Eating healthy while backpacking

This must be the definition of a first world problem. Nevertheless, it is something that I really struggle with while travelling. Not only am I out of my routine, but I am constantly tempted with a wide variety of delicious looking foods.

Food is a big part of any travel experience for me because I feel that it makes up such a big part of a country’s culture and identity. Therefore, in order for me to really understand a place and have an authentic experience, I feel the need to eat all their typical foods and learn to cook at least a few of the dishes. Couple this with free hostel breakfasts (usually white toast and strawberry jam) and a tight budget, and you have a recipe (totally unashamed of this pun) for a healthy eating disaster.

This is okay if you are only travelling for a few days, but if you’re anything like me and like to spend a few weeks backpacking in each country, bad nutrition (and weight gain for most of us) is inevitable. So below is a list I’ve put together to help keep your nutrition in check while backpacking.

• Own your breakfasts. It is the meal you probably have the most control over, and mornings are usually when your motivation and discipline is at its highest.
My fave: Quick oats. I carry these around with me and just ask for hot water from my hostel. I personally add a scoop of chocolate protein powder for a well-rounded breakfast, and to add some extra flavour.
• Always have healthy snacks on hand.
My fave: Eggs that I just boil in the kettle at the hostel, a fruit, or some nuts.
• Bring some health bars from home. These really come in handy when you’re starving between meals and there are no healthy options around to snack on.
My fave: Quest bars. High in protein, low in carbs, and just not nice enough to eat a whole one in one go. Half a bar is usually enough to see me through to my next meal.
• Limit your carbohydrate intake. It is so easy to overdo carbs while backpacking because they are always available and always cheap. But this is not a good idea because it causes sugar cravings later on, and the carbohydrates are usually low nutrient options as well.
• Try stay away from gluten. Your tummy really doesn’t need the extra inflammation it can cause as you will most likely already be eating a lot of other strange and exotic foods. I don’t eat gluten often anyway, and having made that decision for myself I find it almost effortless to say no to unhealthy desserts and the temptation of snacking on cookies other readily available rubbish.
• Don’t waste calories on unhealthy drinks like fizzy drinks or fruit juices. I know how tempting it is to grab an icy coke when it is over 30 degrees and so humid that you’re sweating profusely, but this so quickly turns into a daily habit.
My fave: Sparkling water. I always carry a bottle of mineral water on me to stay hydrated and prevent unnecessary eating anyway, but there is something so refreshing about a drink with fizz in it. If you’re at a restaurant, ask for a wedge of lemon. Yummier than it sounds, I promise!
• If you’re travelling with a friend – go halvies on dinner! The portions are usually so big, and sharing half half saves calories as well as money.
My fave: Split a main dish and then just order a salad or vegetable side to get your greens in.
• Most importantly – have fun, and make memories, and don’t let obsessing about food get in the way of that. Make some steadfast commitments to yourself beforehand so that you aren’t fighting an internal battle the whole time you’re away, and then stick to them. If you stick to your goals from day one, it will very soon be a habit and require very little discipline to maintain for the duration of your travels.

I hope some of these ideas help you stick to your nutrition goals for 2017 if your year incudes an exciting trip to a foreign land! I’m currently in Sri Lanka and attempting to put them into practice myself. Please let me know if you find any of these helpful or have any tips to add!

10 thoughts on “Eating healthy while backpacking

  1. Jacqueline says:

    Hi Maxine. So far I love what I’ve read on your blog. I’ve started at the top and am working my way through the menu options. We are traveling to Bali for a month in June and eating is definitely a highlight for us as the Indonesian culture is so different to what we are used to. After reading your tips about sugar and carbs I will be more mindful of my food choices from day 1. With the exception of trying a few of the famous Asian varieties of fried rice.


    • sugarfreesundays says:

      Hi! 🙂 Ah that is so awesome – I love Bali! I spent 3 months there in 2014. There are loads of healthy options available there, not to mention copious amounts of fruit and young coconuts 😍 Plus, there are cute health shops popping up all over the place. You must try the rice! It’s delish. But the potions are massive so like I suggested in the post, you can definitely share it. Anyway, hope you have an AMAZING trip x


  2. Chiara says:

    There are some tips here that I didn’t think about that I will definitely use next time I travel namely splitting dinner with friends – the portions are huge overseas! Also could not agree more on taking breakfast and snacks with – WW carbclever range saved my life haha. My only thing is being a foodie myself – where comes the part with trying new cuisine and in doing so occasionally jumping right into the deep end of unhealthy eating? Well, what we would classify as unhealthy. I must say when I travelled recently I actually only picked up a kilo (surprising considering all I ate haha) because of all the walking and reduced stress (therefore reduced cortisone). Say you do want to try something out of the norm – when would be the best time to try it (midday?) and how often would one be “allowed” to do so without completely inflaming your stomach for the remainder of the trip? (sorry for essay)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. sugarfreesundays says:

    I’m so glad you found some useful tips! That is a tough question – I would have to say it depends. If your ‘out of the norm’ thing is really sugary then having it earlier in the day could lead to cravings for the rest of the day, so in that case maybe leave it for a bit later. But if you can eat one thing and then jump back to ‘healthier’ choices for the remainder of the day then I don’t think that it matters too much 🙂 And it is impossible for me to say how often to minimise inflammation because that would be different for everyone and also depend on the type of foods eaten. I think just keep a balanced perspective and don’t be all or nothing about it. Hope that helps! x


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