Experts tell how eating 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 country-town 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 and roadhouses are obvious spots to take a break, but not if you’re seeking pick-me-up snacks. These stores are likely to sell only supersize packets of chips and sweets, which, once open, are too easy to munch through to the bottom of the bag.
Steer clear of roadside joints and head for town to find a supermarket, where 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.
Your on-road kit
Vacuum flask packed with ice
Drink bottles that seal securely
Zip-lock bags for portioning out snacks
Swiss army knife or penknife for cutting food
Hitting the highway the healthy way
Apples, grapes or small tubs of fruit salad
Mixed unsalted nuts
High-fibre muesli bars
Cubes of reduced-fat cheese and crackers
Homemade pasta salad
Bean or lentil salads
Salad sandwiches or wraps
Vegie sticks and dip
Tubs of diced fruit in juice
Tuna snack packs
If a family member is prone to carsickness, take flasks of peppermint tea or sugar-free ginger ale to combat nausea.
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. 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.
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 are often high in salt and fat, and they’re not particularly fresh or balanced, either. On top of this poor-quality food, 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 lift your blood sugar, 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 should 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. (If you are 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 are usually 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 hand-washing, too.
Also, don’t walk around the plane barefoot, especially in the toilet area. If you must wear socks there, throw them out after the flight.
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. If these foods aren’t available in individual packets, share your choice with a travel companion or save half for later. Give chips, biscuits, lollies and chocolate a miss — these unhealthy snacks encourage overeating and will only give you short-term satisfaction, followed by an energy slump.
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?
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 medicine 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 unpalatable and often unhealthy 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. They may be tempting, but they can cause bloating and excess gas.
Choose the lighter meal. Salad, fish and fruit are easy to digest and won’t sit heavily on your stomach. Forgo the bread roll at dinner and skip the stodgy pudding at dessert. After you’ve eaten, sip peppermint tea to help 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, vegie sticks and fresh fruitA couple of herbal tea bagsFresh mintsAny medications you’re taking or may need while you’re away
Knowing which foods and drinks to choose (and reject!) from the trolley will help you make smart mid-air dining choices…
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 mints into your pocket. That way, you can satisfy your sweet tooth and freshen your breath at the same time. You’ll also find it easier to say no to tempting treats that roll past on the trolley.
Sip a cup of camomile 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 vegies and side salad 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 vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants that help offset the stress of travel.
Munch on a small handful of unsalted nuts if you get peckish. 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 small coffee during the last inflight service before landing. If you’re going straight to bed from the airport, opt for a decaffeinated drink or a soothing camomile tea.