Okay, from the outset let’s just get something clear: holidays are holidays, you are not expected to, and very well may not wish to, stick to your strictest healthful habits, taking a holiday from those is in fact a healthy habit in itself.
However, whether you’re travelling for work or for play there are things you can do that will ensure you don’t come home feeling like you have a mountain to climb or have reversed all your hard work to date.
Just because you jump on an airplane it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to fall off the wagon completely, so to speak.
As with anything in life, it’s all about finding the balance between abandonment and structure.
So while enjoyment should be your number one priority while on vacation, having ambitions to stay healthy-ish food wise and keep your fitness levels from taking a complete nose dive are totally understandable, and achievable too.
I’m not a fitness/nutrition expert but I have a couple healthy travel hacks up my sleeve that work for me and might inspire you to adopt some travel habits too.
Read on for 8 simple, budget-friendly tips to stay healthy and fit while travelling.
A dedicated snack bag is something deserved of a portion your precious luggage weight allowance.
When you don’t know where and when your next meal might be, or how nutritious your options might be when that time does arrive, having a stash of healthful snacks at hand is essential.
It will keep you going in between meals and save you money and time having to raid the aisles of local supermarkets or health stores (if there does happen to be one in the locality – though if you’re anything like me you’ll want to explore it regardless of your snack status).
Bags of nuts and dark chocolate (70% and above) are my staples and don’t cost the earth. You can stock up on both in Lidl or Aldi – Lidl’s 81% dark chocolate is a favourite.
Or, simply bring a jar of nut butter and a spoon. A simple and effective hunger crusher. My favourite is LifeForce almond butter.
Bringing a meal replacement shake or protein powder (transfer a few portions from your large bag/tub into a Ziplock bag) and a protein shaker is another option. It will keep you going between big meals, or supplement smaller ones, and will keep you hydrated too, double win.
As a meal-prep devotee my passion for plastic boxes is unparalleled, but having a lunchbox can be a very useful asset on your travels too.
It affords you the chance to transport a self assembled cheap lunch, the aforementioned snacks, leftovers from a restaurant, or raid (within reason) the hotel breakfast buffet for fruit, nuts, high-fibre breads, cheese and meats – I’ve been known to make sandwiches.
Also, if you pass a nutritiously inclined eatery on your travels and don’t have time to eat right then or foresee an impending occasion where healthy options will be scarce load up that lunchbox and feel smug knowing you have a backup and will evade hanger later on.
I’m never without my water bottle and that doesn’t change when I’m on holiday. There’s no reason why you should end up buying plastic water bottles. Find a public water fountain or ask for it to be filled up at a cafe/restaurant.
I don’t need to go into detail as to why you should hydrate, but know that these reasons are amplified when travelling, particularly when flying, staying in air-conditioned hotel rooms or .
4. Menu Strategy
Eating out doesn’t have to be a complete diet disaster and you don’t need to actively seek out ‘healthy’ restaurants either. Keep in mind these simple hacks to navigate any menu and make smarter choices.
Don’t be afraid to ask for modifications. There are most likely many dishes on the menu that have the potential to be healthy with just a few tweaks.
Ask for wholewheat pasta instead of white, brown rice instead of white, to leave off the cheese, get a baked potato instead of mashed, spinach sautéed in olive oil and garlic instead of creamed, and get the sauce or dressing on the side etc.
Speaking of dressings where possible avoid, instead opt for lemon juice, vinegars and olive oil.
Look for words that signal lighter dishes, like baked, grilled, steamed or poached and steer clear of anything that’s described as fried, crusted or stuffed.
Aim for a balanced plate, your meal should include a mix of non-starchy veggies, lean protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fat (like olive oil, avocado or nuts), and watch your portion size.
5. Fitness Apps
Fitness Apps are effective tools for realising your fitness ambitions while travelling, making sure you don’t waste time faffing about figuring out what format your workout should take, and saving you the cost of forking out on expensive fitness classes.
The two I use are Seven ‘7 Minute Workout Training Challenge’ (I usually do 4 rounds) and FitStar Yoga (for travelling the ‘Freestyle’ sessions work great). There are heaps of workouts on YouTube too for you to explore.
6. Go Run
There’s always space in your bag for a pair of trainers, shorts/leggings and a vest top.
You may have a jam-packed schedule but having some training gear with with you at least gives you the choice to head out for a quick half an hour run in the morning – think 15 minutes one way and back, doesn’t sound so bad right?
I rarely run when at home but while travelling it is an easy way to work up a sweat while getting to explore new surroundings. You might get lost but hey, that may entail you end up running a lot longer than you set out – result.
7. Intermittent Fasting
If you even have a vague interest in nutrition you will have spotted this words being touted as the new
Intermittent Fasting – IF to the cool kids – doesn’t change what you eat, it changes when you eat. It’s a great way to get lean without going on a crazy diet or cutting your calories down to nothing.
There are a few different approaches but how I usually (not strictly) work it is by skipping breakfast each day and eating two meals, the first around 1pm and the second around 8pm. Then, I fast for 16 hours until I start eating again the next day at 1pm.
I’ve been following this eating pattern for over a year now and it really works for me, a full blog post to follow.
Even if you don’t want to commit to this full time it can be a useful strategy to adopt while on vacation when meals can be indulgent or larger than usual.
Enjoy that brunch and the dinner reservation you made at a restaurant you can’t wait to finally try – but skip breakfast (a coffee will keep you going), start eating at ‘lunch time’, and cap eating as early as possible, 8pm is ideal but don’t be too strict on yourself on holiday.
If you already take supplements there’s no need to stop doing so while travelling. 7-day pill boxes are widely available in pharmacies and online and only cost a few euro. Simply fill each compartment with your daily doses and your good to go.
Whether at home or abroad, I always use one. A few minutes of organisation once a week takes the faff out of taking supplements each morning.
One supplement I always take while travelling is Magnesium. Despite being the fourth most abundant mineral in our bodies it is often overlooked.
While travelling in particular it helps me wind down at the end of the day, tackle jet lag, and keeps my digestion regular when I’m not eating as much fiber or getting as much exercise as I do at home.
I usually take the unflavoured version of Mag365 magnesium powder.
If you have stomach issues like me Colpermin, Buscopan, and Motilium are handy to have.
Though if you’re a fellow IBS sufferer I’m sure you are all too aware of the pit falls of travelling and already have your own coping strategies. Things will most likely go awry despite your best intentions, but remember stress is your gut’s number one enemy so, as best you can, relax.
Have a healthy travel hack you swear by? Let me know!