Last year I planned a trip to Europe and Canada to visit family and friends, part of which included a visit to Lake O’Hara in the Rockies to do some climbing with my brother. The trip involved 10 flights and some long car journeys, and my rough guess was that I’d be either on an airplane or in a car for 5 days out of 26. And this didn’t include time spent traveling to and from airports, checking in, hanging around waiting for aircraft to take off, or taxiing along airport runways.
I’ve been told the only reason food is served on flights is so that passengers are kept under control in their seats! This is strategic thinking, no doubt, but given the rubbish that’s generally on the trays, the insult to our stomachs is profound. To my dismay, for much of my time away I was surrounded by bad food, some of it completely inedible, much of it highly processed or laden with bad fat, sweeteners, fillers, thickeners, preservatives and coloring. I decided that from now on, I will be prepared. No more meals leaving me feeling thoroughly unsatisfied and uncomfortable. And it was very expensive! Healthy eating while traveling is possible!
So how do we avoid bad food while we’re on the move? How do we remain healthy in order to enjoy our travels to the full and also avoid those ‘bugs’ one often picks up on an aircraft? Plan in advance, and once you have worked out a good routine, you’ll find that it isn’t a daunting prospect at all.
These will vary during your travels, so improvise.
- Most important, travel with a stainless steel water bottle, or at least a rigid plastic one, filled with fresh water. Never allow yourself to become dehydrated when traveling.
- Keep a dedicated container for the journey topped up with a selection of sunflower and pumpkin seeds, almonds and organic raisins.
- A couple of hard-boiled eggs (when possible), chunks of good cheese.
- Fruit or herbal tea bags, baby carrots and fat slices of cucumber.
- An apple, and a container of in-season berries if possible.
These will provide excellent nutrition and sustain you until your next proper meal. You could add whey protein (not from soy) in a small glass or rigid plastic jar for protein. If you plan to eat in restaurants, do consider taking along your own little bottle of extra-virgin olive oil.
- Avoid all ‘coffee culture’ stores, especially at breakfast. There’s nothing healthy on those menus!
- Say an apologetic ‘no, thank you’ to desserts (unless you helped make them).
- Avoid fruit juices – rather drink water, or herbal or fruit teas.
- Walk everywhere. This is the one time when you are likely to be walking more than at home, so make the most of it!
- If you can find real German pumpernickel, stock up. Wheat-free and really nutritious, it tastes splendid with hummus and salad leaves or tomato and avocado.
- Watch out for the farmers’ markets held all over Europe and the UK, and regular markets in far-Eastern countries, Malaysia, Africa – just about everywhere.
- Improvise according to what’s available on the streets, always remembering to stick with food that’s as fresh and unprocessed as possible.
- Health food stores are sometimes no more than glorified supermarkets; make sure the snacks you buy really are healthy and not packed with fructose or unhealthy ingredients.
WHAT WORKS FOR ME
In airport lounges and aircraft
- My trusty water bottle, filled at the water fountain.
- A packet of fresh mixed nuts.
- Some organic dried mango or raisins.
- I never drink alcohol.
- Don’t eat the snacks or nuts provided on board – your own will be healthier and much nicer.
- Say no to the meal that’s offered, and eat your own prepared food.
- Drink lots of water, as suggested in ‘Tips to prevent jetlag’ below.
- Salads and soups are probably the least lethal foods in restaurants.
- If it’s available, choose an omelet with vegetables.
- If you have to have a main course the best choice is grilled fish with a salad, but remember to request no dressing – ask for extra-virgin olive oil instead (or whip out your own little bottle).
- If there’s really nothing but pizza on the menu, have lots of fresh veggies as a topping – avoid salamis or processed meats (and resist extra cheese).
- Ask for fresh fruit for dessert.
In other people’s homes
- This can be tricky as of course you don’t want to offend anyone, so think up some tactful excuses beforehand.
- If the food really does look dodgy, eat as little as possible and stick to the salads and vegetables.
- If you no longer drink tea or coffee, keep a supply of fruit or herbal tea bags handy.
- If you’re staying over and have a choice for breakfast, you may well find that they have oat porridge with plain yoghurt and honey.
When traveling by car
- Restock your emergency supplies and fill the water bottles.
- If you’re driving, your passenger can hand you nuts, seeds, apples or dried fruit to nibble, and pass you the water bottle.
- Pack whole-grain sandwiches with real meat (not luncheon meats) and vegetables, peanut butter or hummus, chicken and salad leaves, fresh tomato or cucumber, and some fresh fruit.
- Stop at a petrol station and have a picnic on the lawn.
- If you’re on a business trip, resist all snacks during meetings and have a good breakfast at your hotel.
- Go for protein (eggs) and tomatoes.
- Oat porridge with some plain yoghurt is a great choice. Don’t touch the fat-free stuff!
- Choose fresh fruit, not tinned or dried.
- Sprinkle on some of your emergency seeds.
- Ask for two hard-boiled eggs and take them with you for your emergency box.
- Leave the pillow chocolate for the cleaning staff!
In fast-food outlets
Horror of horrors! But it does happen.
- See if there’s a grocery store nearby (there may be one just round the corner) and buy fruit, carrots, peanut butter or hummus.
- The salads are generally dodgy, so give them a miss.
The most important tip of all is to boost your immune system before you travel and keep up your supplement regime the entire time you’re away. Travel, and especially air travel, puts tremendous stress on our bodies, and jetlag or falling prey to infections in closely packed aircraft, terminal lounges, taxis, trains and buses is all too common. Supplementation is absolutely essential to your health when you travel under today’s stressful conditions. Don’t ruin your holiday with a bout of bronchitis or even adrenal fatigue. Remember to pack a jar of digestive enzymes in case you have absolutely no choice but to eat badly, and end up with indigestion. And I personally never touch antacids.
Supplementation that works for me
This is my regime (in good doses), beginning a week before I travel:
- Pharmaceutical grade omega-3 fish oil
- Vitamin B complex
- Ester C
- Vitamin E
- A high-quality multivitamin such as barley grass powder
- A good probiotic – buy an extra jar to take with you in case of itinerant tummy bugs!
Healthy eating while traveling need not be a daunting exercise, and if you stick with these simple suggestions your travels should be enjoyable and relaxing. You will remain healthy and energised, and – when the trip is finally over – be ready to face your normal schedule after a good night’s sleep in your own bed.