By: Ella Mthethwa

(Registered Dietitian)

I love traveling,….PERIOD. It energies me and revives me to a point where I feel refreshed and ready to take on the next assignment. In fact some of my best ideas were borne thousands and thousands of feet above sea level. One could argue that the sense of being in oblivion frees your mind somewhat which unlocks your hidden gems…fresh new “out of the box” ideas….


Be that as it may as I jet off once again to what has become my second home…Nairobi, Kenya…I think about how in the past (MANY years ago) traveling was a nightmare for me when it came to adhering to my healthy eating ways, let alone being active. It didn’t take too long for me to become derailed then – with exposure spanning from the decadent spreads at the Airport Lounges to the rich in-flight dining and constant snacking whilst in transit from one airport to the next. For constant travelers, this is a celebration of flavours for the tongue and could be a complete disaster for the rest of the body…

One could argue that this could be a familiar scenario for most people to a greater or lesser extent with the difference being the distance and frequency of travel or the mode of transport…
The bottom line …you could be traveling in a bus, taxi, plane or train for a long distance – the fact remains – most people change their eating behaviour when traveling…

In my experience as a Dietitian there has been many a time when clients have cited travelling as a source of derailment where they have fallen off the band wagon…and couldn’t come back, where they have diverted from their healthy eating plan and lifestyle.

Here are a few tips to follow:

1, Plan Ahead

They say that “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” and as such it is important to plan before one ventures into the “sea of temptation”. Before your trip, it’s best to do some research – check for hotels with the best selection in terms of healthy menus, check your selected route for restaurants that offer healthy choices. If you’re travelling on land make strategic stops at places with healthy selections. The best option of all – which some may regard as old fashioned – make your own healthy “padkos” or “umphako”. In this way – you’re in control.

2. Eat Before You Move

Another way of avoiding temptation is to eat a healthy meal before you leave. You’re more likely to divert from your eating plan if you’re hungry.

3. Choose Wisely

In most of the places where I have stayed there is always a healthier option eg whole grain breakfast cereals, low fat yoghurt/milk/cheeses, an assortment of healthy salads, fruit, grilled fish, chicken and brown rice or pasta, just to name a few. In instances where there is doubt it is best to ask if they could make this for you. For those traveling by taxi, the vendors at the taxi rank sell some of the most amazing fruit at an affordable price. And so really – it is up to the individual to decide.

4. Keep Hydrated

Most people either drink too little or they just drink soft drinks and juices. It’s best to keep yourself hydrated with water, especially in hot areas and when travelling for long distances. Drink at least 6 – 8 glasses of water per day, which you can drink a little at a time every hour while traveling. Keep in mind that thirst can also masquerade as thirst.

5. Carry Healthy Snacks

Some people report cravings for sweets and chocolate when traveling and find themselves indulging beyond the norm (beyond the treat). The best way to avoid this is to try to avoid peaks and dips of your blood sugar – to maintain normal blood sugar levels which may result in craving for sweets. Instead of eating sweets carry a handful of nuts, baked sweet potato crisps, plain popcorn and a bar made from nuts, seeds and dried fruit for example. Fruit and vegetable sticks are always the best example that I opt for.

6. Keep Moving

To complete the loop, make sure that you keep your exercise routine intact. When I travel, whether business or pleasure, I stay at a hotel with a gym. If you are on vacation for example, even if it’s in the rural areas – emakhaya – take a walk as a family in the fresh breeze in the morning or the afternoon at least 4 times a week for at least 20 to 30 minutes. Allow the kids to play!

The most important element of all is to remain FOCUSSED and to be DISCIPLINED. When one has chosen to live a Healthy Lifestyle the above become part of a normal travel routine and chances of failure become minimized in your JOURNEY to Healthy Living.