How To Travel Healthy: Pre And Post Take-Off Tips From A Nutritionist

Jacqueline Alwill – nutritionist and founder of The Brown Paper Bag – travels a lot for work. Seeing as it’s her business to be healthy, we asked her for tips on how to travel healthy before, during and right after a trip away.

It’s easy enough to let your health slip while in a flurry of jumping into cabs, getting through long plane rides and mooching around in airports. Yet travel should be a key time to focus on our health to ensure we don’t experience travel come down.

A few small things can ensure you health doesn’t take a nose dive while on the road. Consider these before and during your next trip.

Before you depart

Fire up your immune system

Eat plenty of fresh, nourishing meals and fuel your gut with the healthy bacteria it needs to fight the impact of travel bugs. Fermented foods will be your friend here, as theses foods in particular are rich sources of probiotics. Think sauerkraut, yoghurt, miso, kimchi and kombucha to nourish the gut and immune system before you go.


Miso. Image: Sotaro Omura/Flickr.

Top up the freezer

Pop in some home-cooked frozen meals and add a few little long-lasting extras to the pantry, just so you’ve got something to come home to. Nothing is worse than stepping off a plane and coming home ravenous and exhausted, only to find a limp piece of celery in the fridge to greet you.

Throw a few durable fruit and vegetables in the freezer (bananas, peas, broccoli, spinach), top up the pantry with some long life almond milk, cinnamon, turmeric, protein powder and a tin of salmon or tuna. That way when you touch down and head home, there’s no need to bolt to the shops to find food, because you’ve two meals ready waiting for you. Smoothie and quick throw together of veggies and fish – easy hey?

On the road 

Create a touch-down ritual

This can be anything from having a bath to balance your electrolytes and reduce jet lag to 10 minutes of stretching or whipping up a small travel elixir to sip on arrival. This ritual stabilises the disruption the body experiences when transitioning away from things that are routine and normal.

These days – whether it’s short or long travel for work or a holiday – I’ll take a dry spice elixir mix in my bag with ingredients such as cayenne, cinnamon, turmeric and ginger. The combination of these help to give a kick to metabolism, reduce the inflammatory response, boost immunity, alkalise the body and stabilise blood glucose levels. These are the elements in our health that can take a hit when we’re away from home.

Jacqueline’s travel elixir

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
pinch cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon chia seeds

Shake up and pack. Then on arrival mix with one cup of water and the juice of half a lemon. Winning.

Jacqueline making her elixir.

Go local

Local food and drink will help acclimatise your body to the environment you’re in. This may sound ridiculous, but too often people keep eating what they know instead of trying the local cuisine. Aside from tasting the delights and experiencing culture that way, eating local means you’re feeding your body the nutrition it needs to thrive in that particular environment.

Tropical fruits that grow well in Thailand and Bali are cooling, something we need in a hot and humid environment. When in cooler climates there’s a reason the food is often slow cooked and heavy, because the body needs warmth and slow-burning energy, too. Tune in to what is available to you from the local culture and perhaps providing it’s not pizza, cheese and gelato at every meal while in Italia, chances are you’ll feel better for it.


Dragonfruit. Image: Mike Cohen/Flickr

Coming home

Touch down with good vibes

Boost your intake post-travel by way of green veggies in particular, such as kale, spinach, broccoli, herbs, asian greens and rocket – these are bursting with antioxidants and vitamins and minerals to supercharge our health. These foods and other heavenly wholefoods (fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables, legumes, pseudograins) are considered ‘high vibrational’; that is, they’re rich in energy sourced from the earth and sun. This, in turn, refuels your body with energy that may have been zapped from the movement and change throughout your travels. Having said this, we should aim to eat like this all the time for true longevity in health, not just after a stint of travel. Just planting seeds, you know.

Make sleep your remedy

This is the key to post-travel recovery. This can be tricky with jet lag, but sleep truly is one of the most restorative elements to our health.


Image: Sonia Taylor.

A few ingredients will help you along the way:

–Eat your main meal in the middle of the day and eat lighter by night. For example, a lunch of palm-sized protein, complex carbohydrates such as sweet potato, pumpkin, quinoa, buckwheat and two good handfuls of mixed vegetables in the middle of the day. Dinner should aim for palm-sized protein and light salad or steamed vegetables, to allow the body to digest and rest with ease.

–Drink passionflower and chamomile tea as a nightcap ritual; both ingredients have calming and sleep inducing qualities.

–Ensure your sleep hygiene is on point, which you should implement beyond periods of travel too. Sleep hygiene is vital for all components of health and is as simple as ensuring there isn’t interference of technology in the room, that you switch off updates from phones so you’re not disturbed throughout the night (the wind down hour before bed is a great way to implement this), and that you create a bedroom environment made for recuperation.

These are the simple ingredients to keep you in good nick – before, during and after your time away from home.

Lead image: Sonia Taylor.

Jacqueline Alwill is a qualified, practicing nutritionist, personal trainer, whole foods cook, founder and director of The Brown Paper Bag Nutrition. She is passionately committed to improving the health, wellbeing and happiness of all individuals.