Travel seasons are picking up with spring break and vacation weekends approaching like Memorial Day and summer break.
When you are traveling and on the move, it can be challenging to eat healthy. But there are plenty of good options for choosing healthy food when you are on the go.
Many people eat food from restaurants and businesses that sell it in places located in the places where they are passing through on their travels. The trouble is, most of these establishments sell the most unhealthy, processed food imaginable – full of unhealthy fats, refined flours, chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, and sugar.
It may seem like eating this type of food only once in awhile is not really a big deal. But when you are traveling – even if you are on vacation – your normal schedule and way of doing things becomes interrupted, and it can be a strain on your body. Even eating these kinds of foods once in awhile, especially when you are not used to eating them, can cause health issues to occur.
You might rationalize that since you don’t eat those types of foods often, it isn’t a big deal. At the very least it can cause delays, inconveniences, and reduce the amount of enjoyment on your trip. But eating this way can place such a strain on your body that it can actually cause sickness and fatigue, which can ruin your vacation or trip.
There are some good ways to eat healthy foods and minimize your exposure to processed foods while you are away from home:
- There are various foods from home that can be taken during travel. If you are going by car, think yogurt, milk, cheese, fruits, vegetables, leftover meats from the night before’s dinner, sprouted nuts, meat or fish jerky and other dehydrated foods, hard-cooked eggs, and almost any hot or cold dish you can prepare at home. When we travel to Las Vegas, Nevada to visit my in-laws from our home in Boise, Idaho we usually drive down through Utah and sometimes stay in a hotel room on the way. For dinner, I always pack a couple of hot thermoses with some hot meal I’ve made at home – examples are casseroles or one-pot meals with chicken, ground beef, or steak. I also pack a big salad in a portable container to go with dinner and bring some homemade salad dressing. This is usually enough food for my husband, son, and I for dinner that night. For snacks in the car we usually bring things like cheese, nuts, fruit, home-made granola, and sometimes popcorn. For breakfast the following day we bring our raw milk, hard-cooked eggs, yogurt, sprouted nuts, and fruit. Sometimes we bring some sprouted bread and our ghee from Pure Indian Foods – which is totally portable. The hotel we usually stay at (The Hampton Inn) has a continental breakfast area where we prepare our food and use the toaster, if necessary.
- Make sure you have some good containers for carrying food with you such as small coolers, thermoses, and small containers for holding food. Small coolers and cold packs can be your best friend when you are on the move; I know I’d never go anywhere without mine. Although you can use plastic bags, there are some good alternatives to plastic and save money: depending on how long we are traveling, we use wax paper bags and parchment paper often. Other good containers, depending on how much room you have are recycled glass jars or small bottles for different types of drinks or foods. I try to reuse all glass containers that come into my house (as opposed to plastic) to save money and avoid BPA (the chemical found in plastics that can leach into food and drink). Although there is an upfront investment, stainless steel containers are also ideal because they are reusable and they don’t transfer dangerous chemicals into your food. You can find good stainless containers at the store or on the Internet. Here are some good companies that sell stainless containers: Reuseable Bags, The Tickle Trunk (a great multi-layered container for more than one type of food), LunchBots, or this great list of compostable food containers from LetsGoGreen, and GoGreenInStages for great items like bamboo cutting boards, portable produce bags, containers, and more.
- Bring portable dishes and utensils for eating in and on if you know what you are eating will need that sort of preparation such as bowls or small plates. Also include some cutting tools like knives and a few pieces of flatwear. If you want to clean your dishes, bring along some natural dish soap in a small container. If you use plastic, be sure to recycle.
