Balancing healthy eating habits while on the road can be tricky. From a scarcity of fresh fruit and vegetables to eating at unaccustomed hours, the food you consume while traveling can sometimes make you feel worse than before you set off. Enter Yasmin Khan, a cook, traveler, yogi, award-winning writer, and author of the best-selling cookbook The Saffron Tales: Recipes from the Persian Kitchen. Here she shares her top tips for hungry travelers.
1. Eat light before your flight
Air travel can wreak havoc on your digestive system. If you eat lightly before flying, your body won’t be overloaded before take-off. I avoid eating meat and dairy the day before I travel and instead opt for vegetable soups or lightly spiced dahls with rice.
2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Flying can be very dehydrating, which in turn can make you feel tired and sluggish. To stay hydrated, bring a large water bottle with you—you can empty it when going through security. Take advantage of water stations in the airports and ask flight attendants to refill it on board.
3. Avoid plane food
Plane food tends to be heavily processed, salty, and sugary, so make your own meal to eat on the plane or eat at the airport where there are healthier food choices. I often make a sandwich (toasting the bread first so it doesn’t go soggy!) and bring hard-boiled eggs with me.
4. Eat when you land
Having a grounding meal when you arrive is one the best ways to beat jet lag. So eat some root vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, and beets, and complex carbohydrates, such as rice or pasta, which will have a calming effect on your nervous system and help you sleep better.
5. Pack healthy snacks
Travel with a selection of protein and nutrient-dense foods such as nuts and energy bars, and stop at a grocery store when you arrive to stock up on firm fresh fruits that won’t get crushed in your bag such as apples or small, easy-to-peel citrus. Carry these with you so you aren’t tempted to reach for junk food when you are hungry.
6. Take care of your tummy
Your digestive system can go haywire when traveling, so pack probiotic supplements and some peppermint and ginger teas to keep your gut happy.
7. Stay somewhere you can cook
Cooking for yourself makes such a difference to how you feel, so when possible, book a place to stay with a small kitchen and commit to eating at least one meal a day that you have prepared. I always carry a few choice spices with me—cinnamon, za’atar, and chili flakes—so I can whip up a delicious meal with local ingredients. Alternatively, pick a hotel room with a fridge to store your own snacks.
8. Go green
Getting your daily quota of veggies can be challenging as the places you visit may not have a variety of vegetables on the menu. So bring along a powdered green supplement such as Macro Greens that you can buy in small packets and mix it into water, smoothies, or oatmeal.
9. Treat yourself
If you’re going to have a calorie-indulgent meal or sweet treat, have it at lunchtime so you can walk it off after. Heavy meals eaten late at night can be hard to digest and also interfere with your sleep. This is easy to do in many European countries, such as Spain, Portugal, France, and Italy, where lunch is often the main meal of the day—and it is also when you’ll get the best deals, as restaurants often serve prix fixe lunchtime specials.
10. Only eat when you are hungry
It may sound simple, but this is a game changer. Many of us can’t distinguish hunger from restlessness or just feeling like it’s the time for eating, so we should. Only eat when you have genuine hunger pangs and your body will thank you. Additionally, don’t feel the need to finish everything you order. I always want to try lots of new dishes when I travel so I eat slowly, giving my body time to digest. I don’t finish plates once I’m full, and I take leftovers with me. I can either eat it later or give it to the homeless, so it doesn’t go to waste.