If you read our Traveling Veg Part 1 article, you got a few tips on how to stay healthy by taking delicious and nutritious meals and snacks on the road. Here, we’re taking travel a step further (or a lot of miles farther) and offering you some tips for when you have to get on a plane. Going abroad means you have to be extra practical when packing as well as extra careful, conscious and creative when you get to your destination. Traveling internationally means being exposed to perhaps entirely different food and climate – which can be both wonderful and exciting, as well as tricky and dangerous. When I visit family in Peru, for example, I have to watch what I eat because, as the family doctor says, “You now have American flora.” This refers to the fact that our bodies encounter a host of new bacteria in foreign foods, microorganisms that we’re not used to in our own foods at home, and we have to take precautions because we definitely don’t want a stomach infection to spoil a great trip.
With all this in mind, here are a few tips for staying healthy while traveling internationally:
- - Drink water with lime. I have friends who swear by this while they’re home and others for whom this is a daily morning routine while traveling to foreign countries. For me, it’s pretty much the best line of defense against bacteria. Why? Lime juice (lemon works too) has been found to have an alkalinizing effect on the body, which is a key thing for staying healthy and out of bacterial trouble (bacteria tend to thrive in an acidic environment). By drinking lime juice with our water, we are helping maintain our body’s pH balance, which is the first thing that we need to do if we want to keep viruses, bacteria or any other microbe in check. Unless you’re traveling home and staying at Grandma’s, traveling oftentimes means eating at restaurants for the duration of your trip, and much of the food you’ll be eating is probably acid-forming. Drinking lime water in the morning is great, and before bed at night is also good. You can even drop some lime juice in your water bottle and sip throughout the day. By the way, this is also great if you’re in a very polluted city – lime water will help your body detox from the contamination you’ll be breathing in all day.
- - Opt for greens. When at a restaurant, making sure you’ve got a nice serving of greens can help offset any imbalance in your meals (if they are raw or very lightly cooked, even better, as long as it is safe to do so in the country where you are traveling. Ask around – the locals will tell you.) Greens will help alkalinize your meal and body, and add wonderful minerals and vitamins to help you stay nourished.
- - Go local. You know the saying: “When in Rome…” Eating the local produce is a great way to learn about the culture as well as to stay healthy. Remember that when you travel, your body has to acclimate to a new environment. There is a difference in the quality and density of the air you’re breathing, a difference in the level of dryness and humidity, difference in temperature – all of these are things that can be a bit of a shock to your body initially. Certain fruits have been eaten in certain climates for centuries for a reason (to hydrate, for more Vitamin C, etc…), so take that wisdom and go with it. I find that my body reacts really well to the local fruits and vegetables of whatever country I am in, and, as long as something is not out of my range (meat, for example, is out of the question anywhere), I find that being adventurous with produce usually is a safe bet. There are fruits I enjoy in Peru that I have never seen here in the USA, and vice versa (pepinos and granadillas in Lima, blueberries in Los Angeles) and I am always sure to be flexible enough to adapt my basic routine (morning smoothie with berries and banana) to whatever is local and fresh over there (papaya is a staple of Peruvian breakfasts.) As long as you’re getting your fresh fruits and vegetables in, it’s great to explore different ways to get your nutrients.
- - Bring your greens. Green powder, that is. If you’re traveling somewhere new and you don’t know what types of veggies will be on hand (and, repeat after me, “veggies are what keep me healthy”, and, no, french fries don’t count) it’s always a good idea to bring along a green powder to drink via smoothie or water. My favorite is Vitamineral Green by HealthForce – it’s got land and sea vegetables and it’s superb quality. A good green powder should have a variety of greens and it’s even better if it has algaes and herbs as well.
- - Down to a tea. Speaking of herbs, herbal teas are fantastic for balancing your system while on the go. Dandelion root tea will help cleanse your kidneys, which may be working overtime if you’re eating out a lot, eating greasy or heavily condimented food or partying and getting little sleep. Chamomile tea will help you relax and sleep better if you’re stressed while anise and/or mint teas will help with digestion. I usually pack a variety of these in a tiny zip lock bag and use them as needed.
- - Take your chlorella. If you are in the habit of doing so, bring your chlorella along. If you’re not, get in the habit (everybody’s doing it.) This algae is a powerhouse of nutrients and a fantastic immune system booster (and you’ll want all the help you can get while in foreign territory). You can find out all about how chlorella keeps you healthy and happy in this article.
- - Pack probiotics. Probiotics are another way to make sure you keep bad bacteria at bay. These guys – often in yogurt-like form, but available in some brands in pill or capsule form for travel – help maintain the balance of your intestinal flora, which you will need as you introduce new foods with new bacteria into your digestive environment. You can read more about the benefits of probiotics here.
- - Eat grains and beans. Most cultures have some sort of bean-and-grain combo meal (rice and beans in Mexico and Central and South American countries, pasta fagioli soup in Italy, etc..) and this is the case for a reason: Your bean (or legume) and grain combos are a great way to make sure you get complete protein in a meal. And there’s an added benefit: Most places offer this as a small or side place, so it is always the more economical option – and healthiest, imagine that – on the menu. And, of course, go as whole grain (brown over white rice) as possible.
There you have it. Go green, go local, drink lime, herbal tea and chlorella, and get your quality protein from simple and readily available sources. These basic tips should help keep your health and energy up so you can enjoy your trip as well as maintain the sense of balance you have at home. After all, there is no reason you should need a vacation from your vacation if your body was well taken care of while you were at play.