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The Grocery List of Travelling Champions

by Globetrooper Todd | 20 Responses
Travel Food Grocery List

For us long-term travellers, eating out every night is expensive and generally unhealthy. There are some exceptions, such as in certain regions of Asia, but they’re rarer than you’d think.

So we need to find a balance between cost, convenience, taste and healthiness. It’s difficult enough at home, let alone on the road where no two days are the same. That’s why we’ve put together a list of foods that are cheap, healthy, convenient and taste great (if you prepare them right).

Don’t get me wrong, we love to hit the streets to try the local cuisine like you do. It gives us a chance to interact with local people, try new foods, and revel in the atmosphere of a foreign place. But this list is about those times in between when you need to look after yourself for the next big adventure. What you need is a mix of foods that are high in fibre and high in essential vitamins and minerals, but low in saturated fats and low in simple carbs.
Travel Food Beans


Kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, lupins and most legume-type beans are high in protein, high in fibre, very low in fat, very low in simple carbs, and taste great when prepared right. Try a tomato based salsa and add to any meal to provide healthy bulk. For long-term travellers, there’s no other food that packs so much bang for its buck.

Check out these tasty bean recipes.

Raw Muesli

Great for breakfast, but also a substitute for lunch and dinner when you’re on the run. Unlike beans though, muesli is very high in energy, which is why it’s best for breakfast. A good raw muesli will have lots of whole grains to provide slow-release energy for endurance pursuits. But stay clear of the refined grains and added sugar. Also try to avoid toasted muesli; they use a lot of oil (fat) to achieve that toasty taste. And while you’re being health-conscious, consider soy and/or skim milk.

Walnuts, Almonds and Pecans

Nuts are very high in fat, but in moderation, they add taste to otherwise bland meals and they provide essential fatty acids (Lionleic and Linolenic Acid) that your body needs, but can’t produce itself. See the chart below for further nutritional info. Walnuts, almonds and pecans are your best bet. But remember… moderation is key.

Nuts Chol. Sat. Fats Mono. Fats Poly. Fats Lino-leic Lino-lenic Phyto-sterol
unit mg g g g g g mg
Almonds 0 4 32 12 12 0 120
Brazil nuts 0 16 23 24 24 0 NA
Cashews 0 9 27 8 8 8 158
Hazelnuts 0 4 46 8 8 0 96
Macadamias 0 12 59 1 1 0 116
Pecans 0 6 41 22 21 1 102
Pines nuts 0 9 23 26 25 1 NA
Pistachios 0 5 23 13 13 0 214
Walnuts 0 6 9 47 38 9 72

Travel Food Mushrooms


Often called meat for vegetarians, mushrooms are very low in calories, fat and salt, but high in many vitamins and minerals that ward off disease. This means they’re perfect for filling your stomach without providing too much energy.

Like beans, add mushrooms to any meal to provide healthy bulk. If you get the chance, pick your own wild mushrooms for dinner. While staying in Australia’s Blue Mountains, we picked the most creamy and delicious mushrooms we’ve ever tasted.

Make sure you’re with someone knowledgeable, since many mushrooms are poisonous.

Lemon Water and Tea

Drinks are generally very high in sugar. The average soft drink has 8-10 teaspoons of sugar. Imagine making a cup of tea and adding 8 teaspoon of sugar… crazy right? Well, that’s most drinks for you, including fruit juices. Even those ‘healthy’ iced teas and flavoured waters contain a shedload of sugar. Why is that bad? For starters, it’s all that nasty refined sweetener, not the good stuff from raw fruits. And refined sugar is bad in every way, but most of all, it causes chemical imbalances that trigger cravings even when your stomach is physically full.

The healthy, cheap, smart alternative is to wean yourself off drinks altogether. Just drink water, tea and good wine. You can pleasure your taste buds with food instead. You’ll save a lot of money and save yourself from thousands of empty calories on a daily basis. Add some lemon to the water for taste and a few nutritional benefits.
Travel Food - Vegetables

Light Vegetables

Why ‘light’ vegetables? Because most dense vegetables, such as potatoes, are energy-laden without providing unique vitamins and minerals.

You can generally get your recommended daily intake from alternatives that contain much less energy. Most nutritional charts even exclude potatoes from the vegetable category. So what are we left with?

Beans, peas, carrots, eggplant, asparagus, spinach… basically everything else. But don’t go overboard with carrots (they taste good for a reason) and avocados (lots of fat). Otherwise, a good mix of vegetables can be very high in fibre, high in complex carbs, very low in fat, and high in a variety of essential vitamins and minerals.

A Mix of Fruit

I’ve left fruit towards the end because even though it contains unrefined sugars, it still contains a lot of sugar, so you need to take care. The sugars are simple carbohydrates, which are great for supplying your body with energy quickly, but unless you’re doing something strenuous, that energy will store as fat, spike your insulin and increase your appetite.

However, fruits contain many vitamins and minerals essential to bodily functions. So it’s important to eat a range of fruits in moderation. Try to only eat whole fruits that have less of an insulin impact (low GI rating), such as apples. And although it’s best to eat fruits earlier in the day (when you’re active), they’re much better than most deserts, so also consider satisfying your sweet tooth after dinner with a small mix of low-GI fruits.

Where’s the Meat?

