How to Eat Healthy while Traveling and have time to travel!
Since Fourth of July is the traditional start of summer travel season, I thought it may be useful to write about healthy eating while traveling.
How to Eat Healthy while Traveling, and have time to actually travel…
Our beautiful Air B&B backyard by Joshua Tree National Park. Enjoying a quick lunch between two trail runs.
As far as I see there are only four reasons to travel:
Culture: Architecture, History, Museums, Art performances and so forth…
Nature: National Parks and such, Hiking, Biking, Trail Running, Kayaking and so forth…
Friends and Family: good heartfelt conversations around campfire or kitchen table…
Food: Exploring farmers markets or visiting an occasional amazing chef-owned restaurants and hole in a wall.
One reason I never travel for is shopping. If you want to skip my rant on shopping, scroll down one paragraph.
I hate shopping! No, not true, I love shopping at Farmers Market for local produce, and love browsing mom and pop owned used bookstores. Beyond those two categories, everything is torture. I never understood why folks go to a new city and get totally jazzed up about the same high-end clothing stores that exist in every other major city. Yeah, Prada in Paris, well, you are from New York, how is that new or good? I am sure there is an explanation, but apparently beyond my reach. I buy what I need with fantastic speed, that does not mean I don’t like to look pretty, I just don’t like shopping for it. The one blessing of the internet is fast shopping for clothing! Do not drag me into a clothing store to browse the racks, I will become very-very visibly bored and sit down to read a book on my phone… My behavior is very annoying to all who work in retail or love shopping.
Ok but I digressed, in this article, I want to talk about food.
I do appreciate the art of fine dining, and the discovery of the best hole in the wall in a remote city, but I do find that eating out all the time is too much.
If you eat out all the time, a few things will happen for sure.
You will eat too much: Eating out all meals is a sure way to diabetes, weight gain, and all diseases that come from overeating, which is most of our diseases Even if you eat in only in fancy places where they serve small portions – it is still too much. (plus, fancy places take even longer -see point two.) The human body does not need a crazy carbohydrate and protein heavy breakfast, followed by lunch and a three-course dinner. I have been in a situation where I was with folks who ate out all three courses. I felt all I did is eat all day. By dinner I was not enjoying food, I was slightly sick from looking at food, not to talk about bored… which takes me to my second point…
You will waste too much time: Sitting down in a restaurant will take time. Even in America where the culture is to move tables quickly, you will spend at least an hour eating for breakfast and lunch, and at least ninety minutes if not two hours for dinner. That is a total of 4 hours eating, not counting going to the restaurant which can add another hour. So now we are up to 5-6 hours on just food. I mean, you seriously got on the plane, or boat or whatever, took time away from work, traveled to a new location in the world to eat? There is a world to be discovered: culture, art, nature, people to get to know, the world is waiting while you are eating! (Eating and making yourself sick – see point one)
You will spend a lot of money: Eating out is expensive. Even if you go to the mid-priced joint, even if you only eat fast-food, it is still more costly than cooking.
When you eat out, you do not know what is in your food, you cannot control your health: Even in high-end restaurants, do you know what oil was used? How about sugar content? How about getting things without grains? Was the beef natural grass-fed? Is the tomato organic? While I am on travel, I am willing to compromise on grass-fed and organic, there are places where that is just not possible. But not on sugar, paleo, and oils.
If at this point you are wondering, OK but HOW?
Here is my guideline on how to eat on vacation.
Whisky beef stew, oh this was amazing, can’t wait to share the recipe later.
Always stay at places with kitchens! One exception; if you are in a large city of a Developing Nation, where organization and safety are hard to navigate, and you do not know your ass from a hole in a wall, then stay in a nice hotel until you figure things out… But only until you figure things out, don’t get stuck in the hotel, you will never get a feel for the culture; yes, you may need more than one trip to discover a nation! I love my Air B&Bs. Great way to get to know the local culture. Let’s face it all Luxury Hotels are all the same. Yes, the interior design is different, but they are all geared to serve people to the same expectations. You can’t get to know local culture from a luxury hotel, and culture is one of the reasons why I travel. I travel to see the new, to discover.
