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Is it possible to eat the Blue Zones way while traveling? I learned the answer to that question recently, when I traveled to Johns Island, South Carolina.
Other components of the Blue Zones lifestyle are easily practiced while on vacation. We naturally move more, hiking, playing and swimming. And often we connect with others while on a trip, such as family, friends or colleagues. How difficult is it to faithfully observe the simple, whole foods plant based diet though?
I found it very doable!
Check out these tips for eating the Blue Zones way while traveling, before your next trip. And appreciate the health benefits that continue to support the body while away from home.
Blue Zones Travel
I completed the four weeks of the Blue Zones Challenge, literally the day I departed on my trip to South Carolina. The freshness of the experience served me well, I believe. My blood pressure dropped into the normal range during the challenge. I lost weight. And overall, felt amazing. Also, I appreciated the simplicity of the meals and the lifestyle.
While traveling, I strongly desired to continue with the lifestyle. In fact, I intend to continue living the Blue Zones lifestyle indefinitely.
For this trek, I flew out of Tulsa Oklahoma at 6:00 am on a Sunday and returned home Wednesday evening about 7:00 pm. I spent two and a half days in the Charleston/Johns Island area and parts of two days traveling.
Tips for Eating the Blue Zones Way While Traveling
These are the tips that made it easy for me to adhere to the Blue Zones way of eating.
This might seem obvious. However, having a plan and following a plan enables you to keep to the Blue Zones way of eating…or any diet, really.
I stayed at Sailor’s Rest, a wonderful Airbnb on Johns Island with a full kitchen. When possible, choose accommodations that provide a kitchen for preparing your own meals or at the least, a hotel room with a mini fridge and microwave for storing and reheating leftovers.
Before my departure day, I checked out airport restaurants online. Plus, at the Airbnb owners’ recommendation, I added the Harris Teeter Market to my list of places to visit. There I could stock up on groceries for breakfasts and dinners. I also created a list of possible restaurants for lunches.
In my travel notebook, I jotted down meal ideas. When you are prepared, you can deal with challenges or changes more easily. If you “wing it”, you are much more likely to fall back into old patterns and habits.
Know Your Diet
It’s easy to eat things NOT on a healthy diet, while traveling. And I know, for many people a vacation from home is also a vacation from eating healthy. You have to do you. However for me, a move away from my healthy lifestyle is a move toward not feeling well. And I do not want to feel unwell while traveling! I channel all of my high, clean energy toward exploring and having fun.
I carry a notebook with me, full of my meal ideas and key Blue Zones components. The Notes app on a smart phone works well also. Whether you are enjoying Blue Zones or embracing another healthy diet plan, know exactly what you can eat…and what you can’t.
Blue Zones is so simple: grains such as brown rice, quinoa and oats, legumes, fruits, veggies, greens and nuts. That’s it. No sugar, overly salty foods, animal products or processed foods. Knowing that list of acceptable foods made it easier to find meals in the airports and in cafés in Charleston and on the islands.
Travel Day Meals
Leaving Tulsa International Airport so early, I chose to eat my first meal for the day while on layover in Houston. At Peet’s Coffee & Tea I found plain oatmeal available, with the added toppings of wild blueberries and slivered almonds. Perfect! I added a green tea and my meal felt complete.
Southwest Airlines offers a complimentary drink and a salty snack during short domestic flights. I accepted the iced water. And I should have bought a small package of unsalted nuts before boarding the plane. I chose not to eat anything during the flight, making me very hungry by the time I landed in Charleston. The timing of the flight caused me to miss lunch.
A better schedule flying home allowed me to enjoy plain oatmeal with pecans at the Charleston Airport for breakfast, while savoring a delicious grains and greens bowl from Mad About Greens for lunch at the Austin Airport. Hunger satisfied, I didn’t need an inflight snack later.
If traveling by car, carry healthy snacks, pack a picnic lunch full of foods on your diet or plan stops at places that you know offer foods you can eat.
Stock Up and Cook Your Own Meals
Preparation and determination paid off after I arrived in Charleston. I drove past many fast food places in my rental car, on my 30 minute drive to my accommodations. Without a firm plan in mind, the temptation to grab fast food in a drive through might have proved too strong to resist.
Instead, I made it to the Airbnb, quickly unloaded the car, and then drove six more miles down the charming two lane road to the Harris Teeter store in Freshfields Village. There I picked up staples for my meals: fresh fruit and berries, brown rice, canned beans, a fresh chickpea salad for dinner the first night, nuts and a loaf of rosemary sourdough bread.
I loved having a kitchen to prepare meals in. It made it easier to stay with a healthy eating plan. And I like the meditative quality of preparing and cooking my own meals. At the Airbnb, eating those meals outdoors on the spacious, beautiful patio was a treat.
Eating Out While Traveling
With breakfasts and evening meals planned, that just left two lunches while in the Charleston area. I carried a list of possible cafés to dine in. All offered vegan options.
And it’s a good thing I created a list. My first choices for both Monday and Tuesday didn’t open for lunch. Instead, they opened at 5:00. I’m happy though with my ultimate choices, and I found a whole new area to explore on Tuesday in Freshfields.
Lunch Monday at Brown Dog Deli in Charleston was an amazing, filling salad with seaweed, beans, cashews, greens and fried avocado. And Tuesday found me at Café Eugenia in Freshfields Village, dining on herbed potatoes, bean salad, hummus and toasted pita bread.
Before traveling, I looked at menus online, for every café that I considered as a possibility. That helped me tremendously. I knew what they offered and what I could order.
When eating the Blue Zones way while traveling:
- plan ahead…pre-select cafés and check out their online menus. If possible, stay in accommodations with a kitchen for prepping your own meals or book a hotel room with a kitchenette or at least a mini fridge and microwave.
- know your diet…what you can eat and what foods to avoid
- anticipate travel day meals and preview restaurants in airports OR pack snacks and meals if traveling by car
- at your destination, stock up on healthy foods and cook your own meals
- create a list of possible cafés for meals out…and check out menus online
And…if you do go off track and eat a meal that isn’t the healthiest, don’t beat yourself up. Just get back on track with the next meal and move on.
I’m happy to report that I did well eating the Blue Zones way while traveling. With a little planning and prepping, all of my meals, including snacks and afternoon teas, contain Blue Zones approved whole food plant based foods. That means, when I came home, I arrived without guilt or that awful feeling of overindulging.
Do you eat healthy when you travel?
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