After an almost 3-year travel hiatus, as a society, we’re finally back to relatively normal travel routines. Almost all the Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted and we at SS Diets are all ensuring we keep our Covid-19 vaccinations up to date! Recently, a few of us have travelled, and the question of how to eat well when travelling has come up in a few patient sessions. So, we thought it prudent to give you our take on how to eat well when travelling.
Travelling can present a myriad of food challenges but these challenges can be turned into a wealth of opportunities. Travel typically means a lot more eating out than you would normally do in an average day or week. At the same time, there’s often a lot less sitting on the couch watching TV or being stuck at a desk all day. So, if you’re planning on visiting Europe, soaking up the sights around Asia or even just going down the coast for a week, here are some key tips you can remember for how to eat well when travelling…
We literally mean the actual process of travelling. Are you driving, flying or cruising?
Remember, driving itself uses a lot of brain power for the driver (which consumes a lot of body fuel), so they’re likely the first person to feel hungry. And of course, after a few hours in the car with (bored) kids then the first complaint is usually “I’m hungry”. So, definitely pack some snacks.
It’s far better nutritionally, financially and efficiently (fewer stops) if you take snacks from home. Try to think about fruit, vegetables and a source of protein. We love the idea of a snack pack. This could include “finger foods” such as grapes, berries, vegetable sticks, yoghurt (in a pouch), pretzels/crackers, hummus, cheese, ham and boiled eggs.
Flying may or may not include a meal/snack, so always check beforehand (especially when travelling with kids). Obviously, if it doesn’t include a meal we highly recommend eating a decent meal before leaving home or packing a light meal to eat at the airport or on the flight. Think sandwiches or wraps. Eating a heavy, high-fat meal or a large meal right before a flight typically doesn’t sit well with the cabin pressure in the aircraft for most people and can lead to uncomfortable feelings of bloating, wind and distension and it’s not the best to experience this when stuck in small seats. Packing snacks (similar to that mentioned above) are also helpful in this scenario to alleviate hunger pangs.
If you’re getting fed on the flight then know that aeroplane meals are completely fine. They are pre-portioned so overeating isn’t usually an issue. Most airlines these days also have a standard gluten-free and vegetarian option and most meals are diabetic-suitable. It’s definitely worth checking prior to flying if you’re flying with a smaller carrier.
If you’ve ever been on a cruise, you’ll know that there’s an abundance of food available. In fact, most cruises have upwards of 6 food sessions a day (breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, supper) and they’re not regulated in any way – it’s open season for you to go to town! Needless to say, it’s best to have a game plan – especially with kids.
Here’s what we recommend:
- Keep to 3 meals only (avoid food by the pool, the 24-hour gelato kart or pizza place)
- Take a piece of fruit from breakfast to have as a snack during the day
- Keep dessert to once every 2 days (most people don’t typically eat dessert lunch and dinner so why start now?)
- Ensure 50% of your plate is filled with vegetables or salad every time you go to the buffet (including seconds – if you choose).
- If there’s a salad/soup option as an entrée take it!
Breakfast When Away
Different locations have different philosophies on breakfast. For example, we’ve found that Asia doesn’t have a lot of café/brunch options and in Europe, cafes rarely open before 10 am. Generally, there are 3 options for breakfast when travelling: hotel buffet breakfast, eating in your room or eating out. Here are some of our key tips for each…
Often included in your nightly rate (particularly at hotels throughout Asia or in resorts), buffet breakfasts can offer a widely diverse range of options, particularly when the guest demographics are international (think Bali, Thailand or Hawaii).
Before jumping into exciting dumplings or delicious pastries for breakfast, we recommend starting with a very simple greek yoghurt, fruit and all-bran cereal (+/- honey for a touch of sweetness). All-bran tends to be available on most breakfast buffets and is a very easy way to dramatically increase your fibre intake when you’re away (which can be a tough goal). Fill up on this deliciously high-fibre breakfast before attacking any of the exciting, hot breakfast options.
Keep in mind that food is a big part of your travel adventures! Don’t be afraid to try something new, such as a side of stir-fried vegetables with gow gee for breakfast. Also, when you finish brekky, we highly recommend popping a few pieces of fruit in your day bag for your travels. It might feel like you’re stealing it from the hotel but you’re certainly not! It’s part of your tariff and it makes for convenient and healthy snacks during the day.
Eating in your room or AirBnB
If eating “at home” is more your thing, we recommend going to a local supermarket to grab some fruit, yoghurt and muesli (ideally as high-in-fibre as you can find). This saves on time, certainly saves on your finances and doesn’t require any chopping or heating. Most hotel rooms, and certainly AirBnB’s, have a fridge to store perishables, as well as cutlery and crockery (even if it’s just a mug and a spoon!). Having said that, it’s always wise to check out your home-dining options before you go shopping.
Eating Breakfast Out
Probably one of Australia’s favourite meals is brunch – especially on Sundays – and let’s face it, a good holiday should feel like every day’s a Sunday! However, it’s important to keep in mind that breakfast and brunch options aren’t always accessible on international holidays. If you do get the opportunity though, we encourage you to try out new dishes that you wouldn’t ordinarily have access to at home. Avo on toast with feta or a poached egg, while very nutritious, is certainly available in 90% of Australian cafes. Often the “house specialty” is a good first foray into the unknown and expanding your food horizons in a foreign country.
Fruit or Vegetables
Ensuring you have fruit or vegetables at every meal, including breakfast, is something we constantly challenge our clients and readership to do. While in some situations this may be cauliflower or bok choy, more often than not it would include foods such as tomato, mushrooms, spinach, asparagus or avocado in the vegetable department and berries, mango, banana, apple or pear from team fruit.
Eating Out For Lunch & Dinner
Often when we travel and explore, either domestically or internationally, we inevitably eat out a lot more frequently than we do when at home. Given this, here are a few strategies to ensure your intake is balanced:
1. If you have a more substantial breakfast a little later in the morning than usual, consider skipping lunch and instead, have a few snacks during the day (muesli bars, fruit, nuts) and then an early dinner.
2. When out and about, consider sharing courses. Sharing menus are extremely common in Australia and in certain parts of the world. Even if a menu isn’t particularly a tapas-type menu, the restaurant/café almost always can offer meals to share.
3. When ordering, try as best you can to increase the vegetable component, either as a course such as a soup entrée or as an accompaniment to other components of your meal such as stir-fried vegetables or roasted cauliflower (one of our favourites!).
4. Consider how hungry you are at the completion of your main meal before automatically ordering dessert (there’s a reason dessert orders are taken after the main meal). If there’s something on there you’d like to try, we suggest sharing it with your friends or family, so you enjoy the flavours without leaving over-full (and bloated).
The most important, especially if travelling overseas, is to really enjoy the local produce and cuisine. It’s one of the best things about travelling! So, be adventurous and try new foods and new venues. Enjoy granita for breakfast in Italy or a rice and salmon bowl in Japan. Remember to also do some research into restaurants abroad before you leave, you might need to book well in advance to get in. At the same time, sometimes exploring local streets and stumbling across an authentic local restaurant, café or bar can be just as exciting. We love this combination of planning and exploring off the beaten track when travelling!