Healthy Dishes to Experience when Travelling
Whether you travel for work or holiday, maintaining healthy eating habits can be a big challenge. Business travel involves hectic schedules leaving no time to prepare healthy meals. Fast food and snacks become an easy substitute. For many travellers, experiencing the local cuisine is the highlight of their trip. But indulging in just one unhealthy holiday meal, rich in salt, sugar or animal-based fats can increase a person's risk of a heart attack.
So how do you sustain a healthy diet while travelling?
Consider How Your Food Is Prepared
The way your food is cooked has a major effect on your calorie intake. Although certain oils are good for you, such as olive oil and flaxseed oil, the saturated fat and trans fat in deep-fried foods should be avoided. Grilling, baking, roasting and steaming are healthier ways to prepare food. Consider these methods when ordering your meal.
Avoiding Unhealthy Fats Can be Challenging
While limiting fried food to smaller quantities is recommended, this might not be easy in the destination you are travelling to. India is a prime example of this. While Indian food is tasty, restaurants use a lot of oil, butter and ghee to make the food taste good.
I asked a local to explain what a healthy Indian diet looks like. He recommended 3 chapattis per day (alongside three meals). He went on to explain that in the past, doctors recommended chapattis to sick patients as a cure for many ailments. I'm sure this isn't the case nowadays. Since chapatis are fried and low in nutritional value, many people would disagree with this theory. Eating too much of one kind of food causes deficiencies and allergies because it is an unbalanced diet.
What Dishes Should I Eat?
The good news is there are many dishes you can experience guilt free during your travels. Here is my list of delicious and healthy dishes across the world.
18 Healthy Dishes to Experience when Travelling
South East Asia
South East Asian cuisine, particularly Thailand, is world-renowned for it's delicious flavours and quality street food. Unfortunately, the food is often high in fat, MSG and salt. Switch fried dishes such as Pad Thai and Nasi Goreng for a healthier alternative.
Tom Yum Goong (Prawns) – 230 calories
This famous Thai dish is a tasty hot and sour soup usually served with prawn. It is widely served in neighbouring countries such as Singapore, Cambodia, Brunei, Laos and Malaysia. There are different varieties of Tom Yum with some soups containing coconut milk, tamarind sauce and chili paste known as Tom Yum Nam Kon (the creamy version) and Tom Yum Nam Sigh which is the healthier clear version.
Som Tam (Papaya salad) – 200 calories
Som Tam is a spicy Thai salad made from green papaya, dried shrimp, string beans, garlic, tomatoes and Thai chillies. Green papayas are a good source of fiber, magnesium and vitamins A & C. This low fat dish is just 200 calories.
The Easten diet is typically low in red meat and animal-based fats and rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits and seafood. These foods can lower your risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke and obesity. The food you get from your local Chinese take away would be unrecognisable to most Chinese people. The traditional Chinese diet is low in dairy, and features vegetables, rice, noodles, dumplings, fish, meat, soup and green tea.
Mi Fen (rice noodle soup) – 210 calories
Mi Fen is a common Chinese dish of rice noodle soup. So popular that many locals eat this for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Rice noodles, gravy, peanuts or soybeans ,chopped scallions and thin slices of different kinds of meat are added by the counter. Chopped condiments of spring onions, chili, pickled beans and nuts can be added by the customer. Mi Fen is low in fat and approximately 210 calories
TIP: Chinese menus are rarely translated to English so remembering a few dishes you enjoy will help with your travels in China. Mi Fen is an easy one to remember.
Sushi - 304 Calories
Sushi is the Japanese preparation of cooked vinegared rice combined with varied ingredients. Salmon and tuna are both healthy options because they're high in protein, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. Nori (the seaweed wrapper) is high in iodine, while ginger and wasabi contain various antioxidant compounds, as well as minerals and vitamins. 6-8 pieces of avocado and salmon sushi roll contains 304 calories. Avoid shrimp tempura sushi roll, which contains 508 calories per 6-8 piece sushi roll.
Although South Asian food is extremely tasty, those following this diet for a prelonged period are increasing their risk of chronic disease and type 2 Diabetes. Curries fried in butter and ghee are high in saturated fat. Full fat dairy products and sugar are often used in sweets and drinks. Limiting paneer consumption and sugary drinks is recommended. Here are some South Asian dishes which are easier on the calories.
