Ten Healthy Eating Tips for Those Who Travel Frequently


Eating healthy while traveling can be very challenging, especially when you’re in unfamiliar places with tempting, indulgent options all around. Or worse–you’re stuck in a food desert where you have to rely on Dollar General or the gas station for sustenance. Either way, with a little planning and some mindful choices, you can make nutritious choices that support your health and well-being while on the road. Here are some tips on how to find healthy food while traveling:

1. Do your research before you go

Before you travel, research the local cuisine and food options at your destination. Look for restaurants that offer healthy and balanced menu items. Use apps and websites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, or Google Maps to read reviews and find restaurants with good ratings for healthy food options. Also try searching “organic,” “vegan,” etc. Even if you don’t care about those things, restaurants that cater to special groups are more likely to offer healthy food options. 

2. Pack healthy snacks

Carry healthy snacks with you, such as nuts, seeds, fresh or dried fruits, whole-grain crackers, and healthy granola bars. These can be a lifesaver when you’re hungry between meals or on a long journey. Just be sure not to attempt to bring any gels or liquids larger than 3.4 ounces onto an airplane. 

3. Choose accommodations with kitchen facilities

If you’re staying in accommodations with kitchen facilities (like Airbnb or vacation rentals), consider cooking your meals. This way, you have full control over the ingredients and can prepare healthy meals. Even affordable hotels like Residence Inn in the U.S. often provide full or partial kitchens in their rooms. 

4. Opt for local markets and grocery stores 

Visit local markets or grocery stores to buy fresh fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods. This can be an excellent way to explore local produce and create your own healthy meals. Grocery stores such as Whole Foods are often good places to find fresh, healthy prepared meals in their hot foods section that closely approximate home cooked meals. 

5. Ask locals for recommendations 

Locals often know the best places to find healthy and authentic food. Try to ask a local before you waste too much time googling. This is helpful for two reasons: (1) you don’t want to waste your time in a new place doing internet research, and (2) online information can be misleading. Locals often have information that Google does not. 

6. Practice moderation

In many places, portion sizes at restaurants can be larger than what you’re used to. Consider sharing dishes or asking for a half portion to avoid overeating. This is especially true the more you eat out and the longer your trip lasts. Larger portions may be okay for a meal or two but after a few days or weeks of restaurant food you’re likely to notice that there’s often way more food on your plate than you would normally eat. Overeating during travel will make you feel lethargic and it can add unwanted pounds for you to work off when you get home. 

7. Be careful with sugary drinks, alcohol and caffeine

Sugary drinks often provide far more sugar calories than cake, donuts, ice cream and other desserts. It’s usually not worth it. Too much alcohol or caffeine can mess up your sleep cycle and zap your energy you need to get through your trip. Instead, opt for water, herbal tea, or unsweetened beverages to stay hydrated.

8. Balance your plate

Aim to have a balanced meal of heart-healthy foods by including a variety of food groups. This typically includes vegetables, protein, whole grains, and healthy fats. Vegetables, particularly fresh vegetables, and whole grains are often the hardest items to find while you travel so make a point of seeking them out. Few restaurants serve whole grain dishes but you can often ask for a dish you order to be augmented with whole grains. For example, try asking if they’ll substitute in whole grain pasta for the white noodles typically offered. 

9. Use apps and dietary guides

There are several apps and websites dedicated to helping travelers find healthy food options. Apps like “HappyCow” are great for finding vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants, while others focus on various dietary preferences and restrictions.

10. Be adventurous with local foods

Don’t be afraid to try new, healthy, and locally sourced dishes. You might discover some delightful and nutritious options that you wouldn’t have experienced otherwise.Remember that finding healthy food while traveling can be a part of the adventure. Exploring local markets, tasting regional specialties, and trying new flavors can be a rewarding and memorable aspect of your journey. With a little preparation and a willingness to explore, you can maintain a balanced diet and enjoy delicious, nutritious meals during your travels. To avoid catastrophe, be sure you are vaccinated against typhoid and other vaccine-preventable illnesses if you are traveling somewhere exotic. 

Regardless of whether you travel a little or a lot, following these tips can help keep you healthy and happy so that you enjoy your journey and come home refreshed. Conversely, eating poorly during your trip is sure to leave you feeling lethargic and regretful. It can also cause you to gain unwanted weight that may be difficult to shed when you get home. 

Aaron Charlton, PhD is a health, science and travel writer who did his PhD work in Consumer Behavior at University of Oregon (’19). Aaron also writes about scientific integrity and is sometimes quoted in the media on such issues.


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