Friday, May 27, 2011

Eating While Travelling: The Delicious vs Healthy Dilemma

I love getting Chinese from Chinatown when I visit a new city!
Lauren says:

When I was young my family never ever ate takeaway. Only when we were on holidays would we splurge with fast food and then it was like a treat from the heavens. My parents explained this habit simply, our family saved money during term time (with mum as a teacher and my sister and I at school, everything revolved around the school timetable) so that we could do special things together on holidays. It made sense.

As a child, though, my body was a bit more hardy and, it seems, could cop a fair amount more ‘bad’ food. I could have Macdonald’s pancakes for breakfast and still have the energy to make it through the day, perhaps if I was really lucky getting a cheeseburger for lunch if we were on the road to somewhere. These days, give me a sugary breakfast and a heavy, fatty lunch and I turn into a cranky, listless, head-achey mess, which is no way I want to spend my time off!

My recent trip to Melbourne was one of the first ‘proper adult holidays’ I’d been on, being one of the first times I’d been away from family, which usually involves a bit more give and take over where to get meals, and not on an organised tour or trip where options can be limited. Simply put, Melbourne is a wonderful place for food. While there, it seemed I could pick cuisine from any country in the world, prices ranged from delightfully cheap to decadently expensive and I ate at both ends of the spectrum. While there, cramming my days full with touristing, shopping and culture absorbing, I noticed something very interesting about how my food intake correlated to how I was feeling.

The hotel I stayed in provided breakfast each morning, complete with lovely gluten free breads. After two pieces of spelt toast and a cup of tea I could go literally for hours before thinking about food again, full of boundless energy and feeling light, airy and cheerful. Gluten free, I began thinking, was definitely my friend. As was spelt (I had a small love affair with the spelt bread, I have to admit, though my sister hated it, choking and gagging at the thought!). Lunch would then come and something interesting would happen. One day I visited Lord of the Fries…oh yummy hot chips, how could I go wrong?! I’ll tell you how. One (small I might add) bucket of deep fried white carbs later and I was all wandering listlessly around the streets, wondering how early was too early to go back to the hotel, have a nap and then get ready for the evening.

A different day I had Chinese, beautiful Mongolian beef and fried (brown, how wonderful to be given the option!) rice packed with veges. I felt splendid for the rest of the day, not stopping for dinner until late in the evening. The difference food was making to my holiday was, though it seemed like common sense, remarkable.

A few years ago, I went on a cruise with Aleisha (best friend/housemate/travel buddy etc.) around the Pacific Islands. The thing we both remember most the cruise is the food. It was ah-ma-zing. So. Good. We still spend days reminiscing about ‘cruise food’ and the delightful way we felt during the holiday. Cruise food for us wasn’t actually all that unhealthy (though sure, you could eat a lot of it, and often a lot was a quantity that wasn’t exactly recommendable) but just well cooked, well balanced nutritious meals (with ice cream). We would have protein filled breakfasts (protein and breakfast and me are a winning energy combination), lunches that might start with a soup or salad, the main event maybe some beautifully cooked fish, and dessert fresh fruit (ha!) or ice cream (more likely for me, I’m afraid) and dinner that pretty much resembled lunch (but with more ice cream). It wasn’t what you’d call a sustainable lifetime diet, but for a week and for a treat it was perfect. It wasn’t full of added fats and grossness, there weren’t any ‘unidentifiable’ meat products, it was just nice, simple, good food.

I think the key to eating when travelling is remembering that the purpose of food is still to provide your body with nutrition. You want to feel great on a holiday, not bloaty and uncomfortable, and you can enjoy stunning food that’s going to give you plenty of energy and pizzazz (if you’re not pizazzful on a holiday, then when?) easily by being conscious about your decision making.

My parents taught me well with saving special food for special times, and when I think about it, the fast food establishment visits were far less common than the trips to local restaurants, getting fresh seafood at the beach or wonderful pizza at Biloela (if you’ve been to Biloela you’ll understand how unlikely this seemed). It’s a habit I continue to this day, hardly ever eating out and enjoying cooking more, and going to a restaurant is something that I like to keep as a treat. That all said, my parents have made a tradition of having Macdonalds in every country they possibly can (countries conquered already range from France to Oman), but what can you say, they are on holiday after all!

Ell-Leigh says:

So here’s the thing. I went on holidays recently. It was great. The sun, the sand, the food… The tummy aches. The cruise we were on offered 24 hour meal service all of which was included in the price of your cruise ticket. We dined, we drank, we were merry. But then we were hungover, we were grouchy, we had a little trouble in the digestion department.

No one wants to feel sick on holidays, and when your pipes aren’t working cause you jammed ‘em up too full, other things are going to stop working so good as well. This becomes a problem when you want to be enjoying your hike up Diamondhead Crater, or your snorkelling trip on the other side of the island without having to worry about your swollen glands, sore throat and constant headaches.

I think Gala Darling wrote that while travelling you should eat one salad a day, and I think this is very sound advice. Very sound advice that I wish I’d taken, as it happens. When you’re on a cruise ship you’re constantly in air conditioning, even while sleeping, and this can cause some serious dehydration. Add to that the lack of sleep and water you got on the plane there and you’re in for a bit of a doozey. If you drink on top of that… Well, you’d want to be making sure you drink a lot of water, and replenishing your cells with some fresh fruit and raw veggie goodness, and not the kind that’s been blended and mixed with vodka. Also, the mint at the bottom of your Mojito doesn’t count.

I know salad sucks, especially when you can’t make it the way you like it, and whenever you order it you are faced with bitter disappointment and a pile of iceburg covered in ranch. Whenever possible, at salad bars or buffets, take the opportunity to fill your plate with salad the way you like it, despite being surrounded by other delicious foods. Your tummy will thank you later.

Also, go steady on the bready. I know bread is delicious, and I know you’re on holidays, but too much bread will make you feel sick. And, if Scott Pilgrim Vs The World is correct, it will also make you fat. Chances are that you aren’t planning to come home from your marvellous holiday weighing more than when you left, and chances are further that you probably don’t want to spend more time than necessary being concerned about your visits to the ladies’/gents’, if you know what I mean. So, if you’re anything like me, and will use any excuse to dive into the break basket head first, think twice. 

So, perhaps I am just writing this to my pre-Hawaii self, wishing I’d spent more time taking photos (I really didn’t take enough photos) than the time I spent at the buffet and many restaurants during my cruise, and as a result of that, at the chemist section of the general store buying tums. But when all is said and done, what really matters in your holiday is that you have loads of fun, enjoy the company of the people you went with and remember to reapply your sunscreen every thirty minutes. If you eat a few salads and come home the same size as you left it’s really a bonus.

1 comment:

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