Stay Healthy While Traveling
By Shivani Vora
Illustrations by Agnes Lee
It’s easy for healthy lifestyles to go to the wayside when you’re traveling, especially if you’re on vacation. But it really is possible to have a good time, enjoy local cuisine and get in some exercise without depriving yourself of a true vacation. We’ll show you how to combine pleasure with wellness when you’re on the road, because isn’t living your best life the point of a vacation in the first place?
Even with the best of intentions, there are some common problems that may derail your healthy travel plans. Here’s how to deal with them.
Is it the biggest deal to gain a few pounds on my vacation?
Gaining a few pounds over the course of a one-week vacation because you don’t want to bother with watching what you eat or trying to exercise isn’t detrimental to your overall health, Joy Bauer, a New York-based nutritionist, said. But, it might leave you feeling irritable and low on energy either because your eating is imbalanced or you’re not getting those feel-good endorphins from exercise. On the other hand, if you do end up picking up some extra weight, you can likely drop it within a week or two when you’re back home, provided that you’re vigilant about jumping right back into a healthy eating and exercise routine.
How do I deal with a food allergy or other dietary restrictions in a country where I don’t know the language?
Food allergies are non-negotiable. Allison Arnett, a registered dietician and the health and wellness manager at Yale Hospitality, the food services operations for Yale University, suggests traveling with a food allergy ID card that clearly indicates your allergies both in English and the language(s) of the country in which you plan to travel. And, do your homework before you travel. Often, the hotel concierge or a travel agent will have a good sense of restaurants that offer variety or accommodations for food allergies. Always pack snacks in case you find yourself with limited options.
Dietary restrictions can be handled in a similar way by carrying cards that clearly indicate the foods you cannot or choose not to eat. (Pictures can help bridge a language gap.) While travel is a great time to try new experiences, including culinary experiences, never do it at the risk of your well-being.
What if I still get sick while traveling?
Eating well and staying active aside, it’s just as important to prioritize your physical health when you’re traveling. Packing a first-aid kit is a smart idea in case you get hit with a stomach bug or the flu or have a scrape or fall.
The first-aid kit should include:
My travel companions are making it hard to stay healthy. What can I do?
Communication is key with your travel companions so it’s best to clearly state your intentions to follow a healthy diet and squeeze in some exercise before heading off on your trip. They may be on a free-for-all eating regimen, but that doesn’t mean you have to be. While you should allow yourself to enjoy treats, do so on your own terms, and let your travel companions know what works best for you. Schedule “me time” into your day to exercise or unwind. It is definitely O.K. to ask your friends or family to be understanding and flexible, but don’t forget to have fun!
My schedule is packed all day. How do I make time to exercise?
Take 10 minutes first thing in the morning to do one of the workouts outlined below. If you plan to workout later in the day, chances are that you’ll likely be too busy, or having too much fun out and about to actually find the time. Alternatively, if you make your day an active one by taking a walking or bike tour, you shouldn’t have to feel guilty about skipping a workout.
What are some things I should be sure to do?
Here are a few things that are always a good idea, but can be extra important when you are thrown out of your usual routine:
Flying can be stressful, but there are ways to make it a better experience, from getting through the airport, having a restful experience in the air and arriving refreshed and ready to hit the ground running.
Even a small amount of exercise will go a long way in maintaining your fitness and keeping your energy levels high.
High intensity workouts are effective for a number of reasons: obviously you save time because they’re so short, and when you work really hard for short bursts of time, you burn a lot of calories. And since they’re short, they feel manageable for people who don’t necessarily love exercising “just because.”
Annette Lang, a New York City-based certified personal trainer has these three options for short, no-equipment-needed workouts and individual exercises that you can do anywhere.
Walk to a staircase inside your hotel that’s not too busy and do the following:
Build the muscles in your shoulders and chest with this foundational exercise.
Build strength in your core and upper body with this move.
This program was created by Brad Schoenfeld, an assistant professor of exercise science and director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Lehman College in New York. and it can be done basically anywhere: from your living room or a small hotel room. The only equipment it requires is a resistance band that you can purchase for less than $10.
Note: You should do up to three sets of each exercise and aim to complete 8 to 15 reps on each set. Perform this routine at least twice a week.
Click here to download a simple chart of this workout. Save it to your desktop or print it, so you can easily complete an at home, muscle building workout wherever you are.
If you want to sneak in your activity without carving out time for a dedicated workout (no matter how short) here are some ideas for exercises that can fit into any busy itinerary.
You absolutely don’t need to stuff your suitcase with workout gear to stay active. One pair of sneakers and a set of workout clothes will do. If you’re doing 10-minute workouts, you’re not apt to get overly sweaty and can likely reuse your gear, but bring along some portable laundry detergent in case you do want to wash your clothes in the bathroom sink. If walking tours and biking are a big part of your itinerary, you will need comfortable clothes but may not need actual workout wear. Sneakers, however, are always good to have, and you can even find fashionable ones that double as walking shoes.
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There’s no better and more enjoyable way to get in some exercise on your getaway than by combining sightseeing with physical activity.
A growing number of destinations around the world have bike share programs that visitors can take advantage of. Bikes are a fantastic way to explore a city and allow riders to access side streets and other areas that larger vehicles can’t get to. Use a bike to ride around town and get a sense of place. You can also rely on these two-wheelers as your primary mode of transport and ride yours to drop off locations that are near sights you want to visit.
Most states in the country, also have Rails to Trails routes that take riders along reconstructed rail lines and through beautiful countryside. These routes are scenic enough to be their own attractions, but they can also get you from one point to the next.