- If traveling by plane and you know you won’t have access to a substantial meal while in the air for several or more hours, you can pack certain types of foods in a cold-pack in your carry-on. Choose foods like hard-cooked eggs that you prepare in advance, peel, and place in a wax paper bag. Cut up food into bite-sized chunks for ease of eating with your hands and fingers. Leftover meats, raw cheese, sprouted nuts, and certain fruits such as grapes, apples, oranges, whole strawberries, and even dried fruits work well. Raspberries, pears, and bananas are not a good choice unless you eat them within an hour or so because they tend to soften quickly in containers and can make a big mess in your carry-on. I normally carry a paper bag or sometimes a cold-friendly lunch pail with a place for a small cold pack for our food. All foods you bring on the plane should be eaten within a few hours because carrying these while flying is more difficult than in a vehicle and your options are more limited for space and keeping your food cold. A trick I learned while traveling to the Weston A. Price Conference one year was to take my thermos and put it in the freezer the night before my trip with the lid off. This makes the thermos cold on the inside to keep foods fresh for a few hours while you travel.
- If you eat them within several hours, you can also carry fresh vegetables in plastic bags in your cold pack. Broccoli, cherry tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, peppers, and even spring greens can be good choices. If you bring greens of any kind, try to avoid packing them directly against your cold-pack or ice pack of choice, and eat them within a couple of hours. Extremely cold exposure can cause greens to blacken and become slimy.
- If you want to bring jerky, you can find good quality organic or grass-fed meat or selections containing no nitrates or other chemicals. You can find beef, fish, and turkey in jerky varieties now in most health food stores. You can also make your own at home with a dehydrator.
- Good-quality water is difficult to come by since airlines do not permit bringing water from home. I always bring my own filtered water from home either in a recycled glass container or stainless steel canteen. If you don’t bring a container from home, you will likely have to purchase bottled water in the terminal after you check your luggage and go through security. When you reach your destination, look for good-quality filtered water from a local store.
- If you must eat food on the plane, try to avoid anything sugary or processed. While this may be difficult since airlines don’t tend to provide much of anything in the way of healthy foods, saying no will benefit you in the end. Traveling can be stressful and you will be less tired and short-tempered because you have provided your body with the healthiest possible choice to keep going. In the airport, choose salads, cooked vegetables, and proteins as much as possible while avoiding processed foods.
- When do do eat out, avoid as much as possible sweets and simple carbohydrates, alcoholic and sugary beverages, processed foods, and anything that might otherwise be suspect. Eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, and healthy proteins if available.
- If you know you are not going to be able to find the usual type of food you are accustomed to eating, it may be a good idea to consider taking probiotics, hydrochloric acid, and digestive enzymes. These substances will help minimize gastro-intestinal distress and digestive issues from foods you may eat that are unfamiliar or less than optimal. Remember that the more naturally-fermented foods you eat (such as lacto-fermented vegetables and naturally fermented dairy like yogurt, kefir, and raw dairy), the better your digestion will be as these foods afford natural sources of important digestive enzymes and friendly bacteria. As you are able, be sure to bring any foods you normally consume that are portable such as fermented cod liver oil and other foods that provide good essential fatty acids (i.e. coconut or olive oil), and any important items you take for health.
- When you reach your destination, find local health food stores or other good sources for healthy food through the help of people you might be staying with, local recommendations, the Yellow Pages, or an Internet search.
- Try not to eat when you are rushed or stressed-out, such as when you are on the move or trying to go from one place to another. Hydrochloric acid production goes down during stress and it will prevent your food from properly digesting which can make you feel less than optimal and give you digestive distress later.
It’s difficult at best to eat as healthy when you travel as you do when you are at home. Following these tips will save you money and help ensure that your health survives your traveling experiences the best way possible.
Looking for a great guide to restaurants in areas where you travel that serve healthy food? Look no further, Holly Hickman’s Healthy Eats Here provides fantastic recommendations of restaurants in local areas where you travel that serve delicious sustainable, local, organic, and in some cases, traditionally-prepared foods!
Want to support green-friendly hotels on your travels? Here are links to environmentally-friendly accommodations:
Interested in eating healthy, but on a budget? Read these ideas for lowering your costs of food and overall health costs at the same time.
This post is part of Kelly The Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays Carnival. Please visit her site and read all the other great real food posts there.