Food. It can be your best friend or worst enemy. Either way, it’s essential to our lives. Eating healthy and staying active does a body good. However, that’s usually the last thing on our mind while traveling or on vacation. We chatted with a few nutrition and travel experts about staying healthy while traveling. Hopefully these professionals will give you a little insight on what foods to enjoy, what to avoid, and how to live a healthier life.
Staying Healthy in Mexico
Lila Graue is a physician, psychotherapist and medical educator whose work specializes with individuals and families struggling with eating and mood disorders. Graue is the founder and Director of Mindful Eating Mexico and serves as Vice President of The Center for Mindful Eating (TCME). She currently lives in Mexico City and enjoys spending time with her husband, practicing yoga and swimming in addition to maintaining a daily mindfulness meditation practice.
According to Graue, two of the healthiest foods in the world comes right from her home country of Mexico: chia seeds and amaranth.
“Chia seeds come from the Salvia hispanica plant, native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala,” she says. “Chia was one of the four staple foods of Aztec and Mayan civilizations, together with maize, amaranth and beans. Its seeds were used for nutritional and medicinal purposes. They were a source of energy for long journeys and food for warriors. Chia seeds offer high nutritional value, as they are a natural source of Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, protein, vitamins, minerals and dietetic fiber. Like linseed, they can be used as a binder in vegan recipes, including bread.”
“Amaranth, known to the Aztecs as huauhtli, was one of their four staple foods, and it is thought to have represented up to 80 percent of their caloric consumption before the conquest,” she continues. “To this day, in Mexico, amaranth grains are toasted much like popcorn and mixed with honey, molasses or chocolate to make a treat called alegría, meaning joy in Spanish.”
When traveling, Graue tries to savor the local tastes and treats mindfully while sightseeing on foot. Here are some of her tips on how to avoid gaining weight when traveling:
- Honor your hunger and satiety signals.
- Stop to eat whenever you’re hungry, don’t wait until the day is over and everything is closed.
- Find out the local times for meals, often in foreign places restaurants are closed during your regular meal times and/or between local lunch and dinner times.
- Carry a healthy snack (almonds or nuts and some fruit) and a water bottle in your rucksack.
- If you’ll be exploring without a known schedule, make yourself a light sandwich during breakfast and carry it with you along with the snack–it can make a great lunch.
- Instead of taking bus/taxi, explore by foot. This will give you the chance to discover small shops and interesting corners, and to stop whenever something catches your eye; you will have a more intimate feel of the place while exercising at the same time.
Go for the Greens
Sharon Palmer is a Los Angeles based registered dietitian and nutritionist. whose expertise lies in plant-based nutrition. She is the the author of The Plant-Powered Diet, Plant-Powered for Life and is the editor for Environmental Nutrition.
When it comes to healthy foods across the globe, she says most countries have indigenous healthful foods that grow in their locals.
“These are foods that are regional, fresh and local—they do not come in packages. Often they grow wild in forests, or are cultivated in home gardens and small farms. For example, green leafy vegetables are superstars. In nearly every culture, you’ll find examples of leafy greens, whether it’s Africa, U.S., Asia or South America.
Other healthy foods that Palmer is a fan of includes whole grains and legumes (beans, lentils, peas).
While Palmer is traveling, she tries to stick to balanced meals that includes grains, lean protein and fruits. However, her most important tip is to load up on vegetables.
“That’s what can help you fill up without contributing too much energy to your day,” she says.
In addition, she also advises to ask for fatty sauces and dressings on the side and be cautious of alcoholic beverages.
“Allow yourself a small treat here and there to celebrate your vacation and enjoy your location. Stick with simple wine and beer over tropical, sweet or creamy mixed drink. They can pack in more calories than you can guess.”
However, Palmer’s most important tip is to remain active and schedule in exercise. “Do lots of walking to explore your area; go swimming, biking, hiking. It can be part of your vacation exploration. That extra exercise can help balance out the extra foods your are enjoying during your trip.”
Lisa Young, PhD, RD, CDN, is a nationally recognized New York nutritionist and an adjunct professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University. Widely considered an expert on portion sizes, Young is regularly featured in national publications including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today. She has also been featured on national television including ABC News, CNN and Fox.
Young knows what she is talking about when it comes to food and she believes there is not just one healthy food that comes above the rest. However, if she must choose, her answer would be broccoli. “It’s rich in vitamin C, beta carotene, fiber and [it’s] tasty,” she says.
When traveling, Young eats a healthy breakfast of yogurt and berries and tries to some exercises. “Swim if you are staying near a pool, and do lot of walking. Limit liquid calories.”
Recipes from Dian Emery
Dian Emery started traveling at the age of two when her parents moved to Germany. She has spent many summer vacations touring Austrian castles, camping in Spain and riding trains through France. She continued her travel escapes, but soon discovered that money was necessary to traipse around the world, so Emery settled down for a few years to do the 9-to-5 routine.
She started her working life on the stock exchange trading floor, moved to administering those dastardly derivatives, then dabbled in the nonprofit world with a stint at the National Cancer Institute. Three years ago Emery returned to her first true love, travel. She now writes full-time, is the Managing Editor of GirlsGetaway, and still loves to travel the world.
“The healthiest foods on the planet are the fruits and vegetables you love eating, she says. “If you love a food, you’ll be more likely to eat it. For example, kale is very healthy but I’m really not in love with it, so I find preparing it and eating is almost like a chore, making it less likely I’ll [eat it] regularly. But blueberries are a different story. I love blueberries and I’ve always got a stash of blueberries in the freezer. When I’ve got the munchies I’ll pop some frozen blueberries in yogurt and I’m happy. My equation for healthy food = fruit and veg I passionately love + a plentiful supply.”
One of Emery’s favorite summertime dishes is a tomato-cucumber-feta salad, especially when the tomatoes are straight from the garden. Here are her ingredients:
- 6 roma (plum) tomatoes, diced
- 1 small cucumber peeled, quartered lengthwise, and chopped
- 1/2 vidalia onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or substitute with one teaspoon sugar/honey)
- crumbled feta cheese to taste (I put in LOTS)
In a large bowl, toss together the tomatoes, cucumber, green onions, basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, and feta cheese.
Make Sure You Prioritize
Marci Anderson is the owner of Marci RD Nutrition in Cambridge, MA. Her group practice specializes in helping people find a healthy and happy relationship with food.
“The healthiest foods are typically the freshest, local foods you can find,” she says, “ Eating minimally processed, whole foods is a great way to nourish your body.”
When Anderson travels, she avoids gaining weight by prioritizing.
“Prioritizing your self-care is always important, especially while traveling. Enjoying new cuisine is a really fun part of any traveler’s experience. Try to keep a practice of eating slowly, taking breaks to assess the flavor of your food and fullness of your belly. Additionally, at the risk of sounding like a bore, moderate your alcohol consumption. Your health as well as your sleep will thank you. Also, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.”
Her all time favorite healthy recipe is grilled salmon with fresh squeezed lemon. “Serve it up with corn on the cob and a salsa filled with nectarines, red onion, fresh lime, and cilantro. You’ll be in flavor heaven!”
A Beneficial Future
So, are you inspired to try a new recipe? To get rid of those pesky 10 pounds? We hope so. Healthy foods may not always looked the most appealing, but sometimes they are the most delicious. The next time you are traveling, for pleasure or work, try to spend at least 20 minutes of your day to healthy living. It will be beneficial in the long run.