Two of our greatest joys in life are exploring new places and eating the local foods we find along the way. As nutritionists who write about our love of travel and food, we often get the question, “How do you stay fit while travelling?” It’s all about balance. Here are our top tips for staying well-nourished and healthy on the road.
1. Pack a Snack Bag
Planning ahead is one of the keys to eating well on the road. Whether you’re piling into the car for a road trip or hopping a plane to an exotic destination, please don’t rely on fast food joints or airport menus to keep you nourished. Invest in a compact, insulated lunch bag fitted with re-usable containers and fill them your favorite pack-and-go foods. Think about easy-to-eat foods that keep well, like whole grain crackers and individual packets of nut butter, sliced hard cheeses, whole or cut fruit, granola or trail mix, and cut vegetables. Even foods like kale salad, marinated beets or quinoa salads are great. Tuck an ice pack into the snack bag for longer trips.
2. Stay Hydrated
While you’re packing your snack bag, don’t forget your water bottle. It’s easy to forget about—or even avoid—drinking liquids when you’re traveling. Who wants to stop at the rest stop every hour? Drinking liquids is important while traveling, because it’s easy to become dehydrated. And when you are dehydrated, you’re likely to feel fatigued—not a good way to spend your travels.
Water is the easiest—and cheapest—choice for hydration. Just bring along your favorite water bottle and keep refilling it every chance you get. If you get tired of plain water, try sparkling water with a little fruit juice, coconut water or kombucha. Just avoid the sodas—including diet sodas—as much as possible.
3. Don’t Skip Meals
Skipping meals always backfires. You think you’re “saving up” for a great dinner, and then you overeat—usually beginning with the bread basket—because you’re famished. Try to eat small, regularly-spaced meals and snacks throughout the day, ideally every three to five hours. Your snack bag will help with this.
Eating regularly has a few major benefits. First, eating frequently keeps your metabolism running at a speedy, steady pace, giving you plenty of energy to make it to the eighteenth hole, visit that last little boutique around the corner, or avoid the crowds and take the stairs to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Second, enjoying regularly-spaced meals and snacks prevents brain fog, or worse—irritability and grumpiness—that can quickly turn a perfect day sour. Lastly, eating more frequently means you get to try more local foods. And speaking of local foods….
|alligator fritters, at Cochon in New Orleans|
4. Be Adventurous. Eat Local.
When you’re traveling, try something new! Don’t waste a meal on something you can eat at home. Try the roasted goat shakshuka or the alligator fritters. Antelope? Yes, please.
When we’re traveling to new locations, we have a few ways to find the best local spots. First, we always try to visit the local Farmers Market. The growers and vendors give great recommendations for restaurants in town featuring locally grown and produced foods. Second, peruse your favorite magazines, newspapers or blogs to see if they’ve written about restaurants in the city you’re visiting. The New York Times has a great series called ’36 hours in…’ featuring interesting restaurants and activities. Last, just walk around! Some of our favorite food finds came from accidently stumbling upon a place.
|sharing plates at Gjelina, in Los Angeles|
While we love to eat, we exercise portion control. Our rule of thumb—order one appetizer and one entrée or four small plate items per two people. It’s always enough food. And the more people you have at the table, the more food you get to taste. Yes, you should have dessert. Just not after every meal, or perhaps even every day. And no hogging the chocolate creme brulee—the sharing rule applies to desserts as well.
6. Stop when you’re full.
Listen to your hunger cues. Hopefully, you’ve taken our advice and snacked throughout the day and are ending your day with a delicious dinner. Eat slowly, reminisce about your day, relish in the food you’re sharing with those you love. Pay attention to when you begin to feel full. Your body will thank you. And even better, you’ll feel like eating breakfast the next morning.
|exploring Monterey on foot|
7. Explore on Foot
We love to explore a city or region on foot. Whether it’s pounding the concrete in New York City, walking the boardwalkin Monterey or exploring the trails in Tennessee, walking is the best way to see and experience a place. Even more, it’s good for your heart, your body—and your soul.
This story appears in the August/September issue of Bellingham Alive.