Over Easter last year, I spent 10 days in Vietnam with friends. It was a great holiday and I had a fantastic time, but I found it hard to be as healthy as I would have liked.
From the time spent travelling (we had six flights in the 10 days and spent hours travelling by car), to the different foods available and not being able to prepare my own food, I found my normal routine fell by the wayside.
While this was not such a terrible thing – after all, holidays are meant to be enjoyed – I found the change in my habits left me with far less energy than normal and other negative side effects like stomach troubles.
Why it’s so hard to stay on track.
Travel can definitely impede attempts to stay healthy. Whether it’s the long days, time spent travelling, the holiday atmosphere of wanting to indulge or the inability to prepare your own food, the changes can lead to low energy, exhaustion and a reliance on convenience foods which aren’t always the best choices.
If you do travel a lot, its important to look after yourself as much as possible to help your body and mind stay healthy and active. These are a few ways you can feel great the next time you travel.
Watch: Paper Tiger on how to have a healthy holiday. Post continues after video.
1. Drink plenty of water.
This one is so, so important, especially if you fly. We lose more fluid from our bodies than normal when we fly and this can lead to dehydration. Being dehydrated can result in poor concentration, fatigue and dry skin and eyes.
Take a big bottle with you and ensure you have at least one and a half litres a day. I carried around a water bottle with me at all times and asked cafes to refill it for me if I ran low.
Simple, but important. Image: iStock
2. Healthy eats.
It can be tempting to just eat on the go rather than prepare food to take when you travel, but the options available aren’t always very nutritious.
Even having a few packs of nuts, muesli bars, tins of tuna and crackers stored in your bag or car can ensure you have something healthy on hand when hunger hits. This is something I will be doing for my next trip, as I found I didn’t prepare very well and the resulting hunger led me to munching on cookies and chips more often than not.
Keep an eye out for roadside stalls in some countries that sell fresh fruit, nuts, drinking coconuts and so on, which can be helpful when you don’t have access to supermarkets selling healthy snacks.
Sanchia Parker with a mysterious yet delicious fruit she found in Vietnam. (Image: Seed&Kilter)
3. Eating out.
Local food can be great, and I’d definitely encourage sampling what’s on offer. Just be aware that it might not always be very nutritious. For example, Vietnamese coffee is a delicious condensed milk version – tastes great, but not the healthiest start to the day!
I loved trying the new flavours and foods, but tried to balance it out so not all my meals were so indulgent. So I’d have some fruit or poached eggs for breakfast with my condensed milk coffee, and if had a larger lunch it normally meant a smaller dinner.
For meals that are shared, with plenty of dishes on offer, aim to try all the vegetable and salad versions first. Then try the meat and other dishes. By filling up on the vegetables and salad first, your meal will be far more nutritious. I also generally give white rice a miss, or only have a small amount – it’s not terribly nutritious and it can be more fun filling up with new flavours. (Post continues after gallery.)
Holidays should be a time to relax, sleep and rest up. Having said that, there can be times where sleep is hard to come by (14 hours in a tiny airplane seat, anyone?), which can result in sleep deprivation — not the greatest state to be in.
Tiredness, loss of concentration and irritability are just the start. Ever notice how you crave high-energy, sweet foods when you're tired? Our body is desperately trying to get some energy and boost our blood sugar levels, so it seeks food that can be easily broken down to sugar or energy – typically, things like sugary drinks and chocolate.
So aim for between six to eight hours of sleep a night, and if travelling to a different time zone ensure you allow yourself enough time to recover from jet lag. If you have been experiencing chronic lack of sleep before your holiday, use this time to catch up and rest as much as you can.
Don't underestimate the importance of sleep. (Image: iStock)
5. Exercise smart.
Travelling can make it harder to get your 30 minutes of activity in each day, but it’s not impossible. Pack a resistance band for a portable workout aid, or spend some time each day doing bodyweight exercises that require no equipment.
If you've been in the car or on a plane all day, ensure you spend extra time the day before or day after being active to account for the low movement on these days. I tried to get my 10,000 steps in every day, and managed to smash the goal because we walked around so much. We also rented bikes which made a great excuse to get active as well as see the city.
On your bike. (Image: iStock)
See what’s on offer when you are going and have fun getting involved in the different activities. By planning ahead you will minimise disruptions to your normal routine and keep your mind and body as healthy as possible.
How do you stay healthy when travelling?
This post originally appeared on Sanchia Parker's website Seed & Kilter. Sanchia is an Accredited Practising Dietitian, Accredited Nutritionist and Wellness Coach based in Sydney. You can also follow her on Twitter here.