If you’re getting ready to go on an overseas trip, odds are the last thing you’re thinking about is diet and exercise. Staying healthy and fit is one of the best ways to be sure you get the most out of your journey. Eating right, exercising and sleeping well are great ways to battle jet lag, pump up energy, avoid illness, and stay positively in a good mood.

Staying on track with sleep, diet and exercise can be easier said than done when you’re traveling across time zones where your circadian rhythm is off. To plan ahead, here are a few considerations to keep your body happy and healthy while you’re at your destination.

Mind what you eat

A lot of people like to give their diets a little wiggle room while they’re traveling, which will probably be okay as long as you don’t stray too far from a balanced diet. Too much diverse rich food can make upset your digestive track and sap your energy. If you’re traveling abroad for an extended stay, unwanted pounds will creep up on your body.

Global travelers have the challenge of trying new and exciting foods but also need to stay healthy and moderate a balanced diet.

  • Eat slowly and stop before you feel full: Food can be exciting and fun. Foreign cultural cuisine is an appetizing attraction.  Be mindful of what you are putting into your mouth and when you are eating.  Drink water while dining and stop eating before you feel full to give your appetite a chance to signal satiation. It can take about 20 minutes for your body to signal its satisfied. Overeating is uncomfortable, can cause food coma’s and drowsiness, especially high fat, high carbohydrate meals.
  • Serving sizes matter: You can roughly measure one serving size using your hands.
    • Your fist = one cup: Use this measurement for pasta, cereal, and vegetables
    • Your palm = three ounces: Use this measurement for meat
    • Your thumb = one ounce: Use this measurement for cheese
    • The tip of your thumb = one teaspoon: Use this measurement for high-fat foods like peanut butter or mayonnaise
    • A handful = one to two ounces: Use this measurement for snack foods like nuts
    • A tennis ball: One serving of fruit
  • Stay hydrated: Feeling tired or exhausted?  Drink up.  Drinking water is a good way to avoid fatigue and moderate food intake. Try to drink eight to ten glasses of water per day, and enjoy a large glass with every meal, especially if you’re going to drink alcohol because alcohol dehydrates. Water helps with digestion.
  • Eat slowly: Try to slow down between bites. This will help you realize when your appetite is satisfied sooner.  Be a mindful eater, try not to be distracted by reading or watching television. Each meal should be enjoyed for twenty to thirty minutes.
  • Eat lean, green and clean: Eating healthy is an art when traveling.  It’s not always easy to determine what goes into a menu when you are ordering in a restaurant. Here are some helpful tips:
    • Download a nutrition app: If you use a smartphone, download a diet or nutrition app to help count calories. Record what you eat and let the app calculate your calorie and water intake, nutritional balance, and exercise.
    • Try a veggie diet: Meat lovers may want to skip this option, but going vegetarian for your trip can be a great way to try lots of new foods while not consuming as much fat or calories. Vegetables and fruits are also high in nutrients and soluble fiber to keep you feeling good and energized during your trip.
    • Carry healthy snacks: It’s not always convenient to eat breakfast, lunch or dinner on a travel schedule.  No one likes to travel with anyone who is so hungry they are angry, which is often called being hangry.  Carry protein or snack bars, fruit, nuts or trail mix. Be aware, many processed foods like granola and energy bars have surprising amounts of sugar and fat.
    • Variety is the spice of life, be wary of preparations: It‘s interesting to note how different food pyramids compare to the USA model. The Japanese and Mediterranean pyramids are achieving high praises.  Lean meats, healthy fats, whole grains, fruits and veggies.  While abroad, be cautious of sanitation and food processing. Using ice cubes or eating a salad rinsed in tap water in some countries can cause loose bowels.  No fun! Street vendors, in particular, can be a fun experience unless the food has been sitting outside in heat for hours.
    • Consider the brunch method: If you find you’re dining in hotels and restaurants more often, food options are probably larger and dense in calories,  You might save money and calories during breakfast by packing instant oatmeal and enjoying it in your room with coffee and fruit.
    • Allow yourself some indulgences: Eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself of experiences like English fish and chips, or classic German black forest cake. Give yourself permission to enjoy a splurge food, in moderation.
  • Exercise: Keeping your body moving, even walking, reduces the stress and anxiety during travel. Healthy habits should follow us wherever we go. Keeping up with regular exercise workouts can be difficult when traveling. Luckily, it’s possible to stay in shape anywhere. All you’ll need is a plan and preparations. Here are a few handy pieces of exercise equipment to keep you happy and healthy throughout your trip.
    • Good Shoes: A good pair of walking or running shoes is your best workout buddy. If the weather is favorable you can start your day off with a morning power walk or run.
      • Check your accommodations: Many hotels have in-house fitness rooms with weights, ellipticals, exercise bikes, and treadmills. Most housing rentals can make recommendations for safe paths to follow. Or check in with a local sports club for a short term membership.
      • Find a local park or trail: Parks are great places for runners to stretch out and get some air.  To avoid getting lost, plan your best route and whether or not you’ll need to catch a subway or bus to get there. Know the local rules, and be wary of running on busy or narrow streets.  Dress appropriately.  If you are traveling alone, know crime rates and avoid risky areas.  Keep your head up and your ears open, you might want to think about using only one earbud to listen to rhythmic tunes while you exercise.
      • Map a street walk or run: If you use a smartphone you can unlock your phone and get a sim card at your destination to avoid roaming charges.  Then you can build and track your routes. Apps like MapMyRun can help you plan a run, track your activity and even track your nutrition.  Be sure to share your plans with someone who isn’t joining you if you’re planning a solo run.
    • Jump rope: Jump ropes are lightweight, small and easy to pack for fast, high-intensity workouts. You can purchase a good jump rope for $6-20.  Check out a few simple jump rope workouts online to make it fun and get results. It won’t take long to increase your heart rate, work up a sweat and burn some calories.
    • Resistance bands: A set of resistance bands can add an extra kick to your everyday workout. If you’re not familiar with how to use them, check out some easy, portable workouts before you go on your trip. Remember to build up gradually with a new routine. Likewise, resistance bands are also light, small and easy to pack and great for big muscle exercise. The more muscle, the higher the metabolism the more calories you consume to maintain weight.  Good exercise bands can be bought for $5-20.
    • Yoga: Yoga is great for strength training, balance, breath control, relaxation, flexibility, and mindfulness. If you know a good yoga routine, doing it in a new and exciting location is fun. Downloading a yoga app helps you choose a yoga class at your level. There are hundreds of choices to help you through a variety of poses, guide your breathing and customize your workout. A yoga mat can fit in the bottom of a suitcase, it is also good for strength exercises like planks, push-ups, sit-ups, lunges and pilates.
    • Laptop: Your laptop is your easiest access point to workouts you can do at home, in your hotel room or in your Airbnb or VRBO rental. If you do some Internet exploring, you can find workouts with a variety of duration, intensity, and formats to follow along with.  YouTube is loaded with examples. If you want to have a little fun with your fitness routine, try busting new moves in a Bollywood dance workout, bonding with your significant other in a couples workout or impressing your friends with a capoeira workout – do it like the Brazilians.

