Guest Blog Series – We’ve asked travel experts to offer their tips and tricks to traveling in Europe. This guest blog post is written by Lisa Stollman who was honored the 2015 Outstanding Dietitian of the Year by The New York Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and author of the popular health, fitness & travel blog, The Trim Traveler. Read on to learn how you can eat health while abroad.
Walking on cobblestones in places you’ve only dreamed of visiting, exploring the ancient ruins, visiting markets with foods you never imagined; traveling abroad is a terrific way to let go of your comfort zone and experience the richness of new cultures. But you also want to feel great so you have the energy to go out and explore. The gastrointestinal discomfort of heavy rustic food and excessive calories can really weigh you down. And for another reality check: if you’ve been trying to lose weight before you travel, don’t expect to keep losing weight while you’re away. It’s best not to add another level of stress when you’re vacationing by making yourself anxious about what you are eating. But knowing what to expect from the food culture ahead of time can allow you to know a few smart choices in advance.
Each country has a variety of regions with their own unique food specialties. For instance, if you’ve experienced the sunny beach towns of the Amalfi Coast of Italy, you most likely noticed that many of their dishes incorporate fresh lemon and seafood. Travel north up the coast to Tuscany and heartier dishes tend to be on the menu. Here you may find yourself savoring stews, beans and meat dishes. If you never tried the delicious vegetable soup, Ribolitta, you definitely should while enjoying Tuscany. Becoming familiar with the foods and traditional dishes at your destination will keep you on your game. So let’s explore some of the frequently traveled countries abroad and become acquainted with their healthy—-and not-so healthy—- dishes. If you would like to try some of the dishes in the “not-so healthy” listings, by all means go ahead. One of the thrills of traveling is trying and enjoying new foods. Just go easy on them. Balance out your indulgence with healthy choices!
Eating Healthy in Italy
There are many regions in Italy and each has its’ own unique cuisine. But the main thread that they all have in common is an emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables. So choose your plate wisely and go for vegetable-laden dishes when offered. Think salads, grilled vegetables, grilled fish or seafood with vegetables. If you’re in Venice, try the vegetable plate from Aquapazza Ristorante. Enjoy the rich variety of pasta dishes, but always make vegetables a priority on your plate. To keep calories down, order a salad and share your pasta dish with your companion.
Healthy dishes: Minestrone soup, salad, Grilled vegetables, Mussels, Margarita Pizza, Grilled fish or Chicken, Spaghetti with tomato sauce, Pasta Primavera (pasta with vegetables), pasta with chicken or seafood (Note: request whole wheat pasta), fresh fruit
Not-so healthy dishes: Shrimp Alfredo Pasta, Stromboli, Calzone, Manicotti, Lasagna Bolognese, Cheese or Beef Ravioli, chicken parmesan, Penne ala Vodka, baked Ziti, pepperoni pizza, sausage, Sopressa (salami), Mortadella, cannoli, gelato
Eating Healthy in France
Not only is the food exceptional in France, but the French pay extreme attention to detail. The artistic presentation is paramount to the delicious meals you will encounter. One such example, is the Salade Nicoise from Brasserie du Louvre in Paris, seen above.
Healthy dishes: Mussels, Grilled fish, Roasted chicken, Coq au Vin, Sautéed vegetables, Salad Nicoise, Seafood platter, French baguette (bread),
Not-so healthy dishes: Croissants, Pain du chocolat (croissant stuffed with chocolate), Foie gras (goose or duck liver), organ meats, rich creamy sauces
Below are some travel food tips and apps which can help you stay healthy and make good food choices when you travel. Bon voyage!
Eating Healthy in Greece
The foods of Greece are centered around fresh produce—think Mediterranean Diet. It is truly easy to eat healthy here. Delicious salads and grilled vegetables accompany such dishes as grilled fish, seafood, and chicken. If you are vegetarian or vegan, enjoy a plate of gigante beans simmered in garlic and tomato sauce. Go easy on the Feta cheese. It is delicious, but still 100 calories per ounce. Opa!
Healthy dishes: Hummus with pita, baba ghanoush, tzatziki (yogurt sauce), potatoes, Greek salad with dressing on the side, chicken souvlaki, grilled octopus, lamb or fish with steamed vegetables, bean salad, gigante beans, horta (dandelion greens). You could also try the arugula truffle salad from Hostateria Ristorante in Naoussa, Greece.
Not-so healthy dishes: Fried calamari, fried fish, mousaka, pastitsio, pita with giro (pork), Desserts: baklava, loukoumades (fried doughnuts), galactoboureko (custard in phyllo)
Eating Healthy in Spain
The Spaniards love their jambon (ham). It is everywhere along with other favorites such as olives, delicious cheeses, such as Manchego, and crusty white bread. But as in Italy, vegetables are deliciously prepared. They may not always show up so frequently on the menu, but ask for them when dining out. To keep calories on the lower side, order a salad and share an entree. If you want to enjoy a delicious glass of Spanish wine and tapas, request a dish of olives, instead of the higher calorie cheese.
Healthy dishes: Grilled fish, chicken and meat, jambon (ham), grilled vegetables, Paella (traditional rice dish), olives
Not-so healthy dishes: Fried fish, fried tapas
6 Take-Aways To Eating Healthy While Traveling:
1.Check the restaurant’s website for their menu before you go. Make sure they have some healthy dishes you would like to order.
2. Choose dishes that feature non-starchy vegetables, such as zucchini or broccoli. These will tend to be lower in calories and will fill you up faster.
3. When you start to feel the first sensation of fullness, ask for your meal to be wrapped up to take with you. If you don’t have a refrigerator in your room, leave the food on your plate.
4. If portions are large where you are traveling, share your meal with your companion or have an appetizer as an entree.
5. If you want to have dessert, share it with your dining companions!
6. Keep snacks on hand so you never get overly hungry. Snacks to bring from home: KIND bars, small 100 calories bags of popcorn, pre-portioned 1/4 cup bags of nuts.
Healthy Travel and Eating Apps
These apps should help you not only eat healthy while traveling, but stay healthy. Download them before you depart.
- EatWell Europe– Premier healthy European food travel guide for restaurants, grocery stores and cafes, juices and smoothies.
- Dine Gluten Free—huge database of GF restaurants, bakeries, resorts and B&Bs around the world which cater to those with who can’t eat gluten. Also includes customer reviews.
- Can I Eat This? (free): This app was created by the CDC that helps prevent acquiring a food-borne illness in an international country. Very useful for staying safe.
Pin this story and start planning a healthy adventure in Europe!
Lisa Stollman, MA, RDN, CDE, CDN was recently honored as the 2015 The Outstanding Dietitian of the Year by The New York Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is a speaker, blogger at The Trim Traveler, entrepreneur and innovator who is passionate about spreading the message of healthy plant-based eating and optimal health. She is also the author of the e-book The Trim Traveler: How to Eat Healthy and Stay Fit While Traveling Abroad (Nirvana Press 2014).
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