Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Challenge of Eating While Travelling

The biggest challenge of eating clean while away from the normalcy of home and food familiar to you often wreck havoc if you have the need to "eat clean". I have previously shared 13 tips to workout during travel and part of the equation is the food portion. Often, we eat more than we should when travelling due to the local fare and food. However, if you are like me being able to eat to survive, as opposed to "survive to eat", you will find it difficult to choose the food amid the big spread of hotel buffets and what is served on your table during those business dinners. This is my 5-days in Cebu amidst the 5-star resort known as Shangri-La Mactan.
Image of the actual place I have my breakfast and lunch. Tides at Shangri-la Mactan. Photo from
Most important meal of the day and the right food will set you off the right way for the rest of the day. Hotel buffet spread for breakfast has limitless possibility to overfeed yourself. The spread from the usual cereals, bread, cheese, cold cuts, noodles, rice (if you are in an Asian country, this will almost be staple), more rice (of different way of cooking), sausages, pancakes, fruits, juices and lastly deserts. Super tough. However, as I've worked out every morning before the meetings/work, I have limited time, perhaps 15mins for breakfast and that was all I needed. For the full 5-mornings, I have these without fail and it carry me over until lunch. 
Fresh Fruits - won't go wrong. Shown here are the famous Cebu Mango and melon

Mango Puree - because this is what this place is famous for
Banana and Apple - great post workout food

No Joke. That was what I had for 5-morning together with the compulsory rolled oats mixed with nuts and raisins. Most hotel buffet will have oats (and if you are lucky, rolled oats) and that would go great with the full cream milk and you polish up the morning with a serving or two of fruits. Take the apple and Banana to go, as the other things to look out for will be the Morning Break, which will have many dangerous calorie laden food that you will not need.
Morning Break
Meetings and working meetings are often laden with food. It seems that universally, people need food every alternate hours and this time, as part of the package, we were served snacks twice a day. Careful with the choices of snacks as some carry more calories you won't need. Here are some actual food served and I took only one piece of each to taste and came to the conclusion that I will not have it the next time - not because it's not delicious, but it's more of keeping/maintaining the discipline.
Tuna Salad and Egg

Looked good to me

All vegan

Close up

The above two looked passable for a healthy snack. The Tuna and egg sandwich was a tad too salty due to the Tuna being dressed in too much salt. The egg (yolk) was well cooked and allowable consumption is limited to two servings. It is either one (tuna) or the other (vegan), not both. Remember, Breakfast was already calorie dense with a good mix of simple sugar (high GI) and complex carb (low GI). It should carry you over till lunch.

Sugar coated croissant - avoid at all cost

Together with the above two choices, there were a third serving of a sugar coated croissant. This should be avoided as this pastry is rich and sweet. Becareful what you put on your plate, and becareful what you take as second serving. Always ask yourself if you are just eating or eating because you have to.

People usually over eat during lunch. Being the mid-day meal, we have the impression that we will be hungry. Ever felt sleepy after lunch? That's a sign of "Happy Hormone" working due to over-indulgence on carbs (read : sugar rich food). Rice is staple food for Malaysians and most Asian countries. The white rice we eat are high glycemic index food and many would drown the rice in gravies. If you haven't know, gravies are mostly fats or oil. Those of you that cook will be able to confirm what I've just mentioned. 
So what would be good? Any decent hotel will have a small section of Japanese sashimi (or raw fish/seafood cuts). This below was my food serving on Day 2 and 4. Yes, this was what I had for lunch.
Protein loading
The sate or kebab were observed (when raw) to be lean meat and the temptation to put on gravies were there. However, why cover a nicely marinated skewer of meat with some hot sauce? The above sate were good as it was. 
Day 3 saw us being served a bento lunch set. Choices of fish (salmon) or Chicken (teriyaki) and I went for fish. The box set came with adequate serving of fruits and two makimono (otherwise known as sushi roll) and a side of raw vegetable (salad) in sesame dressing. I had half the served rice as the usual "serving" on an Asian plate is actually equal to TWO servings. For more knowledge of portioning your food, click here
Wished the fish were a full piece and option of brown rice
The food for Day 1 and 5 were similar as I went for my favourite seafood - squid. They are tasteless but when grilled, it's heavenly. I had it with grilled pumpkin and ladies finger/okra and with mango and sate (respective days) Yes, I am a creature of habit and I can eat the same thing over and over again and won't get bored. 
The photo did no justice
With sate, i took less squid. It is about control
Overeating will usually cause you to be sluggish and sleepy. Calorie control is not only good for the body, it is actually good for the mind too in terms of alertness. Next, come Dinner.
Super duper tough as the food were pre-ordered and comes in set. I am not the wasteful type, so I had to maximise on what was served on the plate and within acceptable limits. Some may say I am taking the fun out of eating. I agree to a certain extend - but at least I won't need to feel guilty about overeating and blaming the food for the increased bodyweight. Here was what I had on the second night (first night I've skipped dinner for Gym)
Bread, with relish
Mushroom soup from mushroom (earthy taste and smell) with cream and olive oil
portion of lala or mussels. More shell than food
A side of salad, in olive oil
Main of rib, served on mash potatoes
I've finished all of the above short of the mash potatoes and the gravy. The meat was lean with some traces of fats (it's rib) very well stewed that very little residual inter-fiber fats were present. The meat tears away easily.
On Night three, it was Thai food, as some of the meeting participants has never had Thai food before (yes, in Philippines haha!) and mine was limited to padthai, which was sufficient for me. Night four as free and easy as I joined two Muslim participant and ended up with grilled fish served with a lot of vegetables. I skipped the last night with double session in the gym.
I am happy that I managed to keep with the non-availability of my usual dinner of steam fish or light carbs. Comparatively, the meals (for dinner) I had in Cebu is already more than what I usually would consume at home. Living a little eh?
Coffee - lifesaver
In recent years, I've turned into a coffee drinker. At 0-kcal, the thoughts of not drinking a cup a day is hard to pass. Thank goodness there were free flow of brewed coffee over the week I was there! Black, no sugar, no milk for the win! 
And tea too!
I've made it a habit that if i were to travel, I will bring along a container of nuts and raisins mixture. It make great snack and nutritious too. Not tough to mix one yourself and you are limited by what you can find in a baking shop or in your fridge. Here is mine in a Nutella container that kept me entertained while in transit!
And a good book!
And one last tip - Stretch everywhere you can, especially if you can't workout (while in transit). Nothing shy to do this and people looking. It is better than sitting in a cafe eating away or trying to look busy getting wi-fi signal in a foreign land!
Selfie - fail
Hope the sharing today helped with some of you that travel much and always not too sure how to "structure" your meal. Keep it to the thumbs rule of KISS of Keep It Simple, Silly and you will not go wrong. Sure, you can have a bit more if you are in a foreign land, but remember that moderation is utmost important and always choose the healthiest options you can. You client may be paying, but no reason to overeat just to compensate for the time away from training (or home).


  1. Happy Galloping New Year to you and your loved ones! I like that tip of packing some snacks and nuts while on traveling! I shall pack some too, soon!

  2. Love this post! Thanks for sharing :)