Eating on the road can be a difficult task. You don’t know where anything is, you don’t know the stores or the restaurants, and you may not have the time to look around when you are starving. Especially if your idea of traveling means leaving the country. I have traveled around for the past 3 years and have had this problem time and time again. It especially proves to be a problem since I choose to have a very specific diet for myself. So here are the things that I look for while out of my geographic comfort zone.
Where is The Grocery Store?
When I first travel into an unknown area this is without a doubt the number one thing that I look for. If you cannot find a restaurant that seems appealing and with healthy options, a grocery store is a good fall back. Generally, everywhere I have traveled I have been able to purchase adequate and healthy options at a local store. Of course, you are limited on meal preparation if you do not have access to a kitchen. Making raw foods, such as veggie salads and fruits are easy to throw together in a pinch.
Depending on the area or country you are in, some places will also offer pre-made options. Be aware though, that some of these pre-made options (which includes processed foods) can contain ingredients such as MSG (monosodium glutamate). MSG is an excitotoxin which means it overexcites your cells to the point of damage or death. It is used as a flavor enhancer in foods. The FDA says that MSG can cause the following symptoms in humans; numbness, burning sensation, tingling, facial pressure or tightness, chest pain or difficulty breathing, headache, nausea, rapid heartbeat, drowsiness, and/or weakness. Just to “excite” you a little further, MSG can come in several different names including:
- Autolyzed Yeast
- Calcium Caseinate
- Glutamic Acid
- Hydrolyzed Protein
- Monopotassium Glutamate
- Monosodium Glutamate
- Sodium Caseinate
- Textured Protein
- Yeast Extract
- Yeast Food
- Yeast Nutrient
As for the rest of the grocery store, read my article about how to shop at the grocery store for great tips on choosing the healthiest foods.
Where Can I Find Good Quality Water?
Water makes up a very large amount of our body’s composition, so therefore it is safe to say that it’s consumption is important. It is hard to find any information of a human being living for more than 10 days without water (if you can make it that long). The very first thing to be wary of is drinking tap water. Anywhere. Period. In many countries the water is not treated for bacteria and parasites. This is why a lot of people get sick when they go to places such as India. I definitely did. Some places are safer (but sometimes you don’t want to risk it), such as when I was in the Alps in Austria. The drinking water in the ski villages comes straight off the snow melt, which I will say is quite delicious. However, you can still come in contact with a little something called giardia lamblia, which is an intestinal parasite typically acquired from drinking water and causes diarrhea.
The flip side of the tap water coin is treated water, such as in the States. Treated water typically contains the chemical chlorine, which helps kill bacteria and parasites, but it also kills the good bacteria in your digestive system. These good bacteria creates one of the largest portions of your immune system, so if they are not functioning properly you will tend to start experiencing digestive problems and possibly illness. So I would suggest skipping tap water altogether, unless you can filter it (there are many personal water bottle filters on the market).
There is also the bottled water option, which you can typically find everywhere. This is what I tend to go with (because I do not choose to carry a water filter with me) although bottled water has it cons as well. Water that has been sitting in the plastic will contain chemicals from the plastic, which are typically endocrine disrupting. This is why you’ve heard someone tell you not to drink out of a water bottle that has been sitting in your car. The sun warms it up and speeds up the release of the chemicals. What you choose really all depends on your traveling situation!
How To Eat Healthy at Restaurants?
The most convenient food option while traveling is eating out at restaurants. I am sure most people don’t really want to prepare food when they are on vacation. The first thing I do is to make sure vegetables are available. You might think this is a no-brainer, but many areas of the world do not have the best access to vegetables.
The second thing I make sure is available are options without bread and pasta. Eating too many grains will contribute to inflammation in your body, spike your blood sugar levels, and lead to increased fat stores.
The third thing I make sure of is that there is no added sugar in the food. I have been to several countries where it is completely normal to add sugar to anything and everything. Malaysia and India come to mind when ordering a drink at a restaurant. I have ordered a fresh squeezed glass of orange juice and mid sip have realized they poured about a pound of sugar in with it (as if oranges are not sweet enough). So make sure to say “NO SUGAR” when ordering certain items, especially drinks. And if you are in another country where you cannot get an English menu, pictures always come in handy!
It is very simple to eat healthy while traveling, but sometimes you have to do a little research before you are ready to eat. Be prepared to Google and ask the locals. You will have to compromise what you think is healthy once in a while for the sake of travel, but all in all it can be done with some determination and will. I hope my experiences help you to be prepared for yours!