One summer, I went to Europe for 12 days. I had been hitting up the gym for months, eating super healthy and was generally feeling really good about myself. But then I got to Budapest and it was like I had amnesia, I had forgotten how to eat healthily. There was no sprouted bread or sweet potatoes to make up for my carb cravings. Breakfast at the hotels where we stayed usually consisted of pastries, jam, white bread, and cheese. Lunch was often something heavy on the sodium – usually street food or a hearty local dish. Dinner was my only healthy meal and after 12 days, I had undone all that I had achieved in the four months prior. And I packed on a couple of extra pounds to boot. Normally, I would’ve tried to compensate for the heavy carb diet by tons of walking but that summer, my husband was recovering from a sport’s injury and our vacation was far from active.
I came back feeling pretty low and not feeling that vacation glow I usually bring back with me. So the next time I went on vacation, I decided to make a plan to stay healthy, hard as it may be. Here are my five tried and true healthy travel tips.
1. Pack healthy snacks
During that trip, I was usually at the mercy of whatever street vendor or corner store I could find when I felt like having a snack. That usually meant something super greasy or way too salty. I was missing my coconut protein balls and kale chips, heck I would have eaten carrot or celery sticks if given the opportunity. But there were none to be found. So I decided that on my next trip, I’d grab some Tupperware and fill it up with my favorite snacks. To compensate for the added luggage weight, I’d take out a couple of pairs of shoes because who needs 5 pairs of shoes on one trip anyway? So although I love eating local, buying a snack on the go is usually not a good idea when far away from home. Now I travel with coconut balls, coconut or kale chips, and most importantly, a knife and veggie peeler, because carrot sticks and apple slices are so easy and convenient.
2. Make a point of visiting the farmer’s market
Farmer’s markets are amazing. The aromas, the hustle and bustle, the bargaining. I was just at a farmer’s market a few weeks ago and almost keeled over in laughter. One of the vendors, dressed in traditional clothing with a full face of extravagant makeup, yelled at anyone who tried to take a picture of her. Aside from the occasional entertainment, the farmer’s market is the perfect opportunity to see what’s locally grown, find delicious fruit and veggies, come in close contact with locals and travelers alike, and strike up some good conversation. I will never forget the peaches I bought at the farmer’s market in Madrid, nor the sweetness of the tomatoes and peppers I bought in Bucharest, Romania’s busy capital.
3. Cut the sugar
This one’s an easy one because it’s so straightforward. Starting on the airplane, I longingly stare at all the refreshing beverages that I never see in my fridge and ask for… water. I find it much simpler to be categorical about cutting out sugar. I see something sweet, I move on. I don’t have to think about the calories, the pounds, the healthier alternative. I just say no. I’ve gone on trips where I have allowed myself one day of sampling the local desserts but honestly, there were certain countries where I wish I had skipped the sweets altogether. Let’s just say that condensed milk isn’t my friend.
4. Plan something active every day
The beauty of private guided travel is that you have a lot of say in your itinerary. So why not take advantage and ensure that every single day includes something active? From bike rides through forests to strolls in vineyards and from walking tours to hiking trails, each destination offers plenty of opportunities to stay fit. One time I was traveling in London and had a city tour booked. Well, I had just done my hair and was seriously contemplating skipping out on the tour because I didn’t want to exchange my shiny locks for a frizzy shag. Luckily my travel buddy didn’t let me miss out and gave me a bag to put on my head. A fair compromise. Since then, I’ve been packing hair wraps, proper-sized umbrellas, and decent raincoats. That way, I’m prepared to stay active regardless of the weather. And no, you will never find me in the hotel’s gym even if there’s a downpour but if that’s your thing, request an accommodation that has a gym!
5. Research food options before leaving
I’ve been in situations where I have a free evening to explore as I please and I find myself wandering about, unsure of where to eat. I finally get so hungry that I choose a spot I would’ve never looked twice at. And then I deeply regret it. Not only because the food quality is not up to par but because the options are far from healthy. One time in Bogota, a guide recommended a restaurant for dinner and off I went. And was beyond disappointed. The only thing that saved the meal was the huge avocado it was served with. Since then, I’ve been choosing my lunch and dinner spots from home and ensuring that they have good reviews and healthy food options besides a fun atmosphere. Doing research pays off!
These are five fairly easy ways of making sure you don’t pack on the pounds while traveling. There’s nothing worse than a vacation that leaves you feeling out of sorts and low instead of refreshed and ready to go. The goal is to have the time of your life and to keep that buzz going long after you return.