This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia, which closed in 2021.

Expert Tips On How To Stay Healthy-Ish While Travelling

Don't worry, you can still eat bread and pasta.

There's nothing like that feeling you get the night before you go travelling. The prospect of leaving your bubble and venturing out into the unknown, packing your bags, ticking off the travel list, printing out your plane tickets...

Along with leaving work and adult responsibilities behind, we all tend to forget about healthy eating and exercise when travelling, which is totally normal. Who wants to eat kale salad when ice cream or cake is on the table?

But if you do want to stay healthy-ish when travelling and not completely fall of the health wagon, here are six tips from a dietitian.

These tips are easy to implement and super flexible -- so you can make the most of your holiday, as well as make the process of coming back home and getting back into the swing of things much smoother.

"It is important for people to enjoy themselves while on holidays, but most people don't want to completely fall off the wagon," Jessica Spendlove -- accredited practising dietitian, accredited sports dietitian and nutrition consultant -- told HuffPost Australia.

1. Retain regular eating patterns

"Aiming to keep some consistency with your normal eating patterns while travelling is important," Spendlove said.

Although the content and cuisine of your food may be entirely different compared to home, try to keep the 'plate' rule in mind when travelling and eating: fill half the plate with veggies, a quarter with protein and a quarter with complex carbs.

"The majority of meals should still contain mainly nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean protein and quality grains."

If that's not an excuse to eat beautiful local produce and pasta we don't know what is.

2. Drink loads of water

With all the adventuring, sunbaking and alcohol drinking, it's easy to forget to drink enough water. But hydration is key to helping your body function optimally. Not to mention drinking water helps us differentiate between hunger and thirst.

"Staying hydrated while travelling is a really important way to stay on track," Spendlove said. "You should always carry a bottle of water with you while travelling."

Yes, that can definitely mean drinking delicious coconut water.
Yes, that can definitely mean drinking delicious coconut water.

3. Reduce processed foods

It's not a great holiday without delicious foods and treats, but where possible, aim to reduce the amount of processed foods like biscuits, lollies and junk food.

"[A main trap is] enjoying too many of the 'good things' and treat foods we might keep to a minimum when in our daily routine, such as cheese, wine, pastries and cakes, or just being more relaxed with choices," Spendlove told HuffPost Australia.

"If you spend your whole time away eating highly processed food -- high in saturated fat, sugar and alcohol -- your energy levels are likely to be compromised.

"Eating more processed foods than normal, which are often lower in fibre, may also cause disruptions to your bowels, which is not pleasant to experience at any time, let alone on holidays."

4. Maximise incidental activity

While we can't expect ourselves to complete an hour-long training session each day when we're travelling, that doesn't mean we have to give up physical activity completely.

"Travelling can make it hard to find consistency and stick to a routine, which is the thing that often disrupts most people's exercise habits," Spendlove said. "Maximising the incidental activity as much as possible is a good way to increase energy expenditure.

Great ways to maximise incidental activity while travelling include:

  • Walking as much as possible, rather than taking a taxi, bus or train
  • Doing cycling tours of the city, rather than hopping on a bus
  • Hiring bikes to get around, rather than motorised bikes
  • Doing activities such as snorkelling, scuba diving and stand up paddle boarding are other good ways to be active on holidays.

"If you want to exercise while you are away, exercising in the morning is a good way to make sure you get something done. Even if it is every second day, which might be less than when at home, it is still better than nothing."

Hiring bikes is a low cost, fun way to get around cities and towns.
Hiring bikes is a low cost, fun way to get around cities and towns.

5. Eat in

Part of travelling is going out to eat and trying new restaurants and eateries. But when you can and want, eat in and cook up a nutritious meal using local ingredients.

"One of the most common nutrition issues faced when travelling is the tendency to eat out more than normal, which can lead to overeating and excess energy (kilojoule) consumption," Spendlove said.

While it is important to enjoy your holiday, cooking and eating in can help you come home without the unwanted weight gain.

"If staying in a self-contained apartment, aim to eat at least one meal there per day. This is good for the bank account as well as balancing out your overall nutrition while travelling," Spendlove said.

6. Order food smartly

And when you are eating out, follow these handy nutrition tips.

"Order à la carte when eating out (as opposed to going to a buffet). It is much easier to control the amount eaten when ordering off the menu, rather than having unlimited access to a buffet," Spendlove said.

"Always have a side salad or non-starchy vegetables (seasonal steamed vegetables or Asian greens) with every lunch and dinner meal to help balance out the amount of energy in the meal."

If the meals are typically large, Spendlove suggests to order an entrée or share a main with your travelling companion to avoid over-eating.

"If you find your main meals are larger than normal, aim to have no snacks between meals to help off-set the additional energy intake," Spendlove said. "And try to not drink alcohol with every lunch and dinner.

"Food is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in a culture when on holidays. I believe it is possible to go on holidays and keep on track with your nutrition by adopting some of the above strategies."

Safe and happy travels.
Safe and happy travels.

Now, if you have let go a little too much on your trip, here's how to ease back into eating well and exercising on return.

"Get back into a routine and exercise as quickly as possible," Spendlove said.

In this time, aim to eat at home and prepare meals. But avoid fad diets.

"Clean up your eating for a few weeks. Don't go on some crazy strict eating plan -- just remove all processed, sugary foods and limit alcohol intake for a few weeks," Spendlove said.

"Focus on nutrient-rich foods such as green vegetables, seafood, lean meats and poultry."


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