How to Eat Healthy and Cheap while Traveling

Home » Travel healthily » How to Eat Healthy and Cheap while Traveling (10 Easy Tips)

Eating healthy and cheap while traveling can be difficult. When you are on the go it is tempting to grab an unhealthy snack or you end up spending more money than you need.

However, you should not resign yourself to eating unhealthy because you are traveling. We always enjoy traveling more if we are fueling our bodies with healthy foods that give us energy.

Over many years of full-time travel, we have picked up tips & tricks for how to eat healthy and cheap while traveling – quick, easy, and fun! And we are going to share all of them with you here.

Tip #1: Plan Meals and Snacks Ahead

My number one tip for how to eat healthy and cheap while traveling is to plan ahead. Mostly when you try to find something to eat at the last minute you end up with something unhealthy or expensive.

Of course, you do not want to be too organized as spontaneously trying local food is one of the best parts of traveling. But you can find a balance between splurging on treats and sticking to healthy foods.

I find that if I stick to eating healthy 90% of the time, I can then have food that is less healthy from time to time without it affecting my health.

But to stick to this ratio of healthy vs unhealthy eating planning ahead is the key. Here is how & why:

  1. Save healthy restaurants & local markets on your map: Do this every time before you move to a new place to see what foods are available and avoid unhealthy or expensive food on arrival.
  2. Travel with healthy food items: So you can always cook something if nothing is open nearby and fuel your body on the go. Especially on long travel days or if you arrive late at a new place.
  3. Turn food scouting into an activity: Spend time at local stores and markets to get to know the local cheap ingredients. Get inspired by what you can make for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
A selection of colorful vegetables at Oranjezicht Market a great way how to eat healthy and cheap while traveling
Sunday market in Cape Town with lots of fresh local produce

Tip #2: Book Accommodation with a Kitchen

Whether you are staying at an Airbnb, Hotel, or Hostel I recommend booking one with a kitchen. Being able to prepare your own meals is the best way how to eat healthy and cheap while traveling.

When you eat at a restaurant you have no control over what ingredients they use and portions they serve. But if you have your own kitchen you know exactly what and how much you are eating.

Preparing meals at home will nearly always save you a lot of money too! So you are getting two benefits at the same time. Having access to a kitchen is by far the best way to ensure that you can have some cheap healthy meals and snacks while you are traveling.

🏠 Read also: How to get free accommodation for travel with a kitchen

Allan preparing a healthy meal on a cardboard box on top of a bed
Me preparing lunch on a shoe box when we accidentally booked an Airbnb with a kitchenette without a stove! 😀

Tip #3: Learn Simple Recipes

A kitchen is useless unless you know how to use it. One of the biggest things holding people back from cooking is time. But you can learn some simple healthy recipes that can be prepared in 15-20 min.

If you have some go-to recipes you love and know you can prepare quickly it will make you much more likely to cook and repeat them no matter where you are in the world.

That’s why it’s important to learn some recipes with ingredients that you can find anywhere in the world such as oats, legumes, rice, potatoes, greens, and vegetables.

Just type in “simple healthy recipes” on Youtube and voila: A whole library on how to eat healthy and cheap while traveling opens up at your fingertips.

To help you get started check out one of my favorite food channels called The Happy Pear. They have a lot of great 5-minute recipes such as the Chickpea Curry below. The recipes are cheap, healthy, and can be prepared with ingredients you can find anywhere.

Tip #4: Travel with Basic Food Supplies

If you are going to cook your own food then you will need to make it taste good! If you go out and buy new spices and sauces in every place you go the cost will add up and it will take a lot of time and effort.

So it is best to travel with a set of some basics like salt, pepper, cumin, a herb mix, and curry powder. Whatever you can use and like to flavor multiple meals.

We also find that it is good to travel to remoter areas with some small bags of oats, rice, and lentils to quickly be able to prepare a simple meal on arrival. That’s especially useful when shops are closed when you arrive or you are too tired to do groceries.