Dhal or Dal – 316 Calories
Dhal is a dried pulse (usually a lentil but can also be pea or bean) that has been split, meaning the skin has been stripped off. The texture of Dhal is similar to a thick soup. It’s mixed with spices such as garlic, chili, cumin and turmeric and contains proteins and fibre. It's also a suitable for vegetarians.
In Nepal, Dhal Bhat, (Dhal served with rice) is a common dish which locals eat daily. It's also one of the cheapest meals on any menu. India's Dal Fry is also very popular and contains 316 calories per serving.
Tandoori Chicken – 260 Calories
Tandoori dishes are popular in South Asian countries, in particular, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Chicken is marinated in yoghurt and seasoned with tandoori masala and various other spices before being cooked in a clay oven. This cooking method allows fat from the chicken to drip away. Chicken is high in protein and low in carbohydrates. One leg of tandoori chicken is approximately 260 calories. Tandoori fish and vegetables contain fewer calories than chicken.
Central and Southern America
Latin America is a highly diverse area of land that holds various cuisines which vary from each nation. Popular dishes include Tamales, Quesadellas, Tacos, empanadas and re-fried beans. For food with higher nutritional value, here are my recommendations.
Ceviche – 228 Calories
Ceviche is a popular seafood dish in the coastal regions of Central and South America. It is made from fresh, raw fish spiced with chili and cured with lemon or lime. A 3-ounce portion provides 15 to 30 grams of protein. It also contains omega-3 fatty acids which reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, phospherus which keeps teeth and bones strong and vitamin B-12 which is needed for the creation of red blood cells. One serving of ceviche is 228 calories.
Sopa De Mani (Quinoa Peanut Soup) - 200 Calories
Sopa De Mani is a traditional dish of Bolivia in South America. This flavourful meat and vegetable stew or soup is thickened and enriched with ground peanuts. It is often made with chicken or beef or can be made with vegetables for a low calorie and nutritious meal. Quinoa contains iron and lysine and is one of the highest protein rich foods you can eat. One cup of Sopa De Mani contains 200 calories, 7 grams of fat, 3 grams of dietary fibre and 5 grams of protein.
Typical ingredients used in Middle Eastern cuisine includes olives, and olive oil, pitas, honey sesame seeds, dates, sumac, chickpeas, mint and parsley. If you follow this type of diet, you eat red meat, dairy and sweets sparingly. Since saturated fat and cholesterol are only found in animal-based foods, this kind of diet is very low in both and can stave off chronic disease. Here are my recommendations for healthy and tasty
Middle Eastern foods.
Tabbouleh – 198 Calories
This salad features a number of superfoods including tomatoes, mint, bulgur, parsley, garlic and onion. This is a vegan dish, and can be gluten-free if you replace the bulgur with quinoa. Bulgur is high in fiber and protein, low in fat and contains potassium and iron. Quinoa is a complete protein (it contains all the essential amino acids). Onions contain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Garlic has shown to be a strong antibiotic and parsley contains three times as much vitamin C as an orange. At only 198 calories per serving, Tabbouleh makes a popular side dish or main meal.
Ful Medame - 171 Calories
Ful Medame is a dish of cooked fava beans served with cumin, vegetable oil and occassionally chopped parsley, garlic, onion, lemon juice and chili pepper. It is served in Arab and Middle Eastern countries but is notably a staple food in Egypt, especially in the northern cites of Gizah and Cairo. Ful Medame is served as breakfast or a main meal. One serving has 171 calories, 10 grams of protein and is rich in essential vitamins and minerals.
African cuisine is as diverse as the hundreds of different cultures and groups that inhabit the continent. Traditionally, the various cuisines of Africa use a combination of locally available cereal grains, fruit and vegetables as well as milk and meat products, and do not usually get food imported. Here are some popular low calorie African dishes.
Chickpea and Vegetable Tagine - 340 Calories
A Tagine is a North African cooking vessel typically associated with the cuisine of Morocco. Chickpea and Vegatable Tagine is also a popular Tunisian dish. The Tagine cooking process is great for making healthy, delicious foods. Similar to a slow cooker, the food in a tagine is steamed or boiled instead of being fried. Other Tagine dishes include chicken and fish. 1 serving of North African Chickpea and Vegetable Tagine contains 340 calories, 13 grams of protein and just 8 grams of fat.
