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Our social media feeds constantly bombard us with delicious food images from travelers all around the world; Instagram alone is flooded with more than a half billion food images.
With all this foodporn going around, it’s hard not to be tempted into overindulging in culinary delights when we ourselves go on holiday. However, all this obsessing over food can have negative impacts to our health when we travel if we’re not careful.
Most of us are well aware of the importance of eating healthy. We make New Year’s resolutions to eat fewer calories or reduce our alcohol intake. Many of us are also motivated to look our best in the lead up to vacations, hitting the gym or cutting the carbs in order to get beach body ready.
From day one of our vacation, however, all that hard work and determination to slim down or eat healthier often comes undone as we begin to splurge on exotic flavors that beckon us like sirens.
While tasting foreign food is definitely one of the best parts of travel for many, it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your healthy eating habits. Check out the following top ways you can eat healthier while on vacation.
Research Food Items and Make Better Menu Choices
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Many of us are told by friends or family that we must try certain foods when traveling to a specific destination. While it’s always good to expand your palate and enjoy new foods, it’s a good idea to research what it is you are putting into your mouth.
Destinations usually have healthier alternatives that are still considered national dishes or local specialties. So do your research about what you plan to eat in order to find out what you should avoid and how exactly you should be eating local dishes.
Not all iconic dishes from various countries are exactly good for you. Did you know for example that Canada’s iconic poutine dish consists of deep fried fries and full fat cheese and gravy? The dish is extremely high in fat, calories, and sodium.
When soaking up the sun in Australia, ditch the famous meat pies which are far from healthy and opt for local kangaroo fillets which have very little fat and loads of protein. When in Spain, pass on the sugar-coated churros and stick with seafood paella instead.
The important thing to remember is that you can still try new exotic flavors, just don’t feel like you have to eat something because everyone says it’s a must. There are always healthier dishes available that are just as delicious and exciting as the sugary or fatty popular food favorites.
Book Accommodation with Kitchen Facilities
One of the best ways to eat healthy on vacation, while also saving a lot of money in the process, is by cooking your own meals. Booking accommodation with kitchen facilities will allow you to stock up on food, assuming you have a fridge, and cook breakfasts, lunches, and dinners on your own time.
It’s hard to know exactly what goes into menu items you order at a restaurant in terms of ingredients and nutritional information. Cooking your own meals means you can shy away from unhealthy fats and calories.
You can also prepare healthy snacks and meals on the go when you head out for the day to tour attractions such as museums. All too often, most of us who opt for a standard hotel room end up ordering fast food or getting unhealthy bites while out and about because they are quick, cheap, and convenient.
Cooking your own meals also allows you to take advantage of the local fresh produce markets. Here you can still taste new meats, fruits, and vegetables and learn healthier recipes than dishes being served by local food vendors or restaurants.
If you’re a backpacker on a budget, many hostels have shared kitchens where you can prepare meals and it’s a great way to meet people and share healthy cooking tips.
Watch Your Portion Sizes
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Many of us tend to overindulge when it comes to eating while on vacation. Not only do we tend to eat more often throughout the day, but we are also more apt to eat larger portion sizes than we generally would back home.
We have been programmed to think that vacations and going out to eat are a time to let loose and enjoy a treat. While this is fine every once in a while, you’ll start to notice some unwanted health side effects if you adhere to this eating-freely mentality for the entirety of your vacation, especially if your vacation is spread out over several weeks or more.
Restaurants are serving us very large portions, with some studies showing that over 90% of all dishes served up by full-service restaurants have too many calories. Global obesity has nearly tripled over the past few decades because of this.
To offset the large portion sizes, opt to share a meal with someone you are traveling with if possible or don’t be afraid to have some of your meal boxed up as takeaway for later.
While on vacation, having a bunch of delicious food in front of us makes it tempting to want to eat fast and we end up not realizing just how much we are eating. Learn to slow down and take in the setting.
Eat with all your senses and enjoy where it is you are vacationing. Choosing restaurants with nice ambiance such as outdoor seating with a sunset or ocean view will help you to slow down with your meals.
Pro tip: If you don’t trust that you can keep yourself in check, download a food tracker or calorie counter app to help you stick to healthy eating habits.
Avoid buffets, often found in resorts, as this only promotes unhealthy portion sizes. Buffets are also known to have a greater potential to spread foodborne illnesses quite easily, especially those found on cruise ships.
Reduce Your Alcohol Intake
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Many of us tend to drink more alcohol while traveling. It’s hard not to, especially when you have free alcohol flowing on planes and in airport lounges.
While enjoying a few drinks during your vacation won’t have a big impact on your healthy lifestyle, it can become harmful if you don’t keep yourself in check.
Beer is of course high in carbs and many cocktails including daiquiris and margaritas are loaded with sugar. In addition to alcohol not being that healthy for you, it also can have other negative impacts during your travels.
Over-consumption of alcohol can lead to making poor decisions and could even end up voiding your travel insurance policy. You also need to be aware that some destinations are known to have a high prevalence of alcoholic drink contamination or spiking, especially popular backpacking destinations like Bali.
Enjoying food while traveling doesn’t have to result in an expanding waistline and regret upon your return home. By making the right food choices, staying active, and practicing proper food safety, you can maintain a healthy lifestyle and enjoy your travels at the same.