Healthy Eating while Traveling

It’s all too easy to give up on your healthy eating plan while you’re travelling. But with just a little bit of effort and willpower, and some wholesome and nourishing food choices on hand, your holiday needn’t turn into a dietary disaster. Dr Elson Haas has some tips.

When I am travelling by air and staying in hotels, I usually pack some compact, nourishing foods such as almonds, walnuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, a dried fruit and nut mix or trail mix (nuts, seeds and raisins), healthy protein bars, and firm fruit (e.g. a couple of organic apples). Sometimes I use these snack foods as the basis for a simple meal, perhaps including something delicious from a local market. I make sure I have access to at least a litre of purified or spring water.

I also bring along a variety of herbs and nutritional supplements, such as the antioxidant nutrients, to deal with travel stress and chemical exposures. The supplements will include vitamins C and E, selenium and beta-carotene, and I may pack an antioxidant formula to provide even more protection, immune supporters such as glutathione, L-cysteine and lipoic acid, and digestive supplements like enzymes, hydrochloric acid (HCl) and probiotics (i.e. healthy bacteria).

Don’t forget breakfast – it’s an easy thing to do on holiday, but a healthy breakfast high in protein and fibre really does set you up for the day, and reduces the temptation to snack later in the morning.


When travelling to any area where food and water contamination is a concern, supplements are a must! Microbes do not populate and grow well in acidic environments or when stronger competitive micro-organisms are present, so taking protective HCl (betaine hydrochloride) and probiotics can offer protection from food poisoning. I take betaine hydrochloride and enzymes with every meal.

Some tips:

  • Boil all water (rapidly for 1 minute), or filter it (use an absolute 1 micron filter or finer).
  • Drink only bottled water, canned or carbonated bottled drinks, beer or wine, or beverages made with boiled water – but go easy on the fizzies and the alcohol!
  • Make sure ice is made from boiled water only, or avoid it.
  • Eat only cooked food, served while still hot. Avoid uncooked vegetables and salads.
  • Eat only fruits that can be peeled.
  • Avoid all raw foods, including unpasteurised milk and cheeses, raw or rare meats, raw seafood and shellfish.

When eating out in such areas, assess the cleanliness of the restaurant before you decide to dine there by asking the advice of locals and hotel staff.

Purchase simple foods you can eat in your hotel room, such as water and lemons (to make lemon water), other fruit, bagels, nuts or cheeses (especially if you have a little fridge). This reduces both eating out and room service.


It’s wise to limit the number of meals you eat out because of hidden ingredients such as sugar, fats, excessive salt and chemical additives. Also, when eating out one tends to eat more than usual!

Restaurants often cut costs with cheap ingredients, bulk items and processed foods. They may not buy the best or most wholesome fruits, vegetables or other ingredients, and are unlikely to purchase organic foods in place of cheaper chemically treated ones.


Since we are exposed to so many stressors when we fly – poor air quality, dehydration, exposure to germs and a variety of chemicals, extended sitting and inactivity – we want to avoid further stress from eating the wrong foods and drinks. We need to take extra special care of our bodies when we travel. In particular, we should avoid excessively salty foods and alcohol, which contribute to dehydration and can lead to sinus problems, constipation, swollen legs and low energy.

I usually order special vegetarian meals when I fly, and so at least avoid processed foods and animal protein, both of which put extra stress on the body. Such meals need to be ordered when you make your travel arrangements.

I also travel with foods that will travel safely, such as a wholesome sandwich and some of the items listed at the start of this article. You can buy healthy take-away meals or snacks at many airports. Just keep in mind that eating perishable foods kept too long at room temperature is the greatest single cause of food poisoning.

Extra tips for flying

When travelling by plane, I also recommend:

  • Take vitamins and additional antioxidants, including vitamins C and E, selenium and zinc, as well as some extra minerals, to prevent the ill effects of airplane stress and germ exposure
  • Drink water before, during and after your flight to prevent dehydration and constipation.
  • Once you arrive (or in flight), you can take Aloe vera capsules or other laxative, cleansing herbs to keep the digestive tract moving – one or two capsules at bedtime are helpful. However, try out your choice of cleansing herbs before you leave, e.g. over a weekend when you know you will be at home, so you can predict their effects. You don’t want unpleasant surprises when you travel.


After you land, drink plenty of water and make sure you sleep well.

Prepare to enjoy the outdoors, wherever you are. Pack comfortable shoes! If you are going to be in a city, consider taking a bus tour, identifying the areas that are interesting and safe, and then set out to explore on foot. If you’re in a natural setting, rekindle your connection with the Earth: this will have benefits that will last beyond this journey, continuing to enrich the whole of your life.

Have a safe and great trip!


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Healthy Eating while Traveling

Dr Elson Haas
About The Author
- He is a practising physician of Integrated Medicine, and Medical Director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin in San Rafael, California. He is the author of several books including the classic preventive medicine text Staying Healthy with the Seasons (fully revised 20th Anniversary 2003 edition).