My Top Tips for Staying Healthy While Traveling: Nutrition on the Road

Build a shield of greens...

Side of greens at Artillery in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Side of greens at Artillery in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

I'm a realist.  Expecting that anyone (myself included) is going to refrain from any indulgences during vacation or travel is 100% unrealistic.  However, what you eat does significantly influence your immune system and your energy levels while traveling, so if you want to take on that new destination by storm and return home feeling healthy and energized, making even some minor tweaks to your intake will help.

The Healthiest Lifestyle…

Minimizes Intake of:

  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Processed junk

Maximizes Intake of:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables (especially greens)
  • Whole grains
  • Beans
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Herbs and spices (especially turmeric, oregano, cinnamon, etc)

Buying sliced green mango in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  Photo red: Jay Harrison

Buying sliced green mango in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  Photo red: Jay Harrison

Ideally to achieve the most immune boosting, energy building, antioxidant packed power you should strive for 9 servings of fruits and veggies daily.  I know this sounds like a lot, but it is actually quite easy when you're making a conscious effort.  Plus, when you fill up on produce first, you naturally crowd out some of the not so healthy stuff.  Here's how to pack in the produce:

  • Eat at least one serving of fruit or veggies with every meal.  Add a fruit plate, side of greens or side salad to your meal if you need to and start with that. 
  • Snack on fruit or carrot sticks in the late morning or afternoon
  • Seek out vegetarian restaurants which often offer more plant-based versions of cultural dishes (try the app Happy Cow to find veggie restaurants wherever you are traveling)
  • Find a hotel room or book an Air BnB with a kitchen so you can cook for yourself. Simple examples include oatmeal in the AM topped with lots of fruit or a lunch of brown rice with stir-fried veggies and sliced almonds
  • Travel with a handheld portable can opener to open cans of beans, low-sodium veggies etc and a collapsible veggie steamer to cook up your own veggies quickly.  I picked up a very small handheld can opener in Malaysia for $1 USD. 
  • Shop for produce and rice at local markets to save $- be sure to try some produce native to the country you are in!  I have been eating so much dragonfruit and jackfruit in Southeast Asia.  
  • If you are traveling long-term with a group like I am with Remote Year, go in on a few staples like sea salt or olive oil with a group of people so no leftovers go to waste.

Hum Vegetarian in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Hum Vegetarian in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

It's also best to limit any added sugar while traveling as this can cause a lot of inflammation in your body.  If you're ordering fresh watermelon juice for example, make sure they don't add any sugar and try to avoid soda in favor of beverages like plain water or fresh coconut water. 

While I always advocate for food-based nutrition over supplementation, I recognize it can be difficult to get everything you need everyday, especially while traveling.  That's why it doesn't hurt to:

  • Take a multivitamin (whole food based versions are better than synthetic.  I like MegaFood One Plus)
  • Take a probiotic (multiflora with over 1 billion colony forming units (CFUs), MegaFood Megaflora is a good option).  
  • Pack healthy snacks for your trip to eat in a pinch (raw nuts, Larabars, fruit, etc.)

Check out the first edition in this 6 part series and stay tuned for more. 

1. My Top Tips for Staying Healthy While Traveling