What should I eat while I am on holidays?
I’ve been asked this question multiple times in the last couple of weeks so I figured it was time to address it with a blog. Before I dive into the crux of the topic let me say, have an awesome time and I’m super happy (also slightly jealous) that you’re heading off an adventure! If the ‘what should I eat while I am on holidays’ conundrum is causing you pre-holiday jitters, I’m hoping this blog will relieve all of that stress.
Let’s start by considering the reasons why you’re taking a holiday in the first place. Broadly speaking, most of us take a holiday for some or all of the following reasons:
- To rest, recuperate and recharge.
- To experience a different culture and participate in different activities we may not be able to do where we live.
- To spend quality time with family or close friends away from the busyness of everyday life.
Keeping these reasons in mind (plus any personal, specific reasons you may have), let’s move onto the food conversation. There are generally 2 main concerns I’ve heard people voice as far as ‘holiday eating’ is concerned. The first is around what food will actually be available and whether there will be enough ‘healthy’ stuff to eat. When I hear this concern, I always dig deep to find out what ‘healthy’ stuff that person is hoping to eat. Because healthy doesn’t mean the exact same food that you and I are used to eating most days of the week. To me, ‘healthy food’ is a pretty broad term and really includes all food that is fresh, minimally processed and leaves me feeling pretty good after I consume it. ‘Healthy food’ is not limited to the usual salad or veggies that I serve up most of the time at home. If you really want to experience the culture of a place, you’ll be keen to dive in and embrace their traditional cuisine cooked in traditional ways. Sure, it will be ‘different’ to what we are used to, but traditional food has its roots in nature not buried in packets at the supermarket. Of some of the places, I’ve travelled, my favorite ‘healthy, holiday food’ has included:
- Handmade pasta with Napoli sauce made from the sweetest tomatoes in Rome
- Dahl night after night, heading up to Everest basecamp in Nepal
- The most insanely delicious, oily tinned sardines on a foodie tour of Portugal
- Black bean and meat curries in Brazil (I can never seem to find authentic South American black beans over here sadly)
- Pho roadside in Vietnam….
- Juice from fresh coconuts in Bali and Fiji.
Now if you’re still thinking you have some concerns because you’re imagining yourself dining on fresh pasta 3 times a day and not faring too well as a result, what you’re really concerned about is self control. This is the second (and usually primary) concern most people have around holiday eats. We worry that when we are confronted with the option to eat or drink whatever we like and experience ‘all of the flavors ‘because it’s a holiday’ we will do precisely that. I’ve definitely been there and done that and what I’ve discovered is that it really negates the gains from taking a holiday in the first place. Let me explain by asking you to reflect back on your main reasons for taking a holiday in the first place. If you’re constantly overeating, you’re not going to come to the end of the holiday feeling rested and recharged. Nor are you going to be feeling energetic and excited to jump in and enjoy some of those ‘once in a lifetime’ activities that are on your list. You’ll also feel cranky and tired and not keen to spend time with your loved ones. In order to avoid this trap, remember what I said earlier in the blog about focusing on foods that ‘leave you feeling pretty good’ after you’ve consumed them. So say you are at a buffet, where the choices can be overwhelming and you might be hit with ‘FOMO.’ Think about selecting those things that you enjoy, but also agree with you and leave you feeling calm in the guts, plus happy and energetic in the head for the few hours that follow. For me, this would mean a couple of eggs in some form, a heap of mushrooms and spinach if I could find it, maybe some avocado and some good dense bread. If I was fancying something sweet and really hungry I might top it off with a bit of coconut yoghurt and fruit. Pancakes? They look great, but I know within about 5 minutes of eating them I’m not only hungry again (I really need solid protein in the morning) but I also have a headache (too much sugar in the toppings; think ice cream, sauce etc. I’m an ice cream lover but I can not do it before 11am!) Therefore pancakes are just not something I would ever choose; its not worth it for 2 minutes of enjoyment.
To apply this ‘feel good’ test to foods you may also need to consider the quantity of the food you are intending to eat. I loved the gelato in Rome. But I knew that if I had it everyday, I’d start to feel pretty sluggish; too much sugar makes me feel really tired and we had a lot to cram in! So I had 2 or 3 single scoop gelatos across the entire week we were there for and only when I really felt like it.
It’s also worth remembering that we live in a global society and a lot of what we think is unique to a particular region or place can probably be sought out in your own neighborhood if you look hard enough. So don’t worry about missing out; enjoy everything you can in moderation and remember there will always be other flavors, textures and deliciousness to enjoy… This is not your only chance!
If you are still really concerned about food on holidays (perhaps you have a lot of food intolerances to take in consideration) consider booking self catering accommodation so you can visit local shops and markets and prepare a lot of your own food from fresh, local ingredients.
So basically, to sum up, eat mindfully. As you always should strive to do.
And as usual, (you know I’m going to say it…) stay hydrated!!!