When I recently went to London on work experience I realised just how hard it can be to remain
vaguely healthy when travelling- both for business and for pleasure. Two days of my time in London involved travelling down the motorway, and stopping at the services in order to obtain food. Service stations (in case you live under a rock) are magical places where virtually no healthy foods are available- but you can purchase a Burger King for the same cost as small animal surgery. After this time I would be living in a Premier Inn hotel room, where other than a kettle I would have no cooking facilities.
Being away for a week where you are just going to be doing more than just chilling out means healthy food is still of the upmost importance. Because it’s integral in having a brain that functions at optimum capacity. Being away and having to eat out each day is different to having the odd meal out where you can really indulge; if I did this every night for a week then I knew I would end my time in London feeling pretty sick.
Over my week, where a lot of walking was involved, I actually lost 1lb. Eating out every day. Weight loss wasn’t my goal, I was eating loads, and I shall definitely be wanting that 1lb back thank you very much, but it just goes to show it can happen sometimes. It’s about eating more of the healthy stuff, and not just surviving off of smaller amounts of the crappy stuff.
So, here are my tips on staying healthy when travelling/ being on holiday for an extended period of time, for when you want to stay in shape but the usual home comforts aren’t available. To make it easier I have divided my tips in to sections for each meal, snacks, working out, and then some general tips…
First and most important meal of the day, so lets make it a good one…
- The breakfasts in hotels can often consist of a fry up, some sugary cereal, or danishes. They are also very expensive. To save some money I went and found out where porridge pots you simply add boiling water to were on offer, and bought enough for one week. I checked out which brand had the least added sugar and chemicals, and opted for that one. If in doubt, look for the brand that has the fewest non-oat ingredients. I then packed peanut butter, cinnamon, some apples, and bananas. This meant I could have porridge each morning.
- When you get to where you are staying buy some fruit. I brought apples and bananas, and then purchased some berries. Although we didn’t have a fridge I brought a cool bag and stored them in there. Our hotel had no air con, it was 36*c, and they lasted okay. So give it a go.
- Alternatively, you can make some breakfast bars and bring them along in a tub.
- If you have some spare cash and do want to head to the breakfast buffet then consider one of these options: Scrambled/poached/boiled eggs with toast, and tomatoes, or mushrooms, or both; fruit salad with yoghurt and some cereal; porridge (most places don’t seem to make this); omelettes; cereals low in sugar such as wheetabix, branflakes, and shreddies with some milk; two eggs cooked in one of the above ways, tomatoes, mushrooms, a piece of toast (NOT fried bread), and a sausage, or some bacon I you’re feeling the full English vibe.
- Buy a salad bowl and then head to the deli counter, or area where there are chunks of chicken, fish, boiled eggs, olives, cheese, mixed nuts and seeds pots, or other veggie alternatives ready to eat. Pick up on of these (check the serving size first; I wouldn’t eat a whole packet of chicken with 12 pieces of meat inside, but a packet of prawns can come in one serving sized portions. Even when prawns come in two serving portions if this isn’t too high saturated fat/sugar/salt, I would probably buy them anyway). Finally pick up an individual pot of salad dressing if available/ desired. I made my lunch up this way at M&S, and their soy and ginger dressing was amazing. If you need something fast then most shops also have pre-prepared salads. These are also great, but try to avoid the ones where the nutritional values are all in red, and opt for those which have some protein, carbohydrates, veggies, and are naturally packed with colour. It worked out cheaper (I realised at the end of the week) to assemble my own salad using the above method though.
- Bring, or buy, some pieces of fruit for after, and maybe some yoghurt if you like. You can pick up pots of unsweetened Greek yoghurt from M&S for about 50p, or even pots of Total at most supermarkets.
- Buy, or carry around, a bottle of water. Avoid the additive packed soft drinks, creamy blended drinks, and the supposedly fruity blended drinks ( more often than not they add the fruit flavour with syrups. Not real fruit.)
- You can create a salad in the way described above, but if this is your main meal add in a bread roll, or up the portion size slightly.
- Buy salads at restaurants! People think salads are boring, but they can be amazing. They aren’t just limp lettuce leaves, carrot shavings and half of a tomato. Check out this beautiful salad I had at Nandos:
And you can add chicken, some more avocado, or halloumi to make it more of a filling meal. I love salads with fish. (Side note: watch out for salad bars where you fill it with pre-prepared dishes. These may look healthy, but can be dripping in oil. As I found out at WholeFoods)
- Try to think about what you would have at home, at least most nights you eat out. Would you eat burgers and chips three nights in a row, followed up by dessert every night, at home? Probably not. So don’t do it here. Have a couple of nights to indulge and really order something you want, but draw the line here. Doing this you’ll enjoy what you have more because you’re likely to savour it, and choose something you really want.
- Have “safe” eating places, where you know you can purchase healthy options, and try to plan where you will eat in advance. Then you can look at the menu beforehand. We found a lovely Indian restaurant called Potli, where I knew I could get a wholesome vegetable curry, some steamed rice in place of fried, and a big salad. Another one is good old Nandos with their salads, or even a piece of chicken, one vegetable/ salad side, and one carbohydrate rich side such as the mash, pitta, a bread roll, or sweet potato wedges (the latter are my favourite)- avoid the chips if you are trying to be healthier.
- Bring snack bars you know and trust, or homemade ones; I brought Nakd, and Meridian bars.
- Bring a tub to store fruit in for throughout the day.
- Avoid having unhealthy treats every day. Would you eat brownies every day at home? No, of course not. So don’t here. (I’m not saying don’t enjoy yourself though- go get yourself a lovely slice of cake if you want it, but just not every single day. Enjoy the cake you do have!)
- This is tough when away. I was fortunate enough to be travelling by car, and so brought some light dumbbells, and a Pilates mat. If you can do this, it’s a great idea…
- But it isn’t always practical. Take a look on YouTube, Pinterest, or in magazines for bodyweight workouts, so you don’t have to bring weights. There are some great specifically “hotel room” workout options out there.
- Walk. Everywhere you can walk, do it.
- If you love running take some trainers and go for a run- only if you are confident that you won’t get lost, and that the area you are in is safe.
- Put a plastic knife, fork, and spoon into your handbag each day. If you have these to hand then you’re more likely to pick up a fruit salad than a cookie you can just eat with your hands. They’re a lifesaver when you forget to pick up cutlery in a shop like Pret, which I did.
- Eat meal is a new opportunity: don’t think that because you had an unhealthy lunch you cant have a healthy tea.
- Bring tea bags with you. If you’re British I don’t even need to explain this one.
- Check nutritional values, but don’t obsess: look out for all green traffic lights if possible. If they aren’t given this may help: 22.5g sugar per 100g is a high amount, 5g per 100g or below is a low amount; you need 6g of salt per day max, so a low amount of salt is 0.3g per 100g and under, and a high amount 1.5g per 100g and over; less than 1.5g saturated fat per 100g is low, and above 5g of saturated fat per 100g is high. These are the things I look out for when choosing pre-packaged foods. I got these values from my GCE Food Tech notes, and they originally came from the NHS site.
- Check ingredients lists: the more chemical ingredients, the less you want to eat it. Ingredients are also given in order of highest amount in the product, to lowest amounts. So if sugar or salt is the first ingredient it is present in high amounts, and should generally be avoided.
- Choose foods you absolutely LOVE when treating yourself, and…
- Don’t forget to have fun!