Traveling can open you up to new experiences and cultures, but the changes in routine and diet can also take a toll on your body. We spoke with certified health coach Natalie Drugan to find out how to stay healthy and nourished in the air and on the road.
Before you fly, fortify
“The best way for travelers to stay safe and avoid foodborne illnesses is to prepare for your travels in advance,” says Drugan. She recommends building up your immune system before a trip by getting plenty of rest and fueling up with nourishing foods. “Dark leafy greens, such as kale and spinach, are one of the best foods to help fight illness. I'm a big fan of green shakes. Just throw in some frozen bananas, dark leafy kale or spinach, frozen berries and coconut water into a blender, and instantly, you have a germ-fighting shake.”
Pack your snacks
When faced with an airport’s vast selection of chips, candy, fried foods and soft drinks, the best way to ensure healthy eating is to pack it yourself. “Bring snacks from home that do not require immediate refrigeration and will keep you nourished and satisfied during your travels,” says Drugan. She suggests whole fruits such as apples, bananas and pears; filling snacks such as mixed nuts, trail mix and food bars; and even mini meals such as an almond butter sandwich. If you’re limited to the airport options, consider all your choices before buying. “Rather than heading straight to the fast-food burger line, keep walking and head to a sandwich shop or deli that at least offers fresher, non-fried food.”
Water, water, water
Airplane cabins are notoriously dry – with humidity levels as low as 3% -- which can quickly dry passengers out. “Dehydration can make your travel experiences less than desirable, causing headaches, dizziness, fatigue, dry skin and eyes, and constipation,” says Drugan. She recommends drinking plenty of fluids before and after your trip, not just during it, to keep your body constantly hydrated. Additionally, avoid sugary soft drinks, caffeinated coffee and alcohol, which can worsen dehydration and symptoms of jet lag. Instead, says Drugan, “Fill up on fluids such as filtered water and coconut water -- a great source of electrolytes. Try to sip these nourishing fluids throughout your flight when risks for dehydration are at their highest.”
Fend off the barf bag
If you’re prone to motion sickness, avoid foods that worsen symptoms, such as alcohol, caffeine and fatty foods. Drugan recommends ginger to settle an upset stomach: “Sip on some ginger tea, sprinkle ginger on your food, or suck on crystallized ginger to knock out nausea.”
Follow the locals’ lead
Long lines at a restaurant are worth enduring, since they’re a good indicator of both local endorsement and fresher food due to turnover. “Strive to eat at places that have a clean, inviting appearance where you can feel confident in their food preparation,” says Drugan. “When possible, I would also avoid communal eating spots like buffets, where numerous people are exposed to the same food.”
Recognize when to refrain
Drugan’s rule of thumb is: When it doubt, throw it out! “Avoid undercooked food or foods that have a suspicious smell or look to them,” she warns. Only eat foods that are served at their proper temperature. For water, choose sealed, tamper-proof bottles from a brand you recognize or locals recommend. Use the same water when brushing your teeth, and skip the ice cubes in your beachside cocktail.
Most importantly, don’t let fear of the food-borne keep you from experiencing a different country’s culinary delights. Food is an inseparable part of a nation’s culture.