Staying in shape and eating healthy while traveling is NOT easy to do without first setting up a routine and a plan. Left to our own devices, we commonly want to eat every funnel cake in sight and lounge by the pool downing half a dozen pina coladas – no, just me? Jokes aside, once I learned a few tips and tricks, staying fit while traveling around the world became a lot easier.
I’ll be totally transparent here: I don’t always practise what I preach. I struggle with cheat meals, over-indulging and vacation induced sloth-mode just like anyone else. My weight has gone up and down, as have my good and bad eating habits. Being on the road all the time and learning to balance everything has been a process, but I’m getting better at it every day.
The MOST important tip I've learned is this:
It doesn’t matter how much you weigh, it matters how you FEEL inside. Staying healthy and fit while traveling isn’t all about jean size. It’s more about how much energy I have, my daily outlook, and how I feel in my own body. It’s not all about calories, diets and extreme workouts, but instead, setting myself up for balanced health and happiness as I travel the world.
Let’s jump into one of my favorite topics… FOOD!
Like I mentioned before, these tips aren’t about ‘how to eat less’ or ‘this diet fad will keep you skinny on vacation’. It’s about making healthy choices above anything else.
How to Eat Healthy While Traveling
1. Add ½ a plate of veggies, no matter what you ordered
No matter what you order, whether it’s a giant steak or a healthier lentil salad, order ½ plate of veggies to go on the side. Almost every restaurant will already have veggies listed on their side-menu or can whip them up with stock from the kitchen. This is a great food hack for two reasons. One – you will eat less of your naughty meal if you are filling up on veggies. Two– you will get more greens into your day, which have essential vitamins and minerals your body really craves.
2. Request Special Meals and Orders
Get a little high maintenance with your orders. Yes, you might get an eye roll or two, but it’s your body and you’re absolutely worth it! Plus, you'll likely be spending a pretty penny at some of these restaurants and there is nothing wrong with getting your moneys worth. Obviously you shouldn't ask for them to straight up invent you a new dish, but altering their signature dishes is completely acceptable.
You can ask for things like:
Half the pasta, hold the bun, open faced, ½ order of full entrée, poached or steamed instead of fried, sauce on the side, cheese on the side, hold the croutons, no yolks, etc.
3. Bring Your Own Snacks
BYOSnacks. Always! You’ll find me with a protein bar, dried fruit, or a bag of nuts in my bag at all times. I know very well that if I get hungry while I am traveling, I will immediately make awful decisions. Without a healthy snack on my person, I will talk myself into buying deep fried ice-cream or a plate full of onion rings.
- Bring healthy snacks (or even full meals!) onto airplanes so you don’t have to rely on what the airline is serving
- Have a stash of protein bars in your luggage for easy hotel room snacks. (I personally like Kind, RX, Quest, Beachbar, and F-factor)
- Bring a small snack of nuts or fruit in your purse or backpack on a busy day of touring
4. Research Healthy Restaurants Ahead Of Time
Planning ahead is always a huge help when it comes to eating clean while traveling. Before you even get on the plane, look up some healthy restaurants in the area where you will be staying. You can find them on Yelp, Trip Advisor, Facebook Groups, Happy Cow or even Google. Use Google to search terms like “Best Vegan Restaurants in Amsterdam” or “Healthy Restaurants in Vancouver”.
Make a list in your phone on the best places to get a healthy meal and use that as a reference when you get hungry. You’ll also find some really great hangouts and eateries this way!
5. Stop By The Grocery Store
If I am staying somewhere for longer than 48 hours, I always swing by a local grocery store or market to stock up. It can be as simple as grabbing some yogurt and fruit, or as complex as getting a few weeks work of groceries. Either way, I want to have access to some familiar foods that I know are good choices.
If I leave it all up to the room service menu, I’m in for some trouble. (not to mention how much more expensive it will be!)
6. Learn About Common Local Ingredients
If you are travelling somewhere long-term and will be grocery shopping/cooking, find out what the most common ingredients are in that area. This way you are not planning to cook recipes with ingredients that are impossible to find in that country.
