9 Tips for Eating Healthy While Traveling | How to Stay Fit During a Vacation

“Oh, keeping fit/ eating healthy while travelling is a breeze”, said NO ONE EVER! Truth is, it’s easy to keep track of fitness goals and eat healthy, once you know what, how and how much. I’m not the only one who thinks so – Dr Sneha Desu & Vishwa Bharat Reddy – two prominent experts in the area of fitness and health, say so too. It IS POSSIBLE to eat healthy even when you travel.

9 tips for eating healthy while travelling.

As someone who travels quite frequently, I’m painfully aware that eating healthy – no matter which place you are at – is an acquired skill at best. For starters, healthy food options aren’t available with great ease everywhere you go, and what’s more, it can be a behemoth task to avoid temptations, make right choices, mind your portions, keep track of the quantities and calories consumed. Do you agree?

Do you feel that the these trips disrupt your progress, hamper the discipline you had set for yourself for weeks, possibly months, and end with you gobbling down every tempting food option and eventual guilt-tripping and bidding farewell to the diet?

Eating Healthy While Travelling is Possible!

What if I told you that it IS POSSIBLE to eat healthy when traveling, and in accordance with your fitness goals, too? Furthermore, what if I get the voice of experts to explain how! Meet two proficient fitness professionals  – Dr Sneha Desu & Vishwa Bharat Reddy – each making their mark in their own unique way in the fitness world.

Dr Sneha Desu, a certified personal trainer, shows how to eat healthy while traveling.
Dr Sneha Desu

Dr Sneha Desu

Based in Hyderabad, India, Dr Sneha Desu is a certified personal trainer, core and sport nutrition specialist, double certified in Pre-Postnatal exercise and has completed her Level 1 in Animal Flow. An MBBS doctor-turned-fitness-entrepreneur, she won the Devils Circuit Legends Cup, thus also winning the title the ‘Fittest Woman in Country’ in 2015.

Vishwa Bharat Reddy, a fitness coach, explains how to go about eating healthy while travelling
Vishwa Bharat Reddy

Vishwa Bharat Reddy

Hailing from Vizag but based in Hyderabad now, Vishwa Bharat Reddy mentors individuals and Tollywood celebrities towards fulfilling their fitness goals. A coach at GetSetGo Fitness, Vishwa Bharat specializes in ‘evidence-based, BS-free’ coaching and is promptly carving his niche as disruptor of all fitness fads & myths. Read about Vishwa’s inspiring journey that I covered under the ‘Influencers’ section for the blog.

What do the experts say is the right way to make healthy food choices while travelling? Let’s get started:

1. Set a goal, wayyy before you travel

An example of daily tracking calorie intake on Myfitnesspal app
An example of how I track my daily calorie intake on Myfitnesspal app. Do try it and see your accountability improve dramatically!

Let’s face it – if you have an idea what is it that you wish to achieve via healthier eating choices even on normal days, you definitely will not have an incentive for eating healthy while travelling, especially when you see exciting/ exotic food choices all around you. How do ever solve a problem without realizing what the problem is? Do this seemingly simple exercise: jot down the problems in your life that you could resolve/ address by eating healthier, like lower levels of fitness, lack of energy by mid-day, etc and set healthy eating and fitness goals accordingly. What do you know – you’ll see your resolve to eat healthy distilling into actionable goals and reality even as you’re on the go.

If you’re already in a fitness regime, congratulations! – you already know what kind of efforts you’ve needed to put in to have come this far, and you wouldn’t normally want to slip into your older, unhealthier ways and undo all that you’ve achieved.

2. Carry healthy snacks

Easiest of all options, right? Dr Sneha Desu recommends carrying nuts/ energy bars along with you, especially if you’re going secluded like a trek, instead of relying on the chance of finding healthier snacks where you go. It’s real easy AND fun to make your own trail mix – just include a little of ALLLL the nuts & seeds you like, and give with a fun twist with bits of jaggery, cacao nibs, wheatgerm flakes, dry fruits and puffed grains too to make it wholesome and tasty! There are several other possibilities like air-fried/ baked vegetable chips, puffed grains like amaranth or rice, homemade granola bars, truffles etc. Go one step ahead to measure the quantities of all that you pack, so that you know how much you’re eating and can track the same.

Dr Sneha Desu's tips on how to eat healthy when traveling
Dr Sneha Desu’s tips on how to eat healthy when traveling.

3. Hydration, Hydration, Hydration! 

I know this one’s easier preached than done (guilty!), but hey, it’s the least one can do to keep their bodies hydrated and nourished. Drink at least 4-5 litres of water (NO, soda or green tea doesn’t count!) a day to remain hydrated. Increase the quantity further if you’re braving hotter weather, and furthermore if you’re partying, as alcohol tends to dehydrate the body faster. Keep forgetting? Maintain a daily journal/ note of water intake, or easier yet, take the help of one of the plenty reminder apps available on your mobile.

4. Loads of Veggies, Please!

Eating healthy while travelling - a dinner plate loaded with fresh veggies, feta cheese, fruit and quinoa.
A random example of how I load at least half my plate with greens and fruits, for eating healthy while travelling. The rest is for preferably complex carbs and protein. Location: Novotel Hyderabad Convention Center Hotel

This is a neat trick not just for travel, but every time you eat out and even for the meals you usually eat at home – load half your plate with veggies and leave the rest for protein source like meat, eggs or pulses and legumes, along with a moderate quantity of carbohydrates like rice, bread or pasta. Expert tip by Dr Sneha – opt for more complex carbs that are rich in fiber and slow-digesting, than for simpler carbs which are calorie-laden. Another great tip from the awesome Vishwa Bharat too – choose servings of foods which are low-calorie and nutritious rather than high-calorie foods, like salads or steaks.

