Let me ask you something…. what do you eat when travelling or stuck waiting in an airport terminal? Do you grab a bagel, a burger, a boost juice thick shake, a BLT sandwich? Or perhaps you see the airport transit lounge as a place to indulge in the dirty bird (aka KFC) or the golden arches?…..Or maybe it’s the bucket of hot chips that suck you in every time? Have you ever noticed that when travelling you tend to go for indulgences that you ordinarily wouldn’t touch?
I know for me travel and airport terminals can trigger a kind of ‘reward mentality’. Maybe it’s part of the excitement surrounding the whole ‘getting away’ scenario, but these cravings are quickly quashed as soon as I take a look at what’s on offer.
As a Nutritionist, I get to see a lot of folk who travel regularly for work, me included and the ensuing pitfalls make it one of the most difficult environments to maintain healthy eating habits. For many frequent flyer’s, travel usually entails living off nutritionally devoid in flight meals prepared on mass hours before, in between doing business over boozy lunches and eating high sugar, dodgy stodge in airport terminals, but travel does not have translate to being unhealthy just because your away from the creature comforts of home and fresh, home cooked meals.
Aside from the hazards posed by the unhealthy eating habits associated with travel, there’s also the toll, crossing international datelines takes on your body. In these instances, it’s even more important to be mindful of what you choose to shovel into your gob. The in flight food and beverage choices you make greatly influence the effects of jet lag. Regular long haul flights impact immensely on our hormone balance, not to mention our digestive and nervous systems. So for all you hosty’s or frequent long haul flyer’s, it’s especially important to be mindful of your diet when travelling, to decrease the physiological impacts on your body.
So what are the key things we need to do in order to stay healthy when travelling about?
I’ve put together my ‘healthy, happy traveler’s guide’ below to help you keep on top of your game while your away from home.
On the plane
- Hydrate. I can’t stress this enough. Dehydration is one of the major contributing factors to bad jet lag, so don’t wait for the air hostess to deliver you a meager 100ml bottle of water, this will do little but wet your whistle, let alone hydrate you. Pack your own stainless steel refillable drink bottle to avoid drinking from plastic full of toxic BPA. Personally I always travel with the Alkaway Fill2pure, water bottle, because it has a built in filter to remove 99% of contaminants like chlorine and I also add an Alkasachet to alkalise the water – a the best place to start with improving our body’s pH. On really long flights – 8 hrs or more, I add a tea spoon of a powered magnesium complex .
- Pack your own healthy snacks to take on board and avoid eating the crappy in flight food. I always include a stash of raw unsalted organic mixed nuts and a bounce ball for a quick protein hit. When it comes to choosing your in flight meal, choose the closest option to ‘meat and three veg’ wherever possible and eggs for breakfast and remember to avoid the bread and desert. Pack a little stash of 70-85% dark chocolate so you won’t feel deprived of a treat .
- Use the ‘quiet sitting time’ to listen to a meditation CD on your iPod, its a perfect opportunity for ‘zone out’ time.
- Get some sleep–don the ear earplugs and sexy eye mask to avoid being disturbed. I recently invested in a set of those background noise blocking headphones and they have been my best ‘travel mate’yet.
- I also recommend taking a herbal sedative such as Valerian to relax your nervous system and pack one of those blow up pillows, (not be confused with a blow up doll) on board or request an extra pillow as soon as you are seated on board to ensure the best sleep possible.
When you land
Exercise – moving about and lots of plane travel can often make it hard to maintain a regular exercise routine, so this is a time for improvisation and cutting corners! So I suggest the following.
- Walk as often as possible, instead of taking a cab, especially when you’re in a busy city, it’s often faster than a cab ride anyway.
- Hit the hotel gym– if walking out doors is too cold, dangerous or smoggy. Do a combination of light cardio to get your blood and lymphatic’s moving, (too much and you’ll drain your adrenals, remember your body will still be combating the effects of long distance travel and jet lag, so take it easy tiger and throw in a 20 minute weights session to keep your strength up, but you don’t have to make like Arnie to get the full benefit – light weights with high rep is best for toning.
