Foreign travel doesn't mean your healthy eating habits have to take a hiatus. Some advance planning and sensible choices can make all the difference.
Like many people who follow a healthy diet, you probably don’t want your international travel plans to mean that you’ll have to resort to standard junk food or unsafe food choices. Some common sense and a little research and preparation ahead of time can help keep your diet varied and you safe and well while you’re abroad.
Finding Healthy Snacks and Meals
If you’re concerned about choosing healthy snacks and foods while traveling, following these tips can help:
· Look for foods you eat at home. Stick to simple, fresh, and natural foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. Fresh fruits are still a great alternative to caloric junk food for healthy noshing; you just need to choose wisely and prepare them correctly. It’s a good idea, for instance, to wash all produce thoroughly in bottled water and, for added protection, remove any peel or skin.
· Cook your own food. If you're nervous about the way your food will be prepared, for either sanitary or dietary reasons, cooking it yourself is an easy way to take control of what you're eating, even during international travel. By buying fresh products at a grocery store, you will have control over how your food is prepared and will know that it's both safe and healthy to eat. Some hotel rooms, inns, or hostels may have a kitchen area where you can prepare your own food. If this is something you're interested in, inquire about the cooking accommodations before you book your reservation.
David Lytle, editorial director for Frommers.com, also suggests considering options beyond hotels — a rental apartment, where you can cook healthy snacks and meals in the kitchen might be a good fit for you and your fellow travelers, and in some cases it can even save you money.
· Do some research in advance. If you are a health-conscious eater and want to stay away from junk food or high-fat foods, do a little research before your trip and ask for local recommendations. That's how Pamela Melton, vice president and director of operations at Marketing Resources Inc. in Elmhurst, Ill., manages to maintain a healthy diet during the international junkets her job often requires.
"I always ask the hotel staff to recommend restaurants that have healthy options and that may offer menus in English," Melton says. "I also tend to stick with what I know and order chicken or beef." Melton says she usually looks up words she needs to know to communicate her dietary needs before she leaves and writes them down or brings along a dictionary for reference. When it comes to eating healthy, she says, "It is pretty easy to learn the words for these foods in any language."
On the Menu: Food Safety
While you do need to be concerned about food safety during international travel, a little common sense can help you steer clear of unsanitary foods. "For eating healthy in countries where the water quality may be questionable, I stick to produce that has a thick skin," says Melton. "Oranges and bananas are good examples. Cooked vegetables are usually safe, but I use caution when buying or ordering raw produce.”
Eating healthy and safe foods during international travel is absolutely possible, Lytle confirms. "For any sort of travel, it is just a matter of doing some preparation," he says. "Often where people make a mistake is eating fresh produce in a country when it hasn't been properly washed first. You have to be aware of the country's rules and health regulations."
Here are a few key food safety suggestions to follow:
· Make sure food is thoroughly cooked. Avoid anything that looks like it hasn't been cooked all the way through or isn't served steaming hot.
· Use only bottled water. If you're going to a location that may have water quality issues, opt for bottled water and beverages and skip the ice, which is usually made from tap water. Also, remember to use bottled water when brushing your teeth.
· Eat at reputable restaurants. Resist the tempting fare offered by vendors or at kiosks on the street — street vendors may not be as conscious about sanitation as restaurants are. For restaurants that cater successfully to foreign travelers, ask your hotel for recommendations or research them before your trip.
· Practice seafood safety. If you aren't sure about local sanitation regulations, steer clear of raw or undercooked seafood during international travel.
· Think twice about dairy. Don’t eat or drink any unpasteurized dairy products. You should also be cautious about pasteurized milk as foreign processing methods can differ from those in the United States.
· Stick to fruits with peels. Don't eat fruits that are already peeled, and for further protection, make sure to remove the peel yourself.
While there aren't any international signs and symbols that make food labels easy to understand across the world, finding the foods you want is possible with a little research and a translation dictionary on hand. If you stick to reputable restaurants and large grocery stores, you should be able to find fresh and familiar foods as well as a variety of healthy snacks to help you maintain your regular good eating habits while you’re traveling abroad.