In preparation for this week’s #healthytravel Twitter chat, which we are cohosting with Yahoo! Travel, US. News Travel, and a few others, we got to thinking about how we travel healthy while stuffing ourselves silly—er, we mean, indulging in local delicacies in moderation. And here’s what we came up with.
Are you the type of person who travels in the moment, suspending all diet/exercise goals to eat and drink everything you can get your hands on?
Is your desire to taste the cuisine of a new city greater than your desire to have a salad every day?
Does “healthy travel” sound unexciting or, I don’t know, too healthy for you?
Well, it’s nice to meet you. We’ll get along great.
We eat a lot. We research and scope out and taste every local/traditional/quintessential dish and drink—there are always many drinks—we can in every place we travel to, which has meant some pretty unhealthy eating. Lots of fried or buttery foods in New Orleans, tons of foie gras and cheese in Montreal, appeltaart for breakfast and late-night krokets in Amsterdam. It’s a part of the job, and we’re always up for the task.
But. Yes, there’s a but, because although we enjoy food tremendously, we’re not crazy gluttons. We like taking care of ourselves (and one of us enjoys her skinny jeans and bikinis, thank you very much). Exercise has been a part of each of our lives since before we were teenagers, and we happen to love kale and carrots and Brussels sprouts.
So how do we keep healthy and satiated when we travel?
Roast pork knuckle in Prague: Don't eat this every day!
Moderation is key.
You’ve heard this one a million times, but it’s true—if you’re chowing down on Nashville hot chicken or Prague’s koleno every other day, you will not be a healthy person. But if you do it just once (OK, or twice) in the course of your trip there, no harm done. Enjoy it. (This applies to everyday life too, of course.) Also: It helps to have a person to split things with, so you are not alone facing that giant parrillada/fried calzone/bag of doughboys.
Another no-brainer for many travelers, and one that comes perfectly natural to us, as car-less New Yorkers. We actually take this one to the extreme sometimes, having found ourselves on the side of a highway in Dakar or Oaxaca realizing our simple plan to hoof it was way too ambitious. (Another piece of stay-healthy advice: Always carry water and sunscreen!)
Markets are your friend.
Make room for fruits and vegetables.
When we’re on the clock, we have to eat a lot of different dishes, and we usually have to squeeze them into not a lot of time. It’s great, of course, when fruits and veggies figure prominently into a city’s cuisine, as they do in Istanbul, but that’s not always the case. So it’s still important to us to get some color into what we eat on a daily basis—local fruit from the market, fresh-squeezed local juice, a salad as part of our meal. Along the same lines, we drink a lot of water every day, and not much else until, admittedly, happy hour rolls around (in which case we continue to drink lots of water for hydration). And although their effectiveness is currently being debated, multivitamins figure into our day as well—yogurt, too, when available, as it makes a nice breakfast with fruit and offers all that good-for-your-gut bacteria.
Exercise if you can.
It’s not always possible, but besides walking, we often take just a little time to do some squats or crunches or push-ups…not in any organized workout form, but just to feel like we’re using muscles other than those in our mouth! If it’s a longer trip, however, I will make it into a quickie 15- or 20-minute workout, doing something like these hotel-room exercises I’ve written about in the past. And it goes without saying, but: Always take the stairs.
Be smart about hygiene.
Keeping healthy while traveling extends past diet and exercise—who wants to spend half of their trip doubled over in bed with food poisoning (or worse)? While we encourage everyone to try as many local dishes and drinks as possible, use common sense about it, especially in developing countries. Be wary of tap water, including ice, unless you’re sure it’s safe to drink; same goes for raw, unpeeled fruits and vegetables. Choose established venues, or eat where lots of locals are eating—particularly women and children. Always wash your hands before eating; carrying hand sanitizer or your own utensils is a good idea in some countries. And before you travel, check that your vaccinations are up-to-date.
Got tips for traveling healthy? Tell us below and join us (@eat_your_world) for the #healthytravel Twitter chat this Thursday, February 6, at 2pm EST.