Bread, pastries, pastas, rice, CARBS…
They are everywhere here in Europe, something I was not expecting. I guess I should have known after the first day trying to order 4 eggs and bacon for breakfast and getting the look of “what in the world is this guy doing?” from the waiter.
I’ll be honest, traveling while trying to stay strong to your diet is incredibly difficult. Especially when wanting to experience new cultures, their foods, and being smart about the choices you make (ie. avoiding food poisoning).
From what I am told (and observed), many places in Europe are VERY carb heavy at most of their meals. The typical bacon and eggs/meat and veggies superhero meal is NOT all that common.
Instead, many meals are centered around carbohydrates. For example, in Spain the typical breakfast consists of cafe con leche (coffee with milk), sweet rolls with jam, toast with jam or cheese, or simply crackers that you dunk in hot milk.
Here in Marrakech, Morocco, where I currently write this, the breakfast consists of different kinds of bread with some jam, honey, cheese, and butter.
Although these breakfasts are delicious, it’s nowhere close to ideal.
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The lunches and dinners don’t get much better. Yes, I’ve found some places that serve up a mean plate of delicious chicken and meat, but many of the dishes you will find are filled with breads, pastas, rices, and more carbs.
So how exactly can you travel, eat healthy, and still enjoy what each culture has to offer?
Here’s what I’ve been doing:
1. Calories in calories out.
You know I am not a fan of this, as my rule of thumb is to “eat when you are hungry and until you are satisfied.” However, when traveling it’s often times difficult to know when your next meal is going to be or if you can find something high in quality.
Here in Marrakech for example, I’ve been on a high carb binge simply because of the way our days have been set up (and because of the foods that have been offered to us)
To start the day, breakfast has been served at the Riad which consists of breads, butter, and jams. I down some of that with a cup of coffee then get prepared to start the day of adventure.
This is NOT my typical breakfast and my body has definitely let me know that. However, in the city, there aren’t a lot of foods I find appealing.
I don’t eat street foods since I try to avoid food poisoning at all costs. Some would say I am missing out, and that’s OK. I don’t think I am.
In certain places you visit, it’s all about getting in the foods you think your body can handle and stick with those. For me, this has been the breads and then ordering high quality meats when going out.
2. Don’t miss your workouts.
Travel makes you extremely tired and sometimes it’s very difficult to muster of the energy to do anything after seeing all the sites.
Yet, research shows that exercise BOOSTS energy and focus even while traveling. So don’t miss your workouts. On the road, bodyweight workouts are often the only option. Personally, I’ve been using my Superhero Abs system as these workouts are 100% bodyweight and VERY intense.
And one quick tip, get your workouts done in the morning. Don’t wait till the afternoon or evening after a full day of travel.
3. Perform morning fasts when you can.
One great way to combat consecutive high carb days is by performing morning fasts. After your last meal the night before, try to fast for at least 12-16 hours (including sleep). For example, if your last meal is at 9PM the night before, try to have your first meal the next day between 9AM and 1PM.
I’ve been doing this quite often in Spain, however in Marrakech, it’s been a different story as I’ve been eating whenever possible (aka as soon as I wake so that we can head out to see the city).
For a great fasting program, check out Eat Stop Eat by Brad Pilon.
4. Skip the desserts… Most of the time.
With carb heavy meals left and right, there is no need to add any extra sugars and carbs with the desserts. That is unless you are getting something that the city is known for and you must try.
I am all about balance, so when you have a one-time opportunity to try something that culture has to offer, go for it.
If you are in a place for a long while though, skip the desserts.
5. Find the local farmers markets.
In Spain, this has been the savior for foods. Farmers markets are packed with great meats, veggies, nuts, seeds, and more. And if you have a place to cook it, you are in business.
Understand that this does take some planning.
My wife and I have prepared by purchasing an ice-chest and going to farmers markets once per week to stock up for the week.
We buy all the meats, veggies, and fruits that we need for the entire week.
We then prepare our food ahead of time and make sure that we have it on hand whenever possible.
In places we don’t have a spot to cook, it’s a little more difficult. However, you can still find some good beef jerky or smoked fish that you can keep on hand for some high quality protein
You only get one life to live, so sometimes you just got to throw the diet out the window and enjoy.
I mean, why visit Marrakech if you aren’t going to enjoy their traditional breakfast one day with a delicious cup of coffee?
Or why not try the tapas in Spain or cappuccino and croissant in Italy or croissants with crushed almonds, butter, chocolate or cream in France.
You’ve got to enjoy these foods when you are in these places. For most, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
There you have it… My quick tips for staying fit on the road while still enjoying the foods the many different cultures have to offer.
So, did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments section below:
Great posts Dennis. Always fun to read your fitness and nutrition tips. Congrats on getting away to explore the world!
Thank you for all these tips love reading about your adventure. I recently traveled up north and took more cheat days than usuall. But incorporated fasting, so I enjoyed the variety of food without the guilt. Glad your enjoying life thanks for all you do. Darelyne
Steph Fagin says
Good advice! Enjoy while you can and get those workouts done first thing in the morning!