A few more ideas to stay healthy while traveling:

We are all unique, our differences are what personifies who we are.  Every ‘body’ has different limits and needs.  Know how to adapt to suit yours, including any physical or health limitations you need to be aware of.  Make sure your food and workout routines are safe for you.

  • Visit a travel clinic: Travel clinics can help you avoid health risks with preventative medicine. Talk to your doctor about what you can expect where you’re going in light of your unique health needs.
    • Do you have high blood pressure? Talk about what effect a different diet or time schedule might have on your health.
    • Do you have any food allergies? Discuss a safety plan before you go.
    • Are you going somewhere with a high altitude? Make sure your body can handle exercise at those levels.
  • Try it to see if you like it: Don’t do a new exercise or use new equipment without trying it out at home first. Exercise is great for many reasons, but the wrong one the wrong way can be a quick road to injury.  Training is called training because it prepares you for an event.  If you are going skiing, for example, building up cardiovascular heart function along with those thigh muscles can help you hit the slopes with confidence and less soreness.
  • Make it fun: Traveling is an exotic enticement with a wealth of opportunity to experience and explore new places.
    • Get outside: Go for a hike in a scenic spot. Look up the nearest park or nature reserve and really take in your destination’s natural beauty. Follow the advice of travel.state.gov for safety’s sake.
    • Tour a museum: Want to see ALL of the Louvre? Strap on your comfiest shoes and make a day of it. That will work up a good enough appetite to justify a crepe or a croissant later on.
    • Try a local activity: When in Rome, do what the Romans do. Use Romeing to find local gyms. When you’re in China, join in the tai chi or aerobics classes in the park. When you’re in Australia, try your hand at surfing on a safe and life-guarded beach.  
    • Try cooking: If you can rent a home on Airbnb or VRBO you can have a kitchen and do it your way. Are you a student staying with a host family? Ask them if they’d like any help in the kitchen. Home-cooked meals can be more nutritious, controlled and healthy than the fare at restaurants. Cook up a meal from your home country for your host family.
    • Have what your friends are having: Watch the locals, and ask for recommendations.  The Google Translate App now has “Lens’ the ability to use the camera and translate a menu in most languages.  How cool is that? Most restaurants are happy to oblige clients with their most popular dishes. Locals know where to go.  
  • When you can, bring a friend: Exercising outside in a fun new place can be invigorating, but it’s always better to bring a buddy for safety’s sake.  Make sure you know them well.
  • Listen to your body: Yes, exercising and a healthy diet are important, but you need to listen to your body. If you’re sick, exhausted or hungry, don’t let your exercise regime or your diet plan interfere with what your body talk. For that matter, travel can also make you LOSE weight. Be on the lookout for signs you might be dropping pounds a little bit too fast.
  • Know where to find a local doctor: Your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate can point you to a local doctor who can help you if you need it. Monitor your health closely and have a plan in case something happens. You should also have travel medical insurance, in case you get sick or injured and need medical care or evacuation services. Travel insurance should also come with 24×7 concierge services to help you when you need help.
  • Don’t let healthy behavior become unhealthy: Exercise and nutrition are all about habits, but if you find that you can’t be flexible and take a break occasionally, it might be a sign that you are overdoing it. If you feel distressed at not being able to exercise or have a few more calories than normal, talk to a doctor. It might mean that you’re at risk for an eating or exercise disorder. Healthy is as healthy does.  Balance is something of an anomaly while traveling.

With a good plan in place, you can stay healthy while you have fun and learn new things in your destination. For more travel tips, and a free travel safety checklist visit Depart Smart.org.