9 tips on how to 'eat clean' when you're traveling

Italian fruit market
CC BY 2.0 Florian Steiner

Good dietary discipline can be as easy to lose as your luggage while travelling, but it doesn’t have to be like that. By embracing a "clean eating" philosophy -- which is consuming healthy food that's as close to its natural state as possible -- you can come back from any trip feeling more fabulous than ever.

Consider your destination carefully and what sort of precautions you might have to take when it comes to food hygiene. Use the following tips to create a food 'plan,' pack well, and set some personal parameters.

1. Pack your own snacks

Remember Michael Pollan’s food rule about never buying fuel for your body where you’d buy fuel for your car? The same goes for airports. If you pack healthy snacks before you leave, you’ll never have to stop at gas stations or convenience stores when your stomach starts to growl.

Pack smart, portable foods: reusable containers of nuts, pre-washed and cut vegetables with hummus (if you have a cooler), almond or peanut butters, easy-to-transport fruit such as apples or bananas, containers of berries, dried organic fruit, homemade trail mix, protein bars, pre-portioned oatmeal, sliced cheese, whole-grain crackers or rice cakes, sandwiches

2. Water is your best friend

Sip water frequently and generously. If you're traveling within North America or Europe, take a reusable water bottle and present it for refilling whenever you’d normally order a drink. In the rest of the world, it's a better idea to stick with bottled water.

To reduce waste, buy the biggest bottle of water possible, keep it in your hotel room, and refill your reusable water bottle throughout the day.

If you’re flying, be sure to fill up before boarding the plane to help stay hydrated. Turn down offers of sugary drinks like fruit juice or soda.

© K Martinko

3. Reduce alcohol consumption

I know it’s hard on vacation, especially if you're staying at a resort with an awesome bar, but consider the end of it -- you want to show off pictures, not extra pounds, right? If alcohol consumption is a must, then commit to drinking only within certain hours. Drink a glass of water after each alcoholic beverage that you consume. Choose ‘cleaner’ options, such as vodka soda, wine, or a Bloody Mary, and keep away from sugary mixed drinks.

In places where the water supply is questionable, beer is a very safe and hygienic option because it's kept sterile and is served in a sealed bottle.

4. Give priority to vegetables

Too often vegetables get neglected while travelling, although it's important to consider where you are. Within North America and Europe, it's safe to order a large salad and eat it before ordering a main course, which you may not want afterwards. Elsewhere in the world, use your discretion. I've always eaten plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit while traveling in South and Central America and have never gotten sick, though I'm far more careful in Asia.

Consider vegetarian menu options, which are often lighter, healthier, and lower in saturated fat than meat-centric dishes. Cooking vegetables makes them safer.

5. Eat according to the hour

There’s a saying that goes, “Eat like a king for breakfast, a prince for lunch, and a pauper for supper.” If there’s any time to load up at a buffet, it’s definitely breakfast, which gives you the whole day to digest. By eating less in the evening, you’ll feel less bloated, full, and lethargic, and you may sleep better.

Remember to nibble on snacks throughout the day, which will make you less inclined to gorge at mealtime. Think of the day's food intake in terms of 5-6 small meals, rather than 3 large ones.

6. Don’t add unnecessary sugar or salt

Eating a lot of restaurant food makes it hard to limit salt and sugar intake, so don't pick up the saltshaker just out of habit. Keep away from those fancy mixed coffee beverages that are made with sugar syrups, i.e. chai or other flavoured latte, mocha, London Fog, French Vanilla cappuccino, etc.

7. Visit a grocery store or food market instead of a restaurant

In a foreign country, this can be an interesting cultural experience. No matter where you are, buying food at a store is a great way to save calories and dollars and gives you control over portion size more so than at a restaurant.

Buy sandwich materials, or go á la français with a selection of hard cheeses, a good salami, and baguette. Many North American supermarkets have great pre-made salads. Grab some fresh fruit and go have a picnic.

Many developing countries have fantastic street food vendors. If the food is hot and cooked through, it's usually safe, though once again use your discretion.

8. Find a kitchen

If you’re staying in a hotel for a few days, look for one with a kitchen. You can call ahead to ask for a microwave and fridge, at least. Apartment rentals are also a good option for stays longer than 3 days and can give you control over food preparation.

9. Eat a treat a day

You’re on vacation, so of course you want to indulge. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you place limits on it. By committing to a single decadent treat per day, you won’t feel as though you missed out, nor will you feel uncomfortable by the end of the trip.

Tags: Diet | Health