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Eating Healthy On A Budget
Backpacking Europe » Food, Drinks and Parties
Just because you’re a backpacking tightwad doesn’t mean you have to stop being hot! Actually, when travelling you should strive to be even hotter, so that you have the highest chance of sealing the deal when you meet that Italian count over breakfast in Saint Tropez. Here’s our guide to eating healthy on a backpacker budget, because we care about you.
Healthy often equals expensive. We’ve never understood why the things they say you need – sunscreen, condoms, tampons, razors, fruit and vegetables – cost so darn much. Maybe that’s why they cost so much, because they know we have to purchase or perish. Healthy food options can fit into this category, but in Europe, with its emphasis on fresh and local, you can get away with eating clean without cleaning out the old fanny pack.
By far and away the best way to stay healthy is to buy your food in a state that’s as close to the farm as possible and alter it very little. In Europe this is easy, as every village, suburb and city district seems to have a lively farmers’ market where fresh goods come in every morning. Cruise the stalls and find what’s on sale; pick up things like fresh fruit, salad vegetables, nuts, eggs, meat – if you have to cook it, you’ll find it here. You might also go full euro and choose the “less choice” sources of protein (why do so many prosperous European nations feature strange meats in their national dishes?). And while you’re in the farmers’ market, why not treat yourself to a little local cheese? You don’t have to buy produce in bulk, just as much as you need – a couple of slices will do you, because you know you’ll finish the whole wedge if you’re left alone with it.
Cook your own meals
Carrying on from this, find accommodation where you can cook your own meals. There’s nothing more satisfying than picking up some lean meat, vegetables and fresh pasta and whipping up a healthy little lunch for yourself (this is also a great way to stick to your vegan or vegetarian diet). This isn’t always feasible if you’re travelling alone, or don’t have access to a market, as supermarket portions are generally too large for one, which makes it not only uneconomical, but also unnecessarily tempting to eat all at once. When you’re cooking for yourself you can obey all the same rules you employ at home, maybe allowing yourself a little extra olive oil, to make up for all the walking you’re doing.
Snack on a little wholefood, often
We had to say wholefood here because we didn’t want you running out and spending your days up to your elbows in a crisp bag. But grazing on nuts, sliced vegetables, hummus, fruits, etc, is a great way to stay fuelled up and satisfied while you’re out and about seeing the sights. All that walking and gawking will make you hungry, and if you are out and about unprepared your growling stomach will bundle you into the nearest fast-food establishment. You know you’re going to be sightseeing, you know that means a lot of walking, you’re aware that’ll make you hungry, so your excuses for stepping out unprepared are essentially zero. Pack some snacks and get some steps in.
How, oh how, do Europeans eat such fat-filled, wine soaked meals and not chub up? Some of it may be genetic, sure, and there’s no doubt that the quality of their fat has less of a rounding effect on their midsection, but the main reason why Europeans can gorge as they do and stay slim comes down to the speed at which they eat. Remember your mum telling you to Chew your food, well it wasn’t just because she wanted to ruin your fun, which she probably did. Chewing not only aids digestion, but slows the whole eating process down, letting your stomach catch up with your mouth and allowing your brain to realise that you’re full before you’ve overstuffed yourself.
This is a great secret to beauty on so many levels. Staying hydrated keeps your skin looking fresh and supple. It assists your kidneys in their relentless duty to process the crap you put inside of you, not to mention that your poops will be more regular (gross, we know, but we’re all adults here). Drinking plenty of water also keeps you feeling fuller, so may keep your hands out of the cookie jar, and will also prevent you from resorting back to calorie rich, sugary beverages that are absolutely no good for anybody. You never heard any know-it-all say that your body was 70% Mountain Dew, now did you? Do yourself, and your wallet, a favour and stick to sipping agua.
“When I lived with a family in the south of France they were amazed to see just how quickly I would eat dinner. I would load up my plate as soon as the dishes were put down and barely stop to breathe, probably a product of growing up in a big family, while they would take dainty little nibbles, converse, and take time to savour their wine. I realised that eating slowly was one way to really enjoy the produce here and not have to be rolled home. Of course, i’ve had a hard time sticking to my plan, but c’est la vie, it’s the thought that counts.” – James, 25, accounts.