check out michaellibis.com blog that I’ve attached at the end of this piece.
Health and travel are two of my greatest passions. I’ve been living and traveling around the world budget-backpacker-style for nearly four years now, and I plan to continue traveling for quite some time. I find deep joy and fulfillment in discovering creative new ways of eating healthily while I’m on the go. Throughout my journey, I’ve learned that it is ALWAYS possible to make healthy eating choices on the road, regardless of location, accessibility, or budget. However it does require taking the initiative, trying new things, thinking outside of the box and the willingness to stay true to your commitment towards a healthy lifestyle. Luckily, it’s a lot easier than you might think, not to mention, the challenge is fun and rewarding on so many levels.
Here are some healthy tips for clean eating away from home:
1. Plan ahead. Stock up on nutrient-dense foods that travel well and are convenient for snacking when you need to refuel on the go. Try packing nuts, seeds, dried and fresh fruits, nut butters, hard boiled eggs, veggie sticks, good quality dark chocolate, coconut butter or jars of fermented vegetables. Before I go on a road trip or hop on a plane I’ll eat a pretty large meal beforehand to avoid buying food at an airport or gas station. If my accommodation provides a place to cook, I always carry along some cooking staple items with me, like coconut oil, salt, pepper, a knife, etc.
2. Prepare your own meals. If your accommodation or hotel has a kitchen, try to make time to cook and prepare your own meals, it’s always the healthiest option. Bring containers so that you can pack prepared meals for busy days that you’ll be out and about. When grocery shopping, focus on stocking up on whole, fresh foods. No matter where I am, I religiously avoid pre-packaged, processed, refined food items and anything containing gluten, wheat or sugar. I’m also a vegetarian so I personally choose to avoid meat and dairy, but if it pleases you and you have access to good quality meats and/or raw dairy items, seek out these ingredients to incorporate into your prepared meals. Prioritizing high-quality, nutrient-dense food over prepackaged conveniences is perhaps the most important component of staying healthy on the go. I am currently living in a small apartment on the side of a cliff in a remote village in Guatemala where the nearest vegetable and fruit stand is a 20 minute walk away. I regularly stock up on plantains, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, pastured-eggs, beets, carrots, cucumbers, onions, avocado, lettuce, etc. I’ve created a wide variety of different dishes since I’ve been here just using these basic few ingredients like hash browns, potato pancakes, veggie scrambles, curries, veggie frittatas, roasted vegetables, plantain pancakes, veggie burgers, salads, lettuce wraps, etc. I’ve learned it is really important to be willing to get creative with whatever is available, especially when it feels like the options are limited. If you’re in need of extra help and inspiration for recipes, try websites like Supercook.com where you can do recipe searches based on the ingredients you have in your fridge.
3. While eating out, scan the menu for real, whole food options. Restaurant menus are often filled with plenty of tempting items that don’t serve your health, so scan the menu for foods that you feel genuinely good about putting into your body. Look for dishes that incorporate as many fresh and nutritious ingredients as possible, choose real food options over the processed ones. Most of the time restaurants are happy to accommodate your dietary needs if you speak up, and nowadays most places have plenty of gluten-free, vegetarian and fresh-food options available right on the menu. Free apps like AroundMe and HappyCow are incredibly helpful tools to finding organic, locally sourced, grass-fed or gluten-free restaurant options near you in any city or country around the world.
4. Don’t stress. Be flexible and adaptable. Enjoy yourself. It is likely that there will be different options available to you when you’re traveling than what you’re used to back at home. Don’t let this derail you from your commitment to healthy eating, but even more importantly don’t let it stress you out. Sometimes you’re going to have to think outside the box or eat something that normally would avoid, but that’s ok, just try your best. Be sure to spend more of your time enjoying yourself and soaking up the moment than stressing about what you’re going to eat.
5. Utilize the resources that are available to you; open up and try new things. Visiting new places equates to leaving your comfort zone, so use this as an opportunity to open up and try things that aren’t normally as accessible to you. Try foods that are native to where you are, if you’re visiting the tropics, snack on tropical fruit; if you’re in Alaska try the fresh caught salmon, etc. Before I lived in the Caribbean, I had never eaten a plantain but I quickly discovered that they were a main staple down there, not to mention incredibly cheap and nutritious; they soon became one of my favorite foods and I learned how to incorporate them into most of my meals.
6. Listen to your body. Your body may have different needs than you’re used to depending on where you’re traveling, especially if you’re traveling to a different climate zone. I find that when I’m visiting cold places I crave slightly heavier foods that warm me up from the inside out and ground me, like root vegetables, spicy curries, soups, legumes and grains like oats and quinoa. While in the tropics, my body wants lighter, fresher foods, like smoothies, salads, and raw fruits and veggies. Tune in and and listen to the unique and ever-changing nutritional needs of your body.
And there you have it: advice on eating well while traveling the world.
BTW: The first several pictures were taken recently of Meg by her boyfriend Michael Libis, a Travel and Photography expert; his blog link’s in the Resource links. The last pic is a phone photo of us visiting Meg last year when she was working at a B&B in Culebra, Puerto Rico, taken by Mark, who’s NOT a photography expert.
However, he is a “eat well on business trips” expert, so I’m going to get him to write a Post on Business Travel soon, as that’s another question I get often. He didn’t know that til just now, but he loves me and loves to do me favors, so I’m sure he’ll be happy about it.
I also asked my other daughters to write Posts on, 1) eating well when you’re Epileptic and in College, and food choices really DO make a difference in day to day health , and 2) eating Real Whole Foods in college.
Moms and Dads, our examples are ENORMOUS sources of influence and behavior, so it really, really matters what choices we make while on vacation, or travel, and obviously, every day. Be determined to develop a Mind Set about Food that leads to feeling Healthy and Energetic and happy with ourselves; not Bloated, Tired, Sick and mad at ourselves.
Questions about traveling on the cheap, or clean eating in different areas of the world? Reach out to Meg on FaceBook: Megan Abbott.
Wondering where to go on Vacation, or want to be transported somewhere else right now? Check out Mike’s Travel Blog, get in touch with him, and yes, he’s a professional, that’s why the pics are so amazing: