A lot of times it is easy to forget about certain aspects of food while traveling. People are usually so excited to travel and are not concerned about meeting nutritional goals or how certain dietary requirements that they have may be affected while traveling. When you are at home you don’t have to think as hard about when and where to eat. It’s usually part of the plan for the day. However, when away from home, especially in a foreign country, one missed meal or one wrong food can really ruin your trip. Having recently traveled to the Capital of the Anhui region of China, I did not go with a meal plan. I simply assumed I would get three meals a day that met my dietary needs. That was not the case. Here are a few tips to consider when traveling far from home.
1. Ordering in a restaurant can be challenging.
When I was in China, I ate many dinners that were served family style. This is a custom in China, but I found that there can be issues. One of the major issues was that not everyone in our group felt like they got enough to eat due to their dietary preferences. One person, who was diabetic, was concerned with the high carbs in certain sauces. Those in the group who were Vegan, and could not read or speak Chinese, were not confident that meals did not contain animal products. According to a journal about Chinese food, the major constituents of Chinese dinners are vegetables, and there are almost 600 kinds of vegetables available. This is six times more than in the West (Ki-Chang, Cheorun & Mooha, 2010). One would think that it would be easy to find vegan food. That was not my experience when my group of American friends ate family style in China. So, if you have a group eating a traditional Chinese meal served family style, my recommendation would be to consider the various dietary preferences of the group and order accordingly.
2. Going outside the normal food routine.
The first couple of days in China, everyone thought the food was great and they really enjoyed it. However, by the 6th day, everyone wanted to eat foods they were used to eating at home. In the U.S., many people are concerned about what types of oils, fats, sodium, and calories are in food to ensure that they remain healthy. This was not the case in China. Julie Meyer, R.D. says regarding Chinese food, “It’s very greasy and high in fat. The quality of ingredients is low, so they add a large amount of salt, oil, and preservatives to add flavor.” (Lindsey,2010) An increase in sodium and fats can affect your body in a negative way. When fatty foods are not absorbed normally they can trigger diarrhea. Therefore, eating high sodium and high fat foods while traveling could cause you to not feel well or even effect your intestinal flow. My tip is to eat (and enjoy) smaller portions of foods high in fats, sodium and oils and focus on foods that are good for your digestive system, like foods that are high in fiber.
3. Being in a foreign country can bring out your adventurous side, BUt hold back.
While in China, it is fun and easy to have a “culinary adventure”. During my trip, I saw a lot of street vendors with some interesting foods. At first glance, I could not tell what they were selling. What I thought was beef on a stick turned out to be a fried insect on a stick. Since I was not sure where it came from, I decided I shouldn’t eat it. However, if you have a "local" escorting you, then they can tell you what is or is not safe to eat. An Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics article mentions that knowing how to be adventurous but safe while exploring could save you from getting food-borne illnesses, thus ruining your trip. No matter how curious you are, it is safest to avoid exotic dishes such as prepared monkey, bat, unusual wild game and bushmeat. (Gordon, 2018) My best advice is to stick with what you know, unless there is someone that you can trust to guide you.
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