So getting a place with a kitchen is a must when possible, then follow these steps:
Make a list of the few restaurants or joints that you DO want to visit because it is unique, it is part of the culture and a culinary joy. (Thit excludes all national chains even the very high-end ones… You do not need to travel to eat somewhere that is the same as what you have at home.) I don’t like to eat out every day, so I limit going out to once every other day if in a City tour, or to hardly never if I am in a Nature tour.
Pack the few things that you will need. I always pack healthy sugar substitutes, such as Monk Fruit Sweetener, Swerve, and some spices since I can only buy these in specialty stores.
Research local ranchers and farmer markets, it is a great place to get to know the locals and eat some unique local healthy produce.
If you are going to shop at a farmers market, indicate on your grocery list which items are “big grocery store” items and which items you rather buy from the farmer. Keep in mind farmer’s markets vary on what they carry so you may be Don’t worry being surprised is not a bad thing.
During your plane ride instead of watching movies, take a few hours to come up with a menu for all the days of travel. Keep the menu simple or make it dependent on local produce and culture. You can save time and money by packing a sandwich for lunch. Breakfast can be quick and easy.
Make sure your menu aligns with your planned activities. Yes, you don’t have to stick to these plans, but you should get a general sense that if you have a long day at the Louvre Museum or if you are out on a 18-mile trail run, your energy and hunger levels will be different for cooking. So a general sense of what you want to do, how much energy and time you will have and basic hunger level is a necessary part of the planning.
Aim for recipes with few ingredients and quick cook time to minimize time in the kitchen.
Create a grocery list based on your menu. Don’t forget basics like coffee and milk…
Write down a list of kitchen tools and appliances that you will need to create your recipes. Don’t be attached to the list, be willing to get creative. When you are traveling the rule is: “will it get the job done?”
Unless my travel home is far away from grocery stores, I check-in first to discover the kitchen. If your travel home is out in the boonies and you rather not waste time driving then do your best to ask your Air B&B host about what is available in the kitchen.
Get creative, a pot can be a salad bowl. It holds the salad right? So it gets the job done!
Once you arrive, check-in to your Air B&B and go to the kitchen first to discover what is already there. Often your host will have coffee, some spices, salt, and pepper already there. Also, check in the kitchen for cooking supplies; pots and pans and such. Get creative! Last trip I made my favorite colossal chicken salad in a huge cooking pot. You are not gonna have all your favorite kitchen tools. That is OK, let go of the need of garlic crusher, you can mince garlic with a knife. Get the idea? Make sure they do have can openers and wine openers, yeah speaking from experience here. It is heartbreaking to stare onto a bottle of wine, and the can of tomato paste that is absolutely necessary for your recipe, knowing you cannot open it.
Compare your grocery list and your kitchen tool list with what is available in your host’s home and cross items off your list that you no longer need because your host has them already. Yes, you may on occasion invest in buying a knife, or a can opener. I usually leave these items with my host, adding to the karmic cycle of travelers! I figure if we all pitch in, the homes we visit will get better and better!
Now you are ready to go grocery shopping! Always have recipes in mind and a steady list; don’t skip the above steps. Once you get used to organizing, it will not take a lot of time, rather it will save time! Plus what else are you gonna do on your plane ride? Never go grocery shopping without a list and a plan; you will get random crap and will have to return; that is a waste of time, not to talk about a waste of food that happens when we shop without a plan.
Enjoy your time, and enjoy the process of relating to the culture as well as to your food!
Be on a lookout this summer for recipes on Spira’s Yoga Soulfood blog. I will share some of my memories from my travel cooking adventures.
Life is too short to eat un-tasty, and unhealthy food! Live it up, learn to cook. Cooking it is a great way to take care of your health and a great way to build a community around food.
Dora – Owner of Spira Power Yoga, Founder of M3B Method, and co-founder of Spira Mindful Wellness