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Eating well on the move

How the right foods can beat the holiday blues.

Uncontrollable traffic snarls and flight delays can make travelling a trial, but luckily you can control at least one thing while out and about: the way you feel.

Eating well goes a long way towards fighting fatigue, illness, grumpiness and anxiety, among other on-the-move ailments.

So forget about relying on foods that lack nutrients, like those found at takeaways, highway service stations and airports. There are plenty of alternatives — and we’re here to give you all the right moves so you can travel and feel on top of the world!

On the road

Spending hours sitting in the same cramped position can be uncomfortable. Keep a window slightly ajar for a fresh breeze, and make regular pit stops so everyone can stretch their legs.

Highway service stations are obvious spots to take a break, but many are hopeless if you’re seeking pick-me-up snacks. These stores are full of foods like chips and sweets that are tempting but not satisfying.

Steer clear of roadside joints and head for a supermarket or dairy where you know you can grab fresh fruit, nuts or small tubs of yoghurt. To save money and safeguard your health, plan ahead. Pack a portable picnic so you can all enjoy a bite en route or during rest breaks. Stash healthy snacks such as sandwiches, cheese, yoghurt and fruit, in a small insulated bag, along with ice-cold drinks.

Feeling green?

If a family member is prone to carsickness, take flasks of peppermint tea or sugar-free ginger ale to help combat nausea. Chewing a sugar-free peppermint gum can also help.

Anyone who starts to feel ill should sit in the front seat and look straight ahead rather than down at a book, phone or tablet, or even out to the side as the world whizzes by. Another good idea is to let them out of the car so they can spend a bit of time outside, breathing fresh air. Taking regular rest breaks also helps combat driver fatigue.

Hitting the highway the healthy way

Car foods

  • Apples, grapes or small tubs of fruit salad
  • Mixed unsalted nuts
  • High-fibre snack bars
  • Cubes of reduced-fat cheese and crackers
  • Air-popped popcorn

Picnic fare

  • Homemade pasta salad
  • Bean or lentil salads
  • Salad sandwiches or wraps
  • Vege sticks and dip

Services station snacks

  • Bottled water
  • Tubs of diced fruit in juice
  • Tuna snack packs
  • Fruit-based ice blocks

Your on-road kit

  • Vacuum flask packed with ice
  • Drink bottles that seal securely
  • Insulated lunchboxes
  • Zip-lock bags for portioning out snacks
  • Hand wipes
  • Swiss army knife or penknife for cutting food

Above the clouds

Air travel poses three main problems to the would-be healthy eater. First, airports offer precious few decent food options, so you’re more likely to eat junk, especially if you’re looking at a wait.

Second, airline meals can be high in salt and fat, and they’re not particularly fresh or balanced, either. On top of this the allure of alcohol can be hard to resist during a long flight, a time when you should be more concerned with staying well hydrated.

And third, flying makes some people anxious, a mental state that can play havoc with appetite as well as digestion.

Reset your body clock

Catching a flight often means having to get up at the crack of dawn or even earlier. Breakfast may be the last thing you want at that hour, but your body needs some fuel to get going.

Eating a light snack, such as yoghurt or a piece of fruit, will ‘break your fast’, helping you stay alert and stopping you from doing silly things (like forgetting your passport!). Just as important, eating something healthy upon waking will help you make better snack choices throughout the day.

Crossing time zones can throw your digestion out of whack. Jet lag doesn’t normally cause problems if the time difference is under five hours, but any more than that can challenge the body. Travelling eastward can also worsen jet lag. The best advice? Set your watch to the time at your destination as soon as you board the plane, then try to eat and sleep according to that time. If you’re offered meals at other times, decline them in favour of your home- made snacks, which you can eat at your new dinner time.

Prepare for take-off

At the start of your holiday, splurging on food and drink at airport cafés and bars can seem like the perfect pre-flight celebration — but try to resist the temptation to indulge in a larger-than-normal meal just because you’re on holiday.

The best tactic is to pack your own healthy snacks so you’re prepared for flight delays. Seal single serves of trail mix into zip-lock pouches and pop them into your hand luggage. You can also stash a couple of herbal tea bags in your pocket so all you need to ask for is a cup of hot water. (When travelling overseas, be aware that you can’t bring food into some countries, so you may need to toss uneaten home-made snacks before you reach immigration.)

Avoid anything that’s likely to give you indigestion during the flight — think alcohol, caffeine, fizzy drinks and rich food.

