By: Lauren Mazin, Blogger of The Lo Down On Healthy, MSc in Nutrition & Physical Activity, BS in Kinesiology.
If you want to climb mountains, go on long hikes and explore cities, something I’ve learned is that you need to be properly fueled. As an avid traveler, escaping to wander around new cities as a weekend getaway whenever I get the chance, I am often asked how I manage to eat healthy on all of my travels. For me, a lot of it is about always being prepared by carrying snacks on me at all times.
When possible, it’s best to reach for whole foods. Using the kitchen in hostels/hotels makes it a lot easier to eat whole foods on the go. Sometimes this means I’ll pop a sweet potato in the microwave at my hostel before heading out for the day. Some of my favorite portable whole foods snacks include whole grain crackers, sweet potatoes, apples, bananas and carrot sticks paired with nut butters and nuts. These combinations provide a solid dose of carbohydrates along with protein and healthy fats for long-lasting energy.
Additionally, the carbohydrates in foods like whole grain crackers and sweet potatoes are complex carbohydrates, which are different than those you would find in foods such as white bread, white potatoes or cookies, which are simple carbohydrates. These complex carbohydrates have a lower glycemic index (GI), which means that they don’t cause a spike in your blood sugar like simple carbohydrates do. When you eat food with a high GI, more sugar is released into your blood stream immediately and this spike in your blood sugar causes you to crash and burn after the spike. This is why eating foods high in sugar like ice cream, cookies and white potatoes often cause a sugar high followed by a crash. Lower GI foods release sugar into your bloodstream at a much slower rate, allowing you to have sustained energy and avoid the crash.
Of course, sometimes it’s not always practical to carry along fresh whole foods. This is where pre-packaged energy bars can be really useful. I like to reach for ones that are lower in sugar and made with whole ingredients, like ToYou Snack Bars.
Reading the ingredient list on the label is key to make sure you’re putting real food into your body. The more real ingredients that are listed on the label the better. With less processed snacks and less funky ingredients that you can’t pronounce, you’re more likely to avoid digestive issues and sugar spikes- which no one wants when you’re trying to explore the world.
Another important lesson I’ve learned from my traveling adventures is how crucial it is to listen to your body. When we’re at home and going through our daily routines we often eat similar foods at similar times and participate in similar physical activity and exercise regimens. All of this goes out the door when we’re on the road. Meals might occur at later or earlier times than you’re used to, your everyday foods might not be available, and often your physical activity levels are much higher than when you’re at home simply because you tend to be on your feet all day when you travel. This makes it extra important to always have portable snacks on hand. Increased hunger can sometimes be confusing but it’s so important to listen to your body and to feed it when those hunger pangs strike, even if that’s not the quantity or the time of day you would normally eat. Food is fuel and you when traveling you often need extra fuel to have enough energy to get through those incredibly active days.
Additionally, listening to your body and eating whenever hunger hits helps prevent overeating later in the day. What I mean by that is if you don’t carry snacks with you and you try to make the stretch from lunch to dinner you might get to the dinner table absolutely famished. When we’re starving we’re more likely to not think about what we’re eating and instead just gorge ourselves on whatever we see first. By keeping snacks on hand and trusting your body to tell you when it’s hungry and needs to eat, you avoid feeling deprived and as a result overeating when you finally get to the table.
Staying healthy while traveling can be tricky but having snacks on hand certainly helps. Most importantly though remember to enjoy your travels and indulge in the local cuisine as well because that can be one of the best parts about traveling. After all, it’s all about finding your balance.