- Flush Toxins –pay a visit to the hotel sauna or steam room to help flush the toxins from your body and stimulate your lymphatic’s. They serve as an instant means to relax. Or if you feel like splurging, why not get a deep tissue massage, just be prepared to swallow the over inflated hotel prices or check in with a local for their tips for a great mobile masseuse.
- Go to bed at the normal time in your destination city (preferably by 10pm), in an effort to reduce the effects of jet lag . If you’re having trouble staying awake past 7pm, then this one time I recommend drinking coffee to help you stay awake and regulate your sleep patterns, but I’d avoid one after 4pm or you may be up all night!But first try a couple of multi B vitamins as these may also do the trick in keeping you awake till bed time.
- Don’t sleep with your mobile phone or electric clock radio next to your head. If you need an alarm, put your smart phone into plane mode nto avoid exposure to EMF’s – electromagnetic fields which are stimulating not to mention unhealthy.
- If you’re likely to be affected by jet lag or just find you don’t sleep as well when not in your own bed, I always recommend travelling with a homeopathic form of melatonin or an amino acid supplement called 5 HTP to take just before bed each night. Even Bach Flower remedies such as rescue remedy sleep or Australian Bush essences can help kick your sleep hormones back into balance and hasten your recovery from jet lag.
- Order a fresh green vege juice whenever possible, ask for my green goddess combo this is a great way to start your day and alkalize your system. Try this before your morning walk or gym session, then have your breakfast afterwards if you can wait.
What to eat from the hotel menu
- For breakfast go for poached eggs (that way you can be sure to avoid the cow’s milk and cheese they often add to scrambled or omelets) and avocado , even baked beans are not so bad as a side, but avoid eating bacon on a regular basis because of the nitrates – those nasty chemicals they use to make bacon and ham taste smokey – links have been found to increased risk of bladder cancer.
- Commercial brands of cereal and yoghurt are disguises for little more than a bowl of sugar – code for big bums, fat tums and later if your unlucky enough, stroke, heart attack and diabetes…… sorry Mr. Kellogs and Danone, you’re really not our friend.
- Go for animal protein (unless you’re vegetarian) like lean cuts of red meat, chicken (organic if you can) or fish and order a big side serve of green vegetables or salad & stay away from the chips, these will only end up on your hips!
- Avoid high starch, high sugar foods like pizza, pasta or risotto and Thai – despite being full of vegetables, it is also full of palm sugar.
- If you can’t avoid the big corporate lunch, then be sure to order ‘light’ come dinner time and go for something like soup (avoid cream based) with a big bowl of steamed greens or steamed fish and greens. I always ask for a little fresh lemon and olive oil on the side so I can drizzle it over my vegetables and add a bit of extra zing and good fats!
I know it might sound boring but if you can steer clear of the grog, your liver and waistline will thank you for it! Alcohol is one of the best ways to pack on the pounds and bloat like a puffer fish, especially while on long haul flights.
Keep your bowels moving
Travel of any kind can often bung up your bowels, thanks to a change in diet, environment and dehydration, so my recommendation to keep the elimination channels flowing is to adopt the advice above in regards to diet, exercise, steam baths, water etc and if this is not enough to get things moving after a day or two, then you may find certain nutritional supplements a handy way to entice movement at the station. I recommend Vital Greens sachets to maintain a healthy intake of greens and alkalise your system and The Chia Co chai seed shots are a handy way to carry around a great source of omega 3 fatty acids as well as soluble and insoluble fibre to keep you regular.
How to avoid the flu and common Cold
Ever noticed that your more prone to catching a flu or cold when you travel? Well aside from breathing in 200+ other peoples germs on the plane, the stress of travelling and poor nutrition leaves your immune vulnerable. My suggestion, always travel with a herbal antimicrobial supplement to keep your immune boosted and have on hand to take at the first sign of a scratchy throat. You really want to avoid taking antibiotics – save these for when you really need them and remember PREVENTION IS THE KEY! Gargling on fresh, crushed garlic can also help to fight strep bacteria.
So if you’re a bit of a jet setter and have been using this as your excuse for packing on the pounds, failing to get fit and drinking too much coffee and alcohol, now you know there really is no excuse for that by following these few simple and effective handy travel hints!
Till next time, Bon Voyage!