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Eating healthy when you are travelling in foreign countries can be challenging when the country’s food is so different from what you are used. Not spending a fortune for your meals is a much easier task as cheap meals are readily available almost in every corner of the planet like fast-food chain or street food. However, combining healthy and cheap might just complicate your search for fresh and reasonably priced food. We have put together some of our best recommendations which we follow when eating in a foreign country. Enjoy!
Granola with fresh berries and flowers
COOKING YOUR OWN MEALS – Eating out is always a temptation when travelling and it’s definitely part of the experience. Unfortunately, it’s not always the healthiest choice as restaurants typically tend to exaggerate flavours (lots of salt or sugar or sauces) and portions. If you`re travelling for a long time, cooking your own meals will help you stay healthier and save money at the same time. This will of course depend on your culinary skills – so do some research and find recipes which you like and can replicate around the world and which can keep you healthy on the road. For example, we seriously love porridge for breakfast - it’s healthy, gives us energy in the morning, ingredients are easy to find and cheap and it can have so many different combinations (with different fruits, with jam / peanut butter / coconut milk, with other crunchy cereals…).
FIND ACCOMMODATION WITH KITCHEN OR BRING CAMPING COOKING GEAR – This tip goes hand in hand with the first recommendation for obvious reasons: you need a kitchen or at least cooking utensils and a stove to cook your own meals. AirBnB is usually a great tool to find furnished apartments with kitchen. Hostels are also a good choice if you are ok to share the kitchen with all the guests (just read reviews for cleanliness before choosing your hostel). When possible we love camping, and cooking under the stars is one of the reasons we love it so much!
Piadine with rice, guacamole and cooked veggies
EAT LOCAL – If cooking your own meals is not your thing, eating out doesn’t necessarily need to be expensive or unhealthy if you choose wisely. Also, cost is not necessarily an indication of quality. There’s no exact rule when choosing, every country is different – however, we find that the more local and authentic the cuisine is, the more seasonal and fresher ingredients the restaurant will use. Money-wise, you might rely on advice from local friends, information points and even from the locals themselves - you don’t even have to ask them sometimes, just notice where most locals go eating and trust your instincts.
EAT AT MARKETS – Which traveler doesn’t love visiting markets? Apart from local handicraft and souvenirs, you can also find cheap food at markets. Again, locals, friends who live nearby and your instincts will guide you to the healthier choice – avoid obvious fast-food stalls, smell the air and take your time to walk around the market to finally find a cheap mouth-watering falafel dish served with a nice fresh salad.
Tasty falafel burger at one of Brisbane markets
USE LOCAL INGREDIENTS – Be aware of local cuisine and read guide books, blogs, watch documentaries about the country’s food. This will help you find out the local delicatessen and the main food staples in the visited country so you can adopt locally sourced ingredients into your dishes or avoid non-authentic meals at restaurants. Many Asian countries are a good example of how being prepared can make a difference on your diet and wallet – for example: Nepalese people are not used to Western-style breakfast, like porridge, so they do not cook it properly at restaurants and a small portion can cost you much more than buying oats and cooking your own porridge yourself. Oats are available in many supermarkets in Kathmandu and you can combine them with local fresh ingredients like fruits such as bananas or mangoes.
AVOID FOOD AT AIRPORTS OR TRAIN STATIONS – How many of us got caught without food between flights and had to buy that expensive and unsavory sandwich at the airport? We all learn sooner or later that airports and train stations tend to exaggerate prices for very small portions and mostly serve fast-food style meals and not authentic food of the country you`re visiting. Our tip is to always prepare your own meals and plenty of snacks to bring with you during transfer days. It’s also good to have your own cutlery and lunch box to carry with you at all times (we use this). At airports it’s also safer to be there a little earlier than necessary to enjoy your food before passing controls as most airports do not allow you to bring certain types of food on the flight or inside the airport.
Grocery shopping at local stores and markets in Auckland, New Zealand
EAT PLENTY OF VEGGIES AND FRUITS – A healthy diet includes lots of fresh fruits and veggies every day. These will keep your digestive system more efficient and will give you a healthy recharge, especially if the diet of the visited country is based mostly on meat which lacks on some vitamins and minerals only assumed through fruits or veggies.
DRINK LOTS OF WATER – What water does have to do with food here? Well, water is part of your diet too as it makes up to 70% of our body composition. Drinking lots of water might seems a very obvious tip to most people, however, it’s also true it’s easy to forget to drink enough water when travelling, especially in countries where water is not so easily available. Some people might forget to buy some bottles or refill theirs before long trips in isolated areas (deserts, mountains…) for example. So always remember to have plenty of water with you – water is your best friend when travelling. And when water is not safe to drink, consider buying a water filter system, like LifeStraw.
Yummy healthy soups in one of many Brisbane local restaurants