Keeping well nourished whilst travelling can be a challenge, especially if the local food culture is different to yours. My 5 top overseas travel nutrition tips are based on my experiences, as well as current health advice.
Optimal overseas travel nutrition
#1 Hygiene helpers
What is the best way to avoid a bacterial infection?
Your own personal hygiene, as well as that of those preparing and serving food is of utmost importance. You can control your own hygiene, but may have little or no influence over others. Take notice of general cleanliness.
From my recent experience in Nepal and Europe, I understand that not all locals or tourists consider hygiene as a priority. It is not always the food preparers or servers that carry bacterial risk, it can be your fellow travellers.
My rule is not to eat anything that I have doubts about. This means general cleanliness and food temperature too, see notes on fresh food below.
Tip—Always wash your hands before meals (and after the toilet), and avoid touching your face and mouth. Use antibacterial hand wash when soap and water is not available.
#2 Keep hydrated
Hydration is a priority when travelling anywhere—consider your environment and the activities that you are undertaking. The air humidity also impacts on your fluid requirements. For example, at higher altitude you require additional fluid, as the air is dryer. Heat and air-conditioning also increase fluid requirements.
When water treatment is required boil local water for at least 3 minutes, or use a water treatment produce such as micropore or iodine. It may be safest to purchase bottled water.
Having adequate water on long flights will make travelling more enjoyable and you will avoid headaches and gastrointestinal disturbances, such as bloating and constipation.
Read my earlier post on fluid intake and hydration.
Tip—Carry your own water bottle when filtered water is available. Purchase bottled water when you are unable to treat the water. Aim to keep your urine to a pale yellow colour.
#3 Fresh food
What do you do if you walk into a café and see cooked food sitting at room temperature?
The two questions to ask about freshly prepared food are: If the food is meant to be hot, can you see steam rising from it? And if food is supposed to be cold, is it stored in a refrigerator?
It is also important to consider what fresh foods have been washed in. Salads and fruit need to be washed in filtered or treated water.
Eating local fresh foods adds variety and nutrients to your meals, but care has to be taken. Remember the most important of all travel nutrition tips.
“If you are in doubt, don’t eat or drink it.”
Tip—Wash fresh foods in clean water. If you are unsure how fresh foods have been prepared, then do not eat them.
#4 Personal health requirements
Is it worth taking your own travel medicine kit?
Make sure that you discuss your health requirements with your healthcare practitioners before you leave home. This way you can travel confidently with your own medicine kit.
My kit contains both western medicines and herbal remedies. During my recent holiday I required both herbal and pharmaceutical medicine to overcome mild food poisoning. Having these on hand meant that I had access to immediate treatment.
Tip—Take your own medical kit, which caters for your personal (usual) health requirements plus travel needs e.g. gut health, cold and flu prevention and skin ailments (bites and sunburn).
#5 Personal food preferences
How can I best meet my nutrition and health needs?
If you have personal food preferences then consider whether the countries and regions that you are travelling to will meet these needs. My preference is vegetarian food.
In Nepal I am well fed, but in parts of Europe it can be difficult to obtain food sources of protein other than eggs and dairy. Even though legumes and lentils are a traditional food, they are often not offered in standard restaurants.
Tip—Carry nutritious snacks to meet your nutritional and health needs. In my case I carry protein bars and nuts.
My overseas travel nutrition tips are designed to help you prepare for a healthy and happy holiday. You cannot control anything other than your own choices. Each country and region has something special to offer—I encourage to enjoy, mindfully.