How to stay healthy on holiday
Apart from a tan and gifts for our folk, there are two things most of us want to avoid bringing home after a holiday abroad: an upset stomach and excess baggage around the waist!
Whether you are going to India or Spain, there are a few things you can do to avoid both. These same tips may even help you to come back healthier & slimmer, whether you’re travelling for months or just a couple of weeks.
HOW TO AVOID TUMMY BUGS
From Salmonella to Campylobacter, the heat exacerbates any bacteria that may be lurking in your food. To stay safe here are a few tips.
Avoid buffets where the food may have been left out for hours in the heat.
Make sure that any meat you eat is cooked all the way through, especially at barbecues.
If eating cooked eggs, make sure that the white and yolk are solid.
Always wash your hands before eating.
Take antibacterial wipes with you – and use them!
Avoid dishes made with mayonnaise.
If you have a sensitive stomach, avoid unpasteurised milk, cheese and undercooked or raw meat, fish and shellfish.
Ask to dress your own salad rather than eating one that has been sitting the sweltering heat.
Don’t drink ice-cold drinks in a very hot country. Apart from the risk of bad water in the ice cubes, the freezing temperature of an ice-cold beer can cause problems for an over-heated stomach. This is something that all travel reps used to warn us about in the 70s.
If you are self-catering, be vigilant about food hygiene. It only takes someone to cut pieces of raw chicken and then use the same scissors to cut open a carton of orange juice for the whole family to go down with Campylobacter, one of the most virulent forms of food poisoning.
AND... IN LESS DEVELOPED COUNTRIES
For starters, drink only bottled water from a sealed container.
Avoid Western-style food, salads and uncooked vegetables. Even if you are in a reputable restaurant, you should still check to see if they have washed the fruit, salad or raw veg in bottled water. Often they have.
Don’t buy meals from street vendors.
Remember this rule: boil it, peel it or forget it!
Before you go travelling, support your good gut bacteria by taking a two-week course of a prebiotic and probiotic supplement, available at any health store. Continue whilst away. If you don’t want to carry supplements around with you, prepare your gut for the invasion of foreign bacteria by eating “live” yoghurt, or kefir, every day. The Lactobacillus in the yoghurt helps to support friendly bacteria that will help fight any invading bugs.
To avoid the inevitable “I am on holiday, so, of course, I will get ill with a cold or flu”, sprinkle eucalyptus oil on a tissue and inhale occasionally on any flights you take. It is one of nature’s antiseptics and kills up to 70% of airborne germs. (Don't overdo it though, I once got told off on a flight because the scent had gone all round the air-con!)
There is always a healthy option on the menu, wherever you go in the world. Many of my suggestions will also improve your health as well as helping you to avoid piling on the pounds. After all, you want to return bronzed, slim and full of energy!
Whether you are self-catering or eating in a hotel, it is very easy to buy Omega3 rich local seeds and un-salted nuts, such as walnuts and almonds, to add to your cereal. These also make good traveling snacks along with a banana or two.
Add plenty of locally grown, anti-oxidant rich fruits, such as oranges, mango, papaya and berries. These will help you to build up your immunity, while keeping the weight off. If you add seeds, nuts and fruits to a bowl of “live” yoghurt, you are looking after your health big time.
If you want the full fry up – you are on holiday after all – ask for grilled bacon instead of fried and boiled or poached eggs instead of fried. Add tomatoes and mushrooms and you’re set for the day.
HEALTHY LUNCH & DINNER
There is usually a baked or poached local fish dish on the menu, served with vegetables and rice or a nutritious salad.
You can also increase your intake of essential fatty acids on holiday by eating fish such as sardines and salmon. If you are lactose intolerant, you might be interested to know that a small portion of sardines contains more calcium than a whole pint of milk!
However, if you’re traveling to less developed countries, you might consider doing what I do when I go to India and stick to vegetarian meals.
I have never been ill after eating rice with dhal or other beans and pulses. I also eat salads, if I know the restaurant has washed the vegetables in pure water.
Think of the colours of the rainbow and try to increase your intake of orange, red and yellow fruit & veg as much as you can. Foods such as yellow peppers, avocado, carrots & tomatoes are packed full of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that is thought to reduce the risk of cancer, while improving eye health. Green leafy salads (washed well) will give you a big boost in minerals such as magnesium and calcium.
PUDDINGS & BOOZE
Sugars and starchy carbs are major factors when it comes to ageing, inflammatory conditions and weight gain. However, you're on holiday and deserve a break from any health regime you follow at home. If you want to stick to to it just pick the healthiest option you can find on the menu, some of the time but certainly not all of the time!
Local cheeses, made from goats or sheep’s milk, are always lower in fat than cows cheese or a bowl of ice-cream. And, while we’re on the subject of ice-cream, avoid buying it from a street vendor… my mother nearly died after eating one that she bought in Spain in the 60s.
When it comes to alcohol, I try and stick to the lower sugar options such as Cava, Prosecco, Champagne and Spritzers. If you like spirits, Campari, dry vermouth and tequila are all lower in sugar and calories than a beer or a pina colada!
So I hope that's helped you if you are going away and still want to have fun but avoid carrying home extra weight or a bug!
I would love to hear from you, so please do comment if this blog has helped you at all, or if you would like to add anything.