Instead of taking a bus or car tour, try a walking tour. Almost every city around the world offers a range of walking tours whether you’re interested in history, culture, drinking, food or architecture. Ms. Lang, for one, has been on a walking cemetery tour in New Orleans, a walking architecture tour in Chicago and a walking pub crawl in London.
You can also look at guidebooks or travel sites for suggested walking tours, and pick a different one for each day. If you’re game for a longer excursion, combine two or more of these in a single day.
Engage your travel companions in creating a walking tour: Everyone can give their top five picks of places to check out, and you can plan a tour that allows you to get to as many of these as possible in one day. Another approach is to create a series of walking tours where each day is dedicated to hitting sites that one person chooses –– everyone on the trip gets to have their own day when they are in charge.
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Sticking to a balanced diet doesn’t have to be a challenge, no matter what kind of trip you’re on.
Before you arrive at your destination, there’s the journey to get there. You need fuel for these trips, whether you’re driving, flying or taking the train, and since healthy food can be scarce and expensive when you’re away from home, it’s a good idea to pack your own. Unexpected delays — all too common nowadays if you’re flying — throw even more of a curveball into your intentions to eat sensibly.
Take a portable, collapsible cooler, and fill it with healthy snacks and meals. “You want to pack simple, spill-proof foods that you’re going to enjoy eating,” said Ms. Arnett.
In general, out of consideration to your fellow travelers, it’s a good idea to skip toting foods with strong odors such as stinky cheeses, tuna salad and dishes with raw onions or garlic.
Here are some options for things to bring with you. Note that if you are flying, there might be limitations on what kind of fruit can be taken into other countries and be prepared for security to check out your haul.
For a snack that’s a bit more substantial, try these options:
If your trip is particularly long, or you’ll be away from your accomodations the whole day, here are some ideas for lunch (or dinner) on the run.
Of course, it’s not always possible to pack your own meals and snacks, but you still need to eat. Fast-food restaurants abound at airports and at highway rest stops, and they’re not off-limits so long as you’re smart about what you order, according to Ms. Bauer, the New York-based nutritionist.
Smart picks include a grilled chicken sandwich with lettuce and tomato (hold the mayo) and a side salad. If you enjoy hamburgers, order a single patty, and top it with extra lettuce and tomatoes. Can’t resist French fries? Order the smallest size, and eat half.
Several fast-food chains offer fruit-topped oatmeal and yogurt parfaits that make for satisfying and tasty snacks. (As mentioned, they may be higher in sugar, so should be considering a treat.)
Outside of fast food restaurants, some gas stations and a growing number of airports have vastly improved their healthy food options in recent years. Look for items like hard boiled eggs, cheese sticks, Greek yogurt, turkey jerky, packaged nuts, seaweed chips, packaged olives, individual hummus and guacamole packs, and green leaf salads with grilled chicken.
It’s not unusual to be off your typical eating schedule when you’re on vacation and not following your daily routine. That said, eating regularly and trying to get in three balanced meals a day will set you up for staying healthy and feeling energetic throughout your trip.
Start off your day right with a healthy breakfast; it will get increasingly harder to resist temptation when afternoon and evening set in so you’re better off getting in a balanced meal early on.
Hotel buffet breakfasts tend to offer vegetables such as sautéed spinach and even salad. Load your plate with ones you enjoy for some filling fiber.
If you’re renting a home or staying in a hotel room with a kitchen, hit a supermarket to buy breakfast items such as fruit, unsweetened yogurt, whole grain cereal, oatmeal, avocado, nut butter, sprouted grain bread and eggs. You’ll save money overall because breakfast out is usually expensive and you’ll be eating well at the same time.
Another piece of advice with this morning meal: don’t make it skimp with the goal of saving up to splurge later in the day. You’re more likely to overdo the unhealthy foods if you’re hungry, so make sure it’s substantial enough to tide you over until lunch.
Lunch and Dinner
Food is a great way to experience the local culture, and Ms. Arnett recommends trying as many healthy local specialities as possible when it comes to lunch and dinner. Go for lean proteins (a grilled or baked local fish perhaps) and salads and vegetables using produce that your destination is known for (think Italian tomatoes). This approach will leave you plenty of room for treats.
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You can and should treat yourself during your trip – after all, that is a highlight of any vacation.
To be worthwhile, any indulgences should be unique to your destination. Also, try to stick to one such splurge a day, advised Keri Glassman, a registered dietician in New York City. “One treat a day feels special and pleasurable,” she said. “Overdoing it, on the other hand, isn’t as enjoyable and leads to low energy and poor sleep.”
Examples of geographic-specific splurges include:
Calories from alcohol are essentially empty and add up fast without filling you up. In addition, alcohol lowers your inhibitions, which of can lead to overeating. That’s not say that you can’t enjoy some booze. Ms. Glassmann advised drinking at either lunch or dinner but not both. If you do want to partake during both meals for a few days of your trip, balance those out by an equal number of nondrinking days.
The most waist-friendly sips include a glass of wine (red, white, rose or sparkling are all O.K.), and spirits such as tequila or vodka on their own with a twist of citrus. Either avoid sugary mixed drinks such as margaritas or rum and cokes or count them as your daily indulgence.
While of course you want to have fun, your vacation may also be the perfect opportunity to slow down, have some peaceful “you” time and connect with your mind. Sara Clemence, the author of “Away and Aware: The Field Guide to Mindful Travel” tries to engage in mindfulness during her travels and offers her tips on how you can, too:
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Shivani Vora is a New York City-based travel writer and a mother of two girls under 10.
Stay Healthy While Traveling – Travel Guides – The New York Times
Stay Healthy While Traveling
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