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A Foodies Guide To Traveling Healthily

Traveling Healthy | Expat Magazine ParisThe sixth issue of the Expatriates magazine is now out. I have the pleasure of being a contributing writer and their nutrition in Paris expert; and I’m sharing my latest article with you here:

Early one morning, around 10 years ago, I found myself lugging my backpack through a small town in north-east Italy, tired, hungry, and in an awfully grey mood. I’d only been in Italy a few days, but after multiple meals of hand rolled pasta, delicate risotto, full bodied wine and creamy gelato, my body was completely worn out from the onslaughtof refined carbs, sugar and a serious lack of all those nutrient dense foods that usually bring so much energy.

Being a nutrition lecturer and practitioner I was growing more and more frustrated with myself; I should know better than this! Then one day I had one of those cartoon-like light bulb moments when something incredibly important hits you right between the eyes. Like so many of my clients, I had two competing passions. One was a deep desire to experience all the amazing foods and flavours of the world; and the other, to take really good care of my body, my health and – dare I say, my mind. I had to find a way to unite the two, even while on holiday.

This moment of insight led me to ultimately develop a number of strategies that allow my clients and I to travel with a wonderful sense of culinary freedom that won’t compromise our health.

The key is to identify one or two essential daily healthy habits that keep your energy batteries charged and allow you to experience the local food and lifestyle without going overboard. Here are two of my essential travel habits that make the biggest positive impact:

  1. Power up each day with a good breakfast. To fully enjoy the travel experience, you need energy, and a lot of it. Planning ahead to ensure you eat a nutrient-dense breakfast each day is a simple way to fuel you with energy and keep your appetite stable. That’s why I love staying in self-catered apartments - AirB&B is great for this. I can stop at a supermarket when I arrive, stock up on essential breakfast ingredients like oats, nuts, almond milk, eggs etc and have access to a fridge, bowls, spoons, and mugs. It also gives me the choice to cook up the occasional meal of veggies, lean meat and legumes if my body craves a chilled evening to recuperate from all the fun. If I happen to be staying in a hotel or B&B where breakfast is included, I always do a little research on the local breakfast customs before I go because more often than not, they will serve up something similar. Some countries, like the UK, Ireland and Australia are easy as they are generally happy to serve poached eggs, wholegrain toast, sautéed spinach, mushrooms or oatmeal. In South East Asia, one of my personal favourites is the traditional breakfast of meat or fish curry with vegetables, rice and egg. On the other hand, in many European countries and parts of the US and Latin America, the most common offerings are sweet pastries, white breads and sugary fruit preserves which will have your metabolism and energy systems drained well before lunch time. In these cases, I organise my own breakfast by buying some natural muesli, fresh fruit and natural yogurt from the supermarket and keeping any perishables either in the room bar-fridge, or in the fridge of the hotel restaurant.
  2. Share your indulgences, and balance them with food that makes you feel great. There are few better ways to strengthen relationships than to share good food. I’ll often order one indulgent dish I can’t wait to try, couple it with a healthier protein-based main and a few vegetable sides, put the whole lot in the centre of the table and dig in. Here’s how it might look: in Rome, order a creamy, cheese-filled spaghetti cacio e pepe along with chicken and peppers and a side of sautéed seasonal green vegetables. In Columbia, get those fried plantains or an Arepa, then couple that with rice and beans or a beef dish and a big salad with avocado. In Indonesia,order the fried rice dish, nasi gorang alongside a fish curry and steamed Asian greens. Maximum enjoyment, maximum culinary experience, minimum negative impact.

Finding those essential habits that keep your body functioning at its peak while away is really a personal thing you’ll need to experiment with. But go easy on yourself. Remember travel is a time to relax, let loose a little and have fun, not to impose outrageous and restrictive rules on yourself (that goes for life in general!).

With time and persistence, you will find the perfect balance of strategies that’ll keep you feeling fabulous while enriching your travel experience at the same time.

Do you have any little strategies that help to keep you healthy while away? Share them in the comments below.

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Melanie Stephens, Optimum Nutrition in Paris

I’m Melanie Stephens a qualified nutritionist, chef and workout enthusiast who’s wildly passionate about helping people get healthy, lean and energised so they can lead truly exceptional lives of their own design.

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