Fruit and vegetables can be in short supply in the air, so it’s a good idea to pick up a small fruit salad or something similarly fresh before you board.

Long-haul flights are notorious for spreading germs, giving you all the more reason to strengthen your immunity by eating well. Be vigilant about washing your hands and try not to walk around the plane barefoot, especially in the toilet area.

Fuel up the right way

At times, you’ll have no other option but to eat plane food, and the selection is usually pretty limited. Look for snacks that keep you feeling full, such as nuts or cheese and crackers, and stick to healthy portion sizes. Give chips, biscuits, lollies and chocolate a miss — these may give you short-term satisfaction, but you’ll be hungrier later on.

It’s easy to mistake boredom for hunger, so be mindful at mealtimes. Are you polishing off that less-than-delicious dessert because you’re really enjoying it, or are you just killing time?

Travel well

If you take medication at the same time each day, you’ll need to figure out what time to take it at your new destination.

Always pack your medication in your carry-on bag in case your luggage is lost or delayed. And check whether airport security requires a note from your doctor to verify your meds and related equipment (such as needles for insulin injections).

If you have a food allergy or intolerance, you’ll be used to bringing your own ‘safe’ food. Still, it’s worth planning ahead to ask whether the airline caters for special dietary requirements. If you need a gluten-free or vegetarian meal, book it in advance (you can usually do this when you book your flights).

Even if you’re simply watching your weight, it’s not worth spoiling your hard work with plane food. Plan ahead and you’ll be able to pack enough quality food to avoid temptation.

Have a healthy flight

Stay hydrated, but avoid carbonated drinks if they’re likely to cause bloating and gas.

Choose a lighter meal. Salad, fish and fruit are easy to digest and won’t sit heavily in your stomach. Forgo the bread roll and skip dessert. After eating, sip peppermint tea to soothe your stomach, prevent heartburn, aid digestion and promote relaxation.

Wave the drinks trolley past. High altitudes impair the body’s ability to metabolise alcohol, leading to faster absorption and heightened intoxication. Inflight drinking can make you tipsy up to three times faster than drinking on land does, so you’ll be nursing a holiday headache if you’re not careful.

Your in-flight kit

  • Water bottle (you can buy one once you pass the security checkpoints)
  • High-fibre muesli bars and sealed bags of nuts, vege sticks and fresh fruit
  • A couple of herbal tea bags
  • Sugar-free mint gum
  • Any medications you’re taking or may need while you’re away

Inflight menu

Short jaunt

Say no to snacks if your brief trip doesn’t coincide with a mealtime. Don’t be tempted to eat just because you have access to food and need something to do. Enjoy a substantial meal prior to your flight and wait until you land before eating again.

Pop some sugar-free mint gum into your pocket. That way, you can satisfy your sweet tooth and freshen your breath at the same time. You’ll find it easier to say no to treats and if turbulence is making you queasy, chewing can help.

Long haul

Take a camomile teabag or two and if hot water is available, have a cup of tea at the start of inflight service. Checking in and boarding can be stressful, and this herbal brew will relax you more effectively than alcohol. You often feel tired after a long flight because your muscles have tensed up after all that sitting, so anything that can help release that tension in advance is a bonus.

Opt for the lightest choice on the menu. Avoid dishes with pastry or creamy sauces, as these are harder to digest than vegetarian meals or those with white fish or chicken. Fill up on vegetables or side salads rather than bread rolls slathered with butter.

Swap rich desserts, cakes and chocolate for fruit. You can either buy ready-made fruit salads at airports or bring apples, pears or berries with you. Fresh fruit is full of nutrients and antioxidants.

If you are peckish, munch on a small handful of unsalted nuts. They provide good fats and don’t feel heavy in your stomach.

Drink plenty of water. If you aren’t sleeping during the flight, have a small glass of water every half hour or so to counteract the dehydrating effects of the pressurised cabin. Frequent drinks will also trigger regular trips to the toilet, giving you a chance to stretch your legs and improve your circulation. (Worried you’ll disturb fellow passengers? Request an aisle seat.)

Avoid caffeinated soft drinks, tea, coffee and hot chocolate if you want to relax. If you’re trying to sleep or you’re an anxious flyer, revving up your nervous system is a bad idea. That said, if you need to be extra alert when you disembark, drink a cup of tea or a coffee during the last inflight service before landing. If you’re going straight to bed from the airport, it’s best to opt for a decaffeinated or naturally caffeine-free drink.

Date modified: April 3 2017
First published: Jan 2016

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