Ugali / Sadza / Nsima - 181 Calories
The name of this dish varies by region but the preparation remains the same. Made from maize flour or millet flour then cooked in boiling water or milk to a porridge or dough-like consistency. It is the most common staple starch of the African Lakes region and South Africa. The traditional method of eating ugali is to roll a lump into a ball with the right hand, and then dip it into a sauce or stew of meat or vegetables.The Corn oil in maize meal has antioxidants, which lacks cholesterol and is a source of iron, which is essential in building blood tissues. Each serving contains 181 calories, 5 grams of dietary fibre and 4 grams of protein.
The Mediterranean has the healthiest diet in Europe and has been recognised as one of the healthiest in the world. It emphasises eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil. It also contains much higher quantities of unprocessed foods compared to the Anglo-saxon diet. Here are some healthy dishes to experience across Europe.
Chicken Souvlaki - 360 Calories
Souvlaki is a traditional Greek street food and a type of kebab. Chunks of meat and vegetables are marinated and grilled on a skewer. A 270 gram of Chicken Slouvaki has 360 calories, 3 grams of fiber and only 7 grams of fat. Traditionally, the skewer is wrapped in pita bread or served on a platter with pita wedges and a side salad. This can increase the calorie content to nearly 700. Avoiding the extras makes a light and healthy meal.
Goulash - 270 Calories
Goulash is a soup or stew of meat and vegetables seasoned with paprika and other spices. Originating from Hungary, goulash is also a popular meal in Eastern, Central and Southern Europe. Ingredients can vary to include beef or venison, noodles, potatoes or dumplings. Providing the meat is lean, Goulash makes a healthy and hearty dish. One serving of beef goulash has 270 calories, 33 grams of protein, 11 grams of fat and is rich in iron and essential vitamins.
The Standard American Diet is characterised by higher intakes of red and processed meat, butter, high-fat dairy products, eggs, refined grains, white potatoes and high-sugar drinks. Avoid fast food restaurants when possible and be mindful of your portion size. Here are some healthy dishes to experience on your American travels.
Wild Alaska Salmon - 135 Calories
Unlike Atlantic salmon, which is 99.8 percent farmed, Alaska salmon is wild, which means the fish live free and eat clean. It is free from artificial colouring, growth hormones and other unnatural chemicals. It is high in omega 3 oils which decrease the risk of heart disease and contains essential nutrients and vitamins including Vitamins A, C, D and E, niacin and Vitamin B-12. It is also low in saturated fats, low calorie and an excellent source of protein. A 3-oz. serving of wild Alaskan salmon contains 135 calories.
Cioppino - Calories 260 Calories
Cioppino is a San Fransico style fish stew which typically includes muscles, pollock, shrimp and squid cooked in a tomato and wine base with herbs and spices. This American food has been around since the late 1800s, when Portuguese and Italian fishermen settled the North Beach section of the city and brought their on-board catch-of-the-day stew back to land. One 11.5 serving has 260 calories, only 7 grams of fat and 9 grams of protein.
Cliché it may be, but no other nation does barbecues like they do Down Under. Beach, sunshine, beer and excellent ingredients. The benefit of these countries are, if you’re used to western cuisine you will know what healthy looks like and what to avoid. You can check the calorie content on packaging as language won’t be a barrier. Here are a couple of healthy Australian and Kiwi favourites.
Barbequed Shrimp - 202 Calories
Shrimp serves as an excellent source of lean protein. Each 6-ounce portion provides 39 grams of protein, a significant amount toward the 46 grams recommended daily for women and 56 grams for men. Four ounces steamed contains over 100% of the Daily Value for selenium which helps fight damaging particles which damage cell membranes and DNA. A generous 6-ounce portion provides just 202 calories.
Hangi is a cultural dish of the Maori people of New Zealand. This is more of a type of a dish than a specific food, because many different foods can be cooked this way. This method of cooking is similar to that of a pressure cooker, as the food is cooked by hot steam which is trapped under the ground. Dig a deep pit in the ground, use a fire to heat some stones, wrap meat and vegetables in leaves, put them in baskets, cover the food in stones and dirt and wait a few hours for an authentic Hangi experience.
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