Research a few common dishes, ingredients and recipes that you’ll know you can prepare yourself. This will take the pressure off when visiting the grocery store and make cooking new dishes a little more familiar. Remember, the easier the better!
7. Don't Get Lost In The “But I'm On Vacation” Trap
It’s really easy to say “I shouldn’t have my 5th dessert of the day… but what the heck… I’m on vacation!!” Getting lost in this mindset is really fun, except when you are on day 10 of the trip and nothing fits any longer, your skins breaking out, and you feel like crap!
It’s one thing to have fun, but it’s a whole other animal to treat your body like an amusement park 24/7. Your body probably won’t be used to all the rich treats and will very likely rebel against you.
8. Get Into Healthy Eating Habits BEFORE You Travel
This is a tip I’ve only recently learned. I used to think I could just arm myself with a great healthy eating plan for my trip, but the real work starts BEFORE I leave. Once I started forming a habit of healthy eating before I travelled, I actually wanted to keep the good times rolling once I was on the road. I would subconsciously make healthier choices, even when temptation set in, because I was so used to doing so already.
9. Stay Hydrated
Most of the time when people think they are hungry, they’re actually just really thirsty! Drink as much water as you can, especially during busy travel days filled with super dehydrating flights.
Water is so key and I hold it as a top priority when I’m travelling. I drink it any chance I get to keep headaches at bay, keep me energized and focused, hydrated and full, and just all around healthy! My husband got us some cute collapse-able water bottles so we always have one to fill up, wherever we go.
Staying hydrated will also help you ward off colds, especially on airplanes!
10. Remember ALL The Food Groups
This funny thing tends to happen when I travel… I only remember the carbohydrate food group exists! It’s really all I tend to see when I look around me. Pizza, pasta, croissants, bagels, donuts, cookies, chips, muffins, noodles, etc.
Carbs are the easiest things to grab and the easiest things to shove into a purse, plus it’s what you see in the windows of every shop.
Don’t forget about the other food groups. You should be eating them too, not just all the delicious carbs!
11. Go Easy On The Booze
Not only does alcohol have a lot of empty calories, it can also make you feel terrible the next day, or even worse, not remember your night at all! If your whole trip is a booze-fest, your going to need a vacation from your vacation.
Have a glass or two of resveratrol-filled red wine, but perhaps leave the tequila shots back in college where they belong.
12. Follow The 80/20 Rule
When I’m in a new country all I want to do is eat delicious food and desserts, and I still do, just not every single meal. I try and follow the 80/20 rule when it comes to indulging, especially with treats, to ensure I am not overdoing it.
The 80/20 rule means 80% of the time I am eating generally clean, while the other 20% of the time I am indulging in whatever yummy treat I desire. Expecting to always eat perfectly when traveling is not reality.
Now into the less popular, but just as important, topic of staying healthy… FITNESS. Staying ‘in shape’ or ‘fit’ while traveling is going to look different to everybody. We are all built differently, have different goals and ideals for ourselves, and have different interest levels in fitness. These tips are good reminders and guidelines no matter what your fitness level happens to be. They revolve around staying active, having fun and forming small, easy habits that are beneficial over time.
How to Stay In Shape & Fit While Traveling
13. Get Your Steps In
Humans were designed to walk, so get out there and cover some serious ground! The best way to see a new city is on foot, walking through neighborhoods and discovering everything around you firsthand. The best part about walking around a new destination is it doesn’t even feel like exercise. I have easily clocked in 16,000 steps without even realizing it!
Just a tip: If you are going to walk far from your hotel, just make sure you have offline access to a map or some way to navigate back again.
14. Do Mini Hotel Room Workouts
We all know a few basic workout moves that can be done in small spaces, without any sort of equipment. While you are watching TV, waiting for room service, or even packing your suitcase, try fitting in some of these mini workout moves:
Sit-ups, squats, lunges, push-ups, yoga salutations, jumping jacks, leg lifts… there are hundreds of possibilities! Even doing some stretches before bed after a long day of touring will really help your body relax.
