Here's how you can truly enjoy every bite you take on your days off!
You know that feeling when you’re traveling, out of your routine, and your digestion is all over the place? Yup, me too. I do my fair share of traveling, so I know it's no fun feeling sluggish, bloated, or backed up. Or worse, getting sick on vacation!
And don't get me wrong, enjoying food is definitely part of travel, so don't sweat it if you can't eat perfectly, and don’t feel like you can ONLY eat healthy food (hint: you never have to do that). But a little bit of planning does help me feel my best, and that makes my trips way more enjoyable too. So I do make an effort and choose what supports my physical and mental health, which for me means a happy, satisfied, and well running belly.
If travel for you is a time that you binge on all the things you “can’t” eat, or if you find yourself constantly eating to over-fullness only to go home and “detox,” it might be worth considering your overall relationship with food. Of course there’s enjoying yummy food while traveling, and craving more fruit and veggies if you don't get enough, but it's a whole different thing if you have to restrict and punish yourself when you get home. Nothing like food guilt and stress to ruin your travel memories! Yup, I've been there too, and it really doesn't have to be that way, because that’s not healthy either.
With summer around the corner, here are my best tips that I pack with me on my adventures:
Always bring travel snacks - Especially if I have a flight or a long drive, I’m notorious for always having food on me. I hate getting stuck somewhere hungry and thirsty, so I’ll always bring something healthy to keep me feeling good. Usually a tuna or peanut butter sandwich, some nuts, roasted edamame, fruit, or some granola bars are easy. A bag of chips is not my favorite thing to eat when I’m really hungry, so I need options. And I always remember my water bottle too!
Eat fruits and veggies when you can - I do my best to eat fruit and veg because I know I feel crummy when I don’t get enough from their vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Eating veggies for me is a joy and not torture, so that’s part of why I prioritize it too! Breakfast is usually easy for fruit, or I’ll check out which restaurants have some options for veggies and get a side of something. If I know I’m going for a fancy dinner with no veggie choices, I'll try to get some earlier in the day, then not worry about it over dinner. Or I carry fruit around as a snack, or find a place to get smoothies without added sugar or syrup.
Too much fiber is a thing too - Watch out for big amounts of fiber if you’re not used to it. You might feel like you’re doing something good eating big amounts of raw broccoli or lots of beans since they are “healthy” foods. But too much can still leave you feeling bloated and gassy! You want to add these in slowly over time so your body adjusts.
Mind your high salt, sugar, and fat meals - Traveling probably means you’ll be eating mainly at restaurants, and restaurants are usually in the business of making food taste good. It's no surprise that the way to make food taste good is by adding lots of salt, sugar, and fat to carry the flavor. So keep that in mind when ordering, especially when something is “crispy” or “creamy,” if you’re trying to avoid that groggy, greasy, heavy feeling after a meal. It’s also often possible to get unsweetened versions of drinks you like.
Notice portions and keep a regular eating schedule - Portion sizes can also be really large depending on where you are. Restaurant portions are random and don’t tell you about how much you really need to eat, so adjust how much you order and don't feel like you have to force feed yourself just to not waste food. Maybe you can take leftovers for later, but eating to over-fullness doesn’t really make the situation better either. And be mindful of your usual eating schedule too, so you don't arrive to a dinner starving after skipping your usual afternoon snack, and feel like you have to gorge yourself to feel satisfied.
Dehydration will ruin your vacation - Someone recently told me this and it’s sticking with me! Especially if you're outdoors, if it’s hot or dry, or if you’re walking or swimming a lot, you want to be sure to drink enough water. You need to replace what you lose, even if you don't feel yourself sweating. You might also be extra thirsty from very salty meals, or from drinking alcohol.
Mind your alcohol intake - We’re finding out that the best amount of alcohol is none, so be mindful when you do drink, and remember to drink water as well. Alcohol can also mess with your gut bacteria, irritate your stomach lining, slow digestion, and deplete your electrolytes, so it's pretty common to be bloated and puffy after, or have an upset stomach. Add in some carbonation, and it can really be a mess!
Sleep enough and stay moving - Sleep and movement are pretty crucial for keeping your stress hormone levels low, which can sometimes contribute to an unhappy stomach situation. Ever notice that lacking sleep makes you bloated? That’s not just in your head! And movement also keeps your digestive system regular.
Notice other bloating foods - There’s a lot of individual variation here, but spicy meals, carbonated drinks, dairy, and artificial sweeteners can all mess with your gut and make you feel wonky. Acid reflux is also something to watch out for with these foods when eating out of your normal routine. Know your triggers!
Your body needs nutrients to detox - Yes, I know that rumors often swirl about juice, broth, or water fasts, but the fact is your body is able to detox itself with your liver, kidneys, and whole digestive system, and needs fiber to keep things moving if you do get bloated or gassy. So you can definitely eat the day after if you overdo it, especially if you are hungry! Choose some fruit, veggies, whole grains, and water!
If you mess up, you can always try some natural remedies: ginger, peppermint, chamomile tea can all soothe a funky stomach. Pack some of these in your travel bag to have on hand. Or if you get backed up, a boost with a fiber supplement can help keep things moving and keep you comfortable. And if you’re prone to acid reflux, carry your medication or over-the-counter antacids for mild cases. It happens to the best of us, so don’t let some bad belly problems ruin your trip, happy travels!
Chella Po, MS, RD is a New York City-trained US registered dietitian who can be found on Instagram as @betterbeing.ph. She uses science to back up her professional advice for clients seeking to create a sustainable, healthy diet without counting calories, restrictive plans, or stress! Contact her for a free discovery call today.