Over Easter, I spent ten days in Vietnam with friends. I had a fantastic time, but found it harder to be as healthy as I wanted.
From the time spent travelling (six flights in the ten days and hours sat in the 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 less energy and other negative side effects like stomach troubles.
I thought about what I can do next time to keep me energised and as healthy as possible for other upcoming trips. Hopefully this resulting blog post might help others too!
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!
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 leads to 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.
2. Healthy eats.
It can be tempting to just eat on the go rather than prepare food to take when you travel, but often 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 when hunger hits, you have something healthy on hand. 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 far 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. For bonus points – does anyone know the food I am holding in the picture at the top of the article? It was so delicious.
3. Eating out
Local food can be great, and I’d definitely encourage you to sample what’s on offer. Be mindful that it might not be very nutritious, for example, Vietnamese coffee is a delicious condensed milk version of coffee I had daily. Tastes great, but not the healthiest start to the day! I loved trying the new flavours and foods, but balanced it out so not all my meals were indulgent. I’d have some fruit or poached eggs for breakfast with my condensed milk coffee, and a larger lunch meant a smaller dinner.
For shared meals, 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.
Holidays should be a time to relax, sleep and rest up! Having said that, there are times where sleep is hard to come by (14 hours in a tiny airplane seat anyone?!) The resulting sleep deprivation plays havoc on health. Tiredness, loss of concentration and irritability are just the start. Ever notice how you crave high-energy, sweet foods when you are more tired? Our body is desperately trying to get energy to boost blood sugar levels. So it seeks food that is easily broken down to sugar or energy. Typically this is sugary drinks and food. Aim for between 6-8 hours a night. If travelling to a different time zone, allow 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!
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 do body weight exercises that require no equipment. If you are in the car or on a plane all day, spend extra time the day before or day after being active to account for the low movement on other days. I smashed my goal of getting 10,000 steps every day, simply because we walked around so much. We also rented bikes which made a great excuse to get active as well as see the city. See what’s on offer when you are going and have fun getting involved in the different activities. Plan ahead to minimise disruptions to your normal routine and keep your mind and body as healthy as possible. Happy travels!