Staying healthy while traveling abroad isn’t always easy. There’s the temptation to eat fast food in the airport, overindulge at some of the best restaurants around the globe and have late-night snacks from local street vendors. But, if you’re trying to stick to a healthy diet (and a budget), it’s always a good idea to try and cook some of your own meals while traveling. Here’s how you can easily cook your own food abroad, without giving up the experience of international cuisine.
Choose Your Lodging Carefully
Not every hotel or Airbnb has a place to cook, so if you’re planning on cooking abroad, it’s important to choose lodging that has a kitchen or kitchenette. Instead of traditional hotel rooms, look for rooms that are labeled as suites or short-term stays. Many hotels geared towards business travelers include kitchens, so that’s a good place to start.
If you’re staying in an Airbnb or another shared space, check with your host to see if using their kitchen is okay. You might have to work around their schedule to plan mealtimes, or you might even be able to enjoy meals alongside your host for an extra-special international experience.
At the very least, try to choose lodging where you have access to a refrigerator, a sink and a stovetop or hot plate. If you’re clear on the supplies you’ll have access to before you travel, you can plan to bring accessories like a cutting board, plates, etc. (Pro tip: check out camping supply stores for travel-friendly, space-saving cooking utensils.)
Learn to Cook Like the Locals
If you want a true international experience while staying in and cooking your own meals, do some research on the local cuisine. What do the locals usually eat? Are there certain dishes that appear on every restaurant menu in the area? Is there a specific ingredient that the region is known for? Consider all of these questions when planning your meals to get the most out of your global adventure.
While doing your own research is helpful, it might also be beneficial to go straight to the source and ask some of the locals what kinds of dishes they typically prepare. Ask hosts or the concierge at your lodging location, servers and chefs at restaurants or workers at the local markets or grocery stores.
Speaking of local markets, try to source your ingredients locally instead of at big box grocery stores. You’re more likely to strike up a conversation with someone who lives locally who could give you advice on what to cook and how to cook it. And you’re also more likely to find fresh, in-season ingredients that will be healthier and more delicious than what you may find in the grocery store. Shopping locally also helps to support the local economy in your destination.
Most importantly, when cooking your own food abroad, remember to have fun with it. Cooking can be an immersive experience and a great way to learn about other cultures. Don’t be afraid to take a risk and make something you’ve never tried before. Try ingredients you might be unfamiliar with. And always have a backup plan if things go awry—the fast-food joints will always be there if you get hungry.