5. No compromise on Protein Intake

Fish, meat, eggs, or vegetarian options like pulses, grains and legumes are great source of protein. Patra nu Machi at Zaffran, Novotel Vizag

Protein is a vital macronutrient that our body requires for tissue repair and muscle maintenance. It’s very easy to lose sight of your fitness goals, progress thus far and the portions you consume. Vishwa Bharat advises carrying whey protein along with you whenever and wherever you travel, so that your protein requirement is duly fulfilled. Protein-rich foods keep you fuller and satiated for longer hours as they are slow-digesting, which is a good thing so you do not give in to needless snacking and overeating. Dr Sneha suggests you include a protein component in every meal of the day, in the form of eggs, pulses, legumes or meat – great way to ensure a balanced meal too!

6. Moderation & mindfulness

Vishwa Bharat Reddy's tips on eating healthier when traveling
Vishwa Bharat Reddy’s tips on eating healthier when traveling

This one’s a deal-breaker, folks! Many a time we go overboard when dine out whilst travelling, which could easily be blamed at excitement – it’s understandable that you won’t be paying as much attention to ‘what’ and ‘how much’ you eat while other things take priority while travel. “Have fun; just don’t go overboard while at it”, says Dr Sneha. Eating mindfully and in moderation ensures that you enjoy all that a new place has to offer, while not upsetting your fitness goals and your macronutrient goals for the day.

7. Explore Local Cuisine for Healthy Eating Options

A girl sitting surrounded by Jordanian food spread by the streetside, emphasizing on eating healthy while travelling.
It’s no secret that food does make my world go round. But I take time to find at least 2 meal options from the local cuisine which are healthy and wholesome. Jordanian food spread – hummus, falafel, pita and veggies at the legendary Hashem’s in Downtown Amman, Jordan

What about those like me, who dream about the various foods and cuisines they could dive headfirst into, when it comes to travel 😛 ? In all my travel experience, every place, country and culture offers several healthy options to choose from – nourishing food that the locals have eaten for generations whether to celebrate everyday or special occasions, or even to mourn or heal from illnesses. What better way to make the most of your travels than to interact with locals, get to know more about the people and culture than through the medium of local food? Eating local foods – albeit made in responsible manner – can enrich your experience and keep you fit and happy at the same time.

8. Alcohol in Limits

A picture of fresh toddy cocktail and fresh coconuts in Sri Lanka
Try out new options, have fun, but in moderation! Fresh Toddy cocktail,
Toddy by Hoppa, Unawatuna, Srilanka

Contrary to popular belief, alcohol isn’t really detrimental to your fitness goals if had in moderation and if not insanely laden with sugar syrup. While this demands a discussion worth an entirely new post, Vishwa Bharat shares his insight with us. “If you happen to booze, limit your quantity and choose low calorie alcoholic drinks such as vodka or whisky, preferably with sugar-free mixing, if any.” Disclaimer – this doesn’t mean you start shooting up tequilas on a wild spree; this is just meant to inspire you to hold yourself accountable and not guilty when you drink in moderation.

9. Stay Active, Stay Sharp

resistance bands laid down neatly on white background
I never travel without my resistance bands. They help me squeeze in a great workout even in a hotel room, especially when I can’t hit the gym or have a busy schedule ahead.

This one cannot be stressed upon enough – the more active you are, the leaner and fitter you tend to get. Our bodies were never meant to remain slouched over the laptop or to be a potato couch for a long time anyway (thank you, Science!). So the more you walk/ run/ jump/ leap/ cycle while travelling, the healthier and fitter you tend to be. How exactly is this related to eating healthy while travelling? Easy – simple science tells us that basic fat loss happens while you’re in calorie deficit, i.e. when Calories In < Calories Out. This means that you can ensure you burn way more calories than you consume, by remaining active and tracking them both.

Dr Sneha has an interesting tip: “Rent a bicycle for shorter/ within the city commutes instead of hiring a cab or auto”, she says. Vishwa Bharat stresses a lot over this in his stories if you do follow him on his Instagram or FB account – “Try to be as active as possible by keeping a step count target for the day in short NEAT or Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis levels”.

Eating Healthy While Travelling: Carry Your Travel Workout Equipment

This was about the calorie expenditure on the side, but what about the primary method of achieving that, aka via exercise? You’re travelling, so you can’t hit the gym or workout, right? Wrong! There are several ways to work out even while you’re travelling and can’t access the weight rack at the gym. I always carry resistance bands along whenever I travel – they’re excellent for a short but spirited workout. Dr Sneha & Vishwa Bharat strongly advise carrying them too, but agree that bands are not the only means – you can carry skipping ropes or just do bodyweight exercises like squats and push-ups too. If your hotel has a gymnasium, you can benefit immensely from even a 15-minute session. It is crucial that you include some sort of workout without fail to be able to stay on track with your fitness goals.

That’s it, folks! Remember these helpful tips when you travel and you’ll find managing to eat healthy to be surprisingly easy. What do you think about them? Let me know in the comments!

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