10 Ways to Eat Healthy (For Cheap!) in Europe

Backpacking & Trekking, Budget Travel, City Travel, Dispatches from the Road, Europe, Fitness & Workouts, Food & Wine, Health & Safety — By on August 24, 2009 at 5:00 am

By Patty Hodapp
LG Travel Lifestyle Editor

eating healthily EuropeBackpacking in Europe for two weeks was exhilarating, freeing, and inspiring, but on the road my body definitely took a beating. By the end of my trip I’d undergone drastic altitude changes, climbing the highest hills to sitting beachside on the Mediterranean. Temps varied from scalding hot during the day, to windy and chilly at night. My lips got sunburned and chapped, my feet where chafed by my sandals from all the walking, and my skin was a deep brown from hours and hours in the sun. The somewhat regular sleep pattern that I acquired in Italy was totally unbalanced on the road. Some days I’d get a full eight hours (okay maybe that just happened once) but most of the days I’d get four or five hours at most, after dancing all night at the discotech. Occasionally I’d sneak a few winks on the beach, plane or ferry.

Don’t get me wrong-I had the time of my life and would highly recommend everyone take a solo trip at some point in his or her lifetime. However, after four days of late nights, early mornings, minimally clean showers and my super tight budget, I felt grungy, exhausted and just plain unhealthy. As soon as I arrived on Santorini I decide I needed to change things, especially when it came to food, or I’d burn out really quickly…

When you’re traveling it’s easy to get into the, “I’ll never be back here so I might as well try every type of food in sight” mindset. Trust me, this is lethal. Before I knew it I had WAY too much gelato and had packed on a good five pounds. It’s always more expensive to eat healthily but if you do it right, you can stick to a tight budget and eat healthy.

10 Ways to Eat Healthy (For Cheap!) in Europe

1. Make a break for the supermarket I bought a little paring knife and used that to cut fruit, meat, cheese and bread. It was really helpful because I could sort of “cook” for myself without having to spend a lot and make a big mess. Plus, I knew exactly what I was eating because I’d bought the items myself.

cheese europe2. Try to find a supermarket that has a deli counter Look for the cheapest kind of cheese you can find and ask for a few slices (enough for a day). Most supermarkets have prepackaged cheese but this often expensive (a few euros) compared to the fresh cut cheese (less than a euro for five or six slices). Plus cheese spoils and I didn’t travel with a cooler so you only need a little at a time.

3. Buy a loaf of fresh bread for less than a euro This can last you a few days and goes very well with a jar of jam in the morning for breakfast or with cheese and sliced meat for dinner.

4. Snack on fresh fruit and veggies from local markets (almost every city has them). Most local farmers and vendors will charge a few euro per kilogram but if you only get a peach here, and a cucumber there you’ll be spending less than a euro a day. Plus fruit and veggies are filling and give you the good kind of energy to keep going.

5. Treat yourself to a real meal once in a while Supermarkets are great and you save tons of money in retrospect, but after awhile you’ll get sick of the same old same old. I tried to eat out at least once in every city I visited to get a feel for the food, meet some locals and not go crazy from jelly sandwiches.

6. Switch it up In Barcelona I had tons of fun at the markets getting foods I hadn’t eaten in Greece or Italy. I bought fresh squeezed coconut juice for a euro, roasted nuts and dried fruit and avocados. Be creative.

7. Ask your hostels and the locals for good bars with happy hours and deals on cocktails and beer. Most bars will give you a free welcome shot but after that drinks get really expensive. Lots of clubs have workers with flyers walking around so snag some of these for free entrances.

8. Pace yourself with drinking Alcohol has lots of calories. It’s easy to lay on the beach, have a few beers during the day, then go out at night for a few drinks at the club, and before you know it you’ve doubled your calorie intake for the day!

9. Don’t eat when you’re not hungry It sounds simple, but a lot of us eat “ahead” when we travel-trying to fill ourselves up because we don’t know when we’ll get our next meal. And so accordingly, don’t stress about the next time you’ll have to eat. Not once did I have trouble finding a supermarket and if you buy too much food ahead of time you’ll have to carry it. Either you’ll get sick of it and toss it in the garbage-or eat it just to get it off your hands.

10. Don’t be too anal about your eating and budget You’re traveling for pete’s sake! Savor the food, enjoy the drinking and relax about it because it’s easy to become calorie-crazy and that’s not good.

Above all, just remember to take it easy! You’re switching climates and pushing yourself more than normal so allow your body time to adjust to different temps, time zones, types of food, and probably a huge deficit in sleep.

Happy healthy eating!

LG Editorial note: Our favorite “stay slim” trick while traveling abroad was to fill up on whatever soups suit the locals. Generally, a big teaming bowl will fill you up, and you’ll get a true taste of the spices and flavors of that particular country or region.

How do you keep the gut in check when you travel? Let us know in the comments below…

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  • Manju says:

    thanks for this post!i loved reading it!
    im thinking of going euro-backpacking wen i finish uni next year, and this is so exciting!

  • Ms.Traveling Pants says:

    Reminds me on the spreadable cheese, fresh baguettes, and well any type of tapa know to man in Spain.
    Ms Traveling Pants

  • Valerie Reilly says:

    Good tips!
    UK: pre-packaged egg & cress or chicken tikka sandwiches are a bargain.
    Italy: drink at the bar standing like the old men.
    Asia: street hawkers.
    Tropical: Let them cook on the beach.
    Morocco: spring for a restaurant or you'll be sorry!
    Turkey: simi pretzels…
    France: roadside pomme frites, what's better in life?

  • Kay says:

    Olives from the market in Barcelona!

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