When was the last time a meat-eater didn’t get enough meat? I know, it can happen, but hey, it’s probably the last of your worries as a long-term traveller. Meat contains a lot of protein and provides a good source of vitamin B12 (generally only available from animal products), but it is also high in saturated fats and doesn’t contain any fibre.

Travel Food Kobe Beef

So this is my thinking… Firstly, you’re going to get enough meat when you eat out. Secondly, vegetables, dairy products and nuts provide 99.99% of an intrepid traveller’s nutritional requirements in a much safer form (less saturated fat, more fibre, etc). And lastly, absence makes the heart grow fonder and stronger. Spend 3 months eating beans and mushrooms, and you’ll find that a thick Kobe or Argentine steak will taste like heaven.

One exception is fish. You can add good quality canned salmon to any bean or vegetable dish and get a good amount of highly polyunsaturated fats (Omega 3s) and a good dose of protein.

Posted in Gear & Gadgets, Travel Hacking | September 9th, 2010

20 Responses to The Grocery List of Travelling Champions

  1. Fabulous list! I love cooking while I travel – even if it’s hastily assembled picnic fare. :-)

    • Thanks Krista. We had beans and mushrooms together last night. Doesn’t sound good, but it was soooooo yum (and healthy). Now that we’re training pretty hard (for we’re really noticing how much of a difference healthy food makes.

  2. One of my favorite healthy, but cheap, comfort foods is lentil curry. It’s easy to make, a small bag of lentils seems to last forever and plain yogurt provides great creaminess and tang.

    I would also add yogurt to this list. In many parts of the world it is made fresh and is really inexpensive and healthy. We loved the liter bottles of yogurt you could buy in Ecuador/Peru/Bolivia – perfect for bus trips or a quick lunch.

    • Yum, lentil curry. Thanks for the tip Audrey. But I must say I’m not really a fan of eating yoghurt by itself. Lauren is trying to convert me, she had some yesterday. And we’re off to Peru in a couple of days, so I’ll have to find those bottles and make some curry. Aside from my taste buds though, yoghurt is certainly one of those healthy/cheap/convenient foods.

  3. Great post! For some more ideas on vegetarian food, two of my favourite spots in Montreal are Aux Vivres on St-Laurent and Le Commensal (various locations). Au Vivres is vegan and super fresh & delicious – gorgeous back patio – and Le Commensal is more a of buffet/pay by weight of plate (you can buy some of their pates, soups, etc in supermarkets as well). I’m not a vegetarian (especially as am now living in Buenos Aires) but I’m a big fan of those two spots.

    • Thanks Julia. We’re close to Saint Laurent, so will have to give Aux Vivres a try. We’re pretty too: love vegetarian food, but not vegetarians. And I’m sure we’d also come unstuck in BA.

  4. Great post! I often lament the state of eating cheaply on the road and this gives me some good ideas. Audrey, you wouldn’t happen to have that lentil curry recipe handy, would you?

    • I know what you mean Keith, we’ve only just started to get some momentum going. Took a while though.

  5. Great tips guys! I am going to have to bookmark this page for our next travel leg. We are the laziest when it comes to cooking while we travel. It’s weird because at home we love to cook. But when we travel, we always eat out. Time to change that and you have inspired me to do that.

    • Hey guys, looking forward to catching up in a couple of days. You know, we only became really disciplined once the Gobi Desert threatened us. We’ve been training pretty hard (for Peru and Gobi) and it’s amazing the difference a good meal makes. We can train twice as hard after a big dish of veges, beans and/or mushies.

    • Knowdelge wants to be free, just like these articles!

  6. Cool list! I remember I cooked so many pastas with mushroom, many days of my backpacking. I had no idea mushroom has that kind of quality :-) good for me!
    Muslie is a great choice too.

    • Hey Juno, many thanks for dropping by. Yeah, I wouldn’t have thought much about mushrooms either, they can taste so good, so I assumed they’d be unhealthy in some way. But apparently not.

      PS Love your RTW Tweetup idea.

  7. Nice! I don’t do long haul travel but if I get to stay someplace that has a kitchen when I travel, I love to cook with local ingredients. Someone also mentioned the “picnic” idea which I do quite a bit of also but I never thought about adding some of the items on your list. Thanks for the ideas!

  8. I do a lot of pasta with tuna. Usually I can find another traveller or 2 to chip in with the costs, and I can make a pretty good dinner for 3 for about $2-3 a person.

  9. Thanks for this. As a new traveller I’m finding it hard to eat good and cheap. You’ve given some great ideas, much better than the peanut butter sandwiches and chips I’ve been eating. Thankfully the cost of sofa has weaned me almost completely to water. That’s a great tip, you save so much money drinking water.

    • We’re in Germany now and it’s the opposite problem. Lots of cheap eats, but difficult to stay healthy with all the baked goods and Turkish donors. Hope all’s going well.

  10. Great list definetely to have while on the road. We had too much tomato pasta while travelling because easy to cook and to find in the shops, so this list will definetely help choosing other food.

    • Hi Marco, nice blog by the way. Yeah, pasta can sneak up on you after a while. We finding that now we’re back in a developed country, it’s more difficult to stay healthy with so many Western options that we’re used to. Didn’t have a problem in Asia or South America. Happy travels.

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