At this point in my life, I have spent quality time on six continents. I am an adventurous traveler--often reading nothing to prepare myself for my destination so long as I have about a week or more there. People may say that's nuts, but I have learned, personally, that I have more success following my feeling once I arrive than a guide book, which often confuses me about what I am actually drawn to and enjoy. That's another post though, let's get to the food and drink part!
Over the years (traveling to Kenya, India, Nepal, Thailand, Indonesia, Italy, Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, Costa Rica, across the US, Qatar, Dubai, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and on and on), I have developed strategies for keeping myself fed in a way that a) does not land me with food poisoning, b) keeps me full of energy and c) honors my restrictions (being celiac and sensitive to all glutenous grains as well as dairy-free and mostly veg, yeah, I have a FEW restrictions).
Here's a bulleted list of pointers to run through. Maybe one or two will stick. I hope something makes this read worthwhile and keeps you safe, nourished and in the flow of your journey.
•Stock up on some essentials before you reach your next stop. Whole-food energy bars, a basic greens mix, minimally processed nuts, some minimally-processed protein powder, vitamin C packs, little snacks that you can turn to when the airline food cart passes your seat (because word on the inside street is that that food has some stuff in it so that you don't poo too much and who knows what else!) and when you wake the next morning in a new location.
•Keep hydrated and very light when in flight. When you get on a plane, you won't be moving very much. You will also be in an airtight compartment with people who are sneezing and exercising any range of hygiene standards. This is not to cause paranoia, because I am not into that. I just think when you look at reality square, you can outsmart it!
So simply put: Try not to eat the airline food unless you are really depleted ... and be mindful of your digestion and enzymes (see below point). Carry an EMPTY (it will slide right through security if it is empty) metal or BPA-free water bottle and ask the attendant to fill it with water. Watch the juices that they serve, because most are loaded with sugar. Pack some nuts and other snacks that are not dried (no chips, no dried fruits, none of that--it's all going to throw your system off). Keep yourself "wet" inside. Avoid alcohol in flight too as it dehydrates. Pack some earplugs and an eye mask and tune people out if you must dull your senses.
RESULTS: Your bowels will stay regular and you will find that you sleep well, feel energized and have FAR less jetlag when you arrive.
•Map out food shops, restaurants and cafes that carry what you can eat ahead of time. To be perfectly honest, the hardest place for me to find a place to eat was NOT India, was NOT Peru, was NOT Kenya ... it was PARIS! Paris is loaded with bread, frog legs, alcohol, butter, but is not huge about vegetables. I was blessed to be connected to the Internet, as most of us are through our phones and free wifi in many places, and found some Indian places--quite a walk away but worth it for a good daily meal.
•If the jury is out about the water quality, why risk it? Buy some water--the biggest containers possible--and stay hydrated. Carry a metal flask in your purse or bag. Don't risk it with ice, either. Watch out for foods that are not hot in countries with questionable water quality. Just get this down, and stick to it, it's basic.
•Invest in enzymes. I wrote a whole post about why these babies are worth the investment. Most of us are lacking in them. When you start to incorporate them into your diet, you find you eat significantly less and have more energy. It's like magic! Get a broad-spectrum enzyme, pop it with at least one meal a day, your biggest, and let it help you break down your food so you get the most from it.
•Eat whole foods, wash produce--DO NOT take it cut up off the streets in questionable areas. It's not that people are dirty. They're NOT. It's just that you are in a different place, with different microbes. I had an experience in Kenya that taught me this, fast. I stopped and chatted with a friendly fruit vendor and asked him to cut up a mango for me. Three days of dysentery later, all I could think was how much I didn't like mangoes anymore! My body knew, whatever little germ got in, it was riding that piece of fruit. Locals probably don't feel sick if they eat it, I just did. There's a ton of stuff on the outside of the fruit too. Just wash it, with garlic and water or a few drops (ONLY) of bleach in water.
•Stay somewhere with a fridge and a kitchen. Airbnb is a beautiful thing.
•Let go of expectations and go with the flow. This is perhaps the most important thing to remember. Your mental state is an integral part of your whole body balance. If you are upset, nervous, anxious, you are aswim in chemicals. No need. Let go. If the shop is closed, wait, find an alternative. Don't fixate on what you can't find. Fixate on what you CAN find and eat. BE CREATIVE. This is the best part, actually. I'm writing this from Peru. The other day I shopped for the first time and found most of the processed foods contain MSG and other additives. I don't need processed foods, except I wanted some soup base. They just had chemicals and more. I felt bad for people here seeing all the chemicals. Anyway, I googled how to make a veggie soup stock and VOILA! it was so fun and easy to make.
(See below image--that's basically all you have to do: cut up vegetables, add thyme, peppercorns, a bay leaf and a bit of sea salt. Slow cook it and strain.)