When you’re travelling it’s easy to get into that holiday mindset and convince yourself that anything goes. Your exercise routine and healthy diet can easily go out the window.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that you will likely need to be more, not less, diligent about your diet and exercise habits to maintain good health while you travel.
There have definitely been days that I’ve had to skip activities because I’ve eaten foods that I know don’t agree with my digestion, or have just plain overindulged. Not fun, especially when you’ve pre-paid for these activities. Feel your best by avoiding the following foods, whether you’re travelling or at home.
In Australia they affectionately call it Macca’s. In Canada my friends and I called it McDicks. Mickey-D’s, The Golden Arches, McDonaldos. Whatever you call it, their food is crap. It's so heavily processed and there are a number of harmful additives, as is evidenced by their french fries, which were recently ‘outed’ for having 17 ingredients. You may be tempted to try the unique foods they sell at McDonald's locations around the world, but trust me, it's just not worth it. This goes for all big fast food chains too. Just stay away.
2. Preservatives. In Australia I began to really hear a lot more about preservatives, as some of my new friends became concerned about the use of Preservative 220 in their dried fruits, baked goods, condiments and other regular grocery purchases. I learned that it’s sulphur dioxide. Yup, the same stuff that causes acid rain. Enough said.
3. MSG. This includes hidden sources like HVP (Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein) and autolyzed yeast extract. When I was young, I used to get so excited to go to Chinese restaurants with my parents because the MSG would literally make my sister and I high. We would get ‘spaced out' and laugh hysterically after the meal, for no apparent reason. It was fun at the time, but as I grew up I quickly realized that I was having an adverse reaction to the MSG. Now, that reaction is much less entertaining. I have severe headaches, mental confusion and extremely adverse emotional reactions that make it really difficult to function for the rest of the day. MSG has been connected to a range of symptoms from rashes to heart issues and emotional imbalance in the short term. Avoid it at all costs.
4. The Dirty Dozen. Every year the Environmental Working Group releases the results of their studies into pesticide use on common fruits and vegetables. The result is their popular list of the 12 most pesticide-laden foods you could eat. These are foods that you should always try to eat organic. Many of the fruits and vegetables on this list have very thin to no skin, so when you eat them, you’ll be ingesting everything that’s been sprayed on them. This can be difficult in some countries where there is little to no regulatory system for organic produce in place, so in this case, try to stick to the ‘Clean 15’-the sister list which includes the fruits and veggies you’re safe to buy non-organic.
5. Foods that don't work for your body. It’s really important to know what foods work for you and stick to them. If you’re not sure, for a couple of weeks try to cut out a couple of foods that you eat every day. That may be dairy and wheat, or eggs and soy. If you’re up for it, you could even try a full elimination diet.* Be curious and observe how you feel physically, mentally and emotionally without them It’s really important to know what foods work for your body-giving you the energy you need, let you sleep well, and make you feel calm.
*Note than an elimination diet can be intense. It can bring up emotions, physical symptoms and other 'stuff' that you may have difficulty dealing with. If you're doing it for the first time, work with a naturopath, nutritionist, or other certified practitioner who can support you properly.
There are many more specific food additives that are known to cause disease, like Aspartame, nitrates and certain food colourings. Sticking to whole foods is always the best, and is surprisingly easy and inexpensive when you're travelling.
Another really important habit to keep up, or cultivate if you don’t already do it, is reading labels. This can be hard if you're travelling in a country that you don’t speak the language, so in these places I try to be even more diligent about cooking my own food from whole ingredients. It can be so fun to experiment with produce you’ve never tried before!
When you're relaxing and experiencing new things every day, It's always tempting to try a new dish even when it contains foods that you know don't work for you. That’s fine every once in a while-I’m all for enjoying the little things in life and giving yourself a break once in a while if you’re able to- but when you’re visiting new places all the time that mindset can be self-defeating. Try instead to enjoy the setting you’re in without having to add anything to it. Take a deep breath, look around and order something that will be equally as yummy, new and healthy for you.