15. Stream Workout Videos
If you need more guidance and what kind of workouts to do in your hotel room, try streaming a workout video that you can follow along with. There are dozens of good steaming services and apps that will show you exactly what to do. Some popular ones are Pvolve, Beachbody on Demand, Pure Barre, Body Love App and Kayla Itsines Sweat App.
Most of the workouts can be done in small spaces with little or no equipment, making them perfect for a frequent traveler.
16. Use The Hotel Gym (When You Can)
Some people prefer to workout in the gym, and I get that. Walking into a nicely equipped gym can really put you in the “Let’s Do This!” type of mindset to crush a good workout. However, I know from years of traveling that nice hotel gyms are few and far between. That is why I have a rule: When I stay in a place with a killer gym, I take advantage of it and get a workout in.
I never know what the next hotel is going to be like, or if it will even have a gym at all.
17. Participate in Resort or Cruise Ship Activities
The benefits of staying at a resort or taking a trip on a cruise ship means there are so many other ways to get active on vacation. Most resorts and cruises will have scheduled activities like beach soccer, tennis, dance lessons, or water aerobics. These are perfect ways to sneak in a workout and have some fun at the same time! I actually used to teach a water aerobics class when I worked at a resort in Mexico and the guests absolutely loved it! I also got a nice tan and kept pretty fit myself from doing it daily.
18. Take Tours That Involve Spiking Your Heart Rate
No matter what corner of the world you roam to, there are bound to be dozens of tours that involve hiking, biking, swimming, paddling, or rock climbing. Even if you are not a thrill seeker, tour operators will offer different levels of activities, so a beginner level will be just as calorie torching! Plus, it’s a great way to see more of a destination and make memories that will last a lifetime. There is really only so much ‘lounge by the pool’ time one can handle.
19. Walk Around The Airport When Waiting For Your Flight
My husband likes to be approximately 289 hours early for each flight, so that means I spend a lot of time in airports. There are times when I would like to sit in the lounge and drown myself in extra glasses of Pinot, but for the most part I use the time to walk around. I aim to get as many steps in as I can before the flight because I know I will be crammed into small airplane seats for hours to come.
20. Take The Stairs
It seems like a simple tip, but oh so easily forgotten on a busy travel day. Whenever possible avoid taking escalators, elevators and moving sidewalks. Another weird quirk my husband has actually works out in my favour. He refuses to take elevators… like… EVER. So even if we are on the 10th floor of the hotel, we take the stairs. If we head out for lunch, and then for dinner, and maybe even to grab a coffee, that will easily put me at 30+ flights of stairs for the day.
When you can, take the stairs. It’s the little fitness habits that add up to game changers over time.
21. Get Enough Sleep
Jet-lag can be a cruel mistress, but getting enough sleep is just as important as staying active during your trip. If you lack on a good night’s rest, you’ll produce more cortisol and ghrelin, two hormones that make you hungry, cranky and bloated. Being tired will also make it easier to skip a workout or pass on a exciting tour due to lack of energy.
Get some melatonin or magnesium, eyeshades, ear plugs, and get to bed!
22. Don't Force It
For real though… don’t force activity when you are just not feeling it. It’s not worth it. If everything in your being is telling you to sit pool-side all day, then just do it! When I listen to my body, sometimes it tells me that it just wants to relax, and there is nothing wrong with that. We all need some time off, even from fitness. Staying heathy while traveling is all about balance, and taking days off is an important part of maintaining that balance.
Do you have any tips or tricks to staying it and eating healthy while traveling? Share them with us in the comments ↓
22 Easy Ways To Eat Healthy and Stay Fit While Traveling
- Add ½ plate of veggies to your order
- Request special meals and orders
- Bring your own snacks
- Research healthy restaurants ahead of time
- Stop by the grocery store
- Learn about common local ingredients
- Don’t get lost in the ‘I’m on vacation’ trap
- Get into healthy eating habits before you travel
- Stay hydrated
- Remember all the food groups
- Go easy on the booze
- Follow the 80/20 rule
- Get your steps in
- Do mini hotel room workouts
- Stream workout videos
- Use the hotel gym
- Participate in resort and cruise activities
- Take tours that spike your heart rate
- Walk around the airport
- Take the stairs