In my time as a nutritionist, I have experienced many clients asking what to eat while overseas on holiday. Usually it isn’t for too long, so I often say there’s no point stressing about it; try to eat as healthily as possible while still splashing out and having fun.
Why this been my basic advice is because when you stress about things, it is the stressful thoughts and emotions which do more harm to the body in the long run. Let’s face it, the whole point of a holiday is to rejuvenate (for most people).
I recently spent 10 days in Rarotonga which inspired me to write this article, for those interested in maximising the opportunity to rejuvenate and reset on an overseas holiday. Below is an holistic array of tips to either inform or reassure you of ways to maintain or boost your health on holiday.
Eat local traditional(often medicinal) foods/dishes. In a Pacific island for example you can’t go past the coconut, in all its forms; water, milk, cream and food. Coconut has many health benefits. It can assist in immune and liver function and provide many nutrition and health benefits. The water is a great source of electrolytes (potassium). Rich in lauric acid, coconuts can help boost immune function and are anti-fungal and anti-bacterial.
The principal fatty acid in coconut milk is lauric acid, which is the same fat found in abundance in mother’s milk and is known to promote normal brain development and contribute to healthy bones. It also has important anti-carcinogenic and anti-pathogenic properties and is less likely to cause weight gain than polyunsaturated oils.
The summary of its benefits are: weight loss; reduced risk of heart disease; reduced cholesterol; disease prevention via its antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal agents; help with diabetes and chronic fatigue, Crohn’s, IBS, and other digestive disorders; increases metabolism and promotes better thyroid function; boosts energy; rejuvenates skin and helps prevent wrinkles.
My favourite dish in Rarotonga was Rukau; taro leaves cooked in coconut cream. It looked like green slop but tasted divine. The taro leaves are said to be high in plant-based iron and high in phytonutrients to boost strength and libido. Another popular super food on the island is Noni juice. Apparently if it doesn’t smell or taste like blue cheese then it’s not the real deal. The medicinal benefits of Noni juice are that its enzymes mimic the enzymes in the immune system of human beings. Used traditionally by healers to help people recover quicker from illnesses, it is now being bought and sold all over the world for these health benefits (bear in mind products will vary in medicinal strength depending on the manufacturer). A lot of ginger and chilli are also grown on the island, fantastic for immunity (ginger), pain relief / anti-inflammatory (ginger), circulation (ginger, chilli) and increasing metabolism (chilli). These only being a few examples of medicinal foods.
However do be aware of food hygiene in really exotic places. It pays to do your research on food hygiene with the countries and locations you are going to. Note that cooked food (in really exotic places) kept hot is always best, street stalls have seemed to have made a reputation for themselves for being not so great on the gut.
Drink bottled water preferably, as this will keep you hydrated and energised. Boiling the water in some countries is fine, in others boiling doesn’t seem to do much good. If the water is off this can really affect all systems in your body, as water travels right around the body, in and out of your cells since we are made up of 70/80 percent water in our physical body. This means any nasties in the water will be sent around the body pretty quickly. If this is the case, lack of energy, lethargy, loose stools and stomach pain can be quite common side effects.
Keep an eye on the digestive system before you travel you may want to make sure your digestive system is balanced and working well (see www.facebook.com/fuelnutrition4life for my pinned post on digestive boosting tips), as this will also mean your immunity is functioning at a higher level. Thus, meaning less risk of travellers’ diarrhoea (no one wants to spend all holiday on the toilet). Basic sanitary practices are recommended i.e. taking alcohol-based hand sanitisers after the toilet, touching surfaces etc, before eating and drinking.
I can already tell I will make some eyes roll with this one. Reduce your alcohol intake (hence tolerance) well in advance of your trip- this means you can still enjoy a couple of drinks at happy hour and you are ready to party. By not over doing it you will face less negative health effects on the liver (ie hormonal balance, cholesterol and detoxification processes to name a few things). This also means you won’t spend precious holiday sight-seeing time hung over.
A positive about holidays is that usually sightseeing reignites our natural hunger and satiation cycles in the stomach. We are having too great a time to emotionally eat. This means your digestive hormones drive you to eat when you are physically hungry. When you do eat then you know it is because your body needs the nutrients.This is a great way to rebalance our digestive system and metabolism; which could well kick start some loss of excess weight if you are carrying it – BONUS!
Exercise. Unless you really want to keep to your normal routine from back home, make your exercise incidental on holiday. This could mean walking or biking to different destinations sightseeing along the way, doing some nature hikes, cultural activities which involve movement i.e. dancing. I enjoyed all of these in Rarotonga as well as snorkelling in local lagoons.
Schedule some lazy days. As much as it’s good to sight-see, if your trip is longer than five days (anywhere) make sure you have some time to recharge the batteries, relax and pamper the physical body. Sunbathing is definitely a fantastic way to do this, the sun is very recharging and vitamin D is great for mood and our metabolism.
Finally, to really fill your body with vitality and health, embrace the culture you are surrounded by and be in deep gratitude for your experiences. Fill your soul with a deeper sense of being and purpose which brings you peace, joy and love. To which your body responds by destressing and revitalising itself.
So next time you are planning a holiday and want to try to stay in the best state of health as much as possible, have a re-read of this article. May your next holiday be filled with vitality, great health and soul enriching experiences.