By always having some basic food supplies in our bags we can always cook something cheap and healthy while traveling from scratch that also tastes good!

A healthy bowl of food great for traveling of salad, seeds, legumes and rice
2 in 1: We always travel with a mix of nuts & seeds we can sprinkle on our meals or have as healthy snacks on the go

Tip #5: Travel with Healthy Snacks

One of the biggest reasons people don’t know how to eat healthy and cheap while traveling is snacking in my opinion. Snacks can make or break your diet and be hard on your wallet.

Sitting for long periods of time in transport makes unhealthy snacks super tempting. Also, snacks at airports, bus and train stations can be crazy expensive and often only offer unhealthy options.

So to stop the temptation on your actual travel days head to a supermarket the day before traveling and pick up some healthy cheap snacks. Here are our favorites:

  • Fruit: No matter where you are you should be able to grab an apple or banana that is easy to eat while traveling. So are pears, peaches, and mandarines, but they are not always accessible.
  • Nuts & Seeds: Are a great source of protein and you can find them nearly everywhere. Tip: Stay away from the ones where oil, sugar, or salt is added. Head to the baking section of the supermarket instead or buy plain nuts & seeds at local markets or bulk stores.
  • Protein Bars: They can be pricey and full of bad ingredients. But if you find one with clean ingredients that don’t cost the world, then this is a great option.

Tip #6: Discover Local Foods

If you want to know how to eat healthy and cheap while traveling then eating locally is a good way to start. It is usually much cheaper to eat and shop the way the locals do.

If you buy the same types of food you would usually eat at home it could end up being expensive. So when we arrive in a new country we always buy the fruits and vegetables that are grown locally. That way it’s also more sustainable and we eat a lot cheaper and fresher.

Plus you get to discover new foods you may have never even heard about and enrich your travel experience. Locals will usually also be super helpful in telling you how to prepare a certain ingredient as they are proud of sharing their national cuisine.

This way you can connect to the local community, practice a foreign language and make new friends. Traveling healthy and cheap is not a restriction but fun! 🙂

Tip #7: Try Street Food

To any experienced traveler, this is a no-brainer! You have to try street food, especially in Asia or Latin America. People who are new to traveling often avoid it because they are worried about getting sick.

But in my experience, you are just as likely to get sick at a restaurant as from street food. The benefit of eating street food is that you can see them prepare it and if they are keeping the area clean.

Eating street food is usually also super cheap and you can experience local life! But in many parts of the world, it may be hard to find healthy street food. If so, stick to the 90% rule of eating healthy and reserve the remaining 10% for street food.

People sitting on plastic chairs by taco cars in mexico city
Street food in Mexico, a paradise for taco lovers

Tip #8: Practice Fasting

This tip is not for everybody and fasting is hard to do. But I regularly do fasts where I only drink water to clear up my skin. So sometimes on long travel days, I will fast and eat no food.

This way I don’t need to think about what healthy foods I am going to eat on the go. I am also fasting on a day on which I don’t work out, do sightseeing, or hike. So I don’t need the energy from my food.

I find fasting particularly useful if the food on long-distance flights or buses is awful. I simply just skip the meal, stay hydrated with water and eat something better at my destination.

Fasting can also combat jetlags if you only eat at times when you normally would eat or at what times you would eat at your new destination. Instead of eating whenever someone serves you food.

Plus there is great evidence that (intermittent) fasting can be very healthy and useful as a body and mind reset for everyone.

Tip #9: Bring your own Water Bottle

This tip ticks all 3 boxes of sustainability, eating healthily, and traveling cheaply! No matter whether we have a long travel day or we are out sightseeing we always have a reusable water bottle with us.

Not only does it make sure we stay well hydrated but it cuts down on the costs of buying bottled water which is also great for the environment.

Plus water is the healthiest thing you can drink and makes you avoid drinking tonnes of sugar from soda and fruit juices which we avoid. So often, water is what you really need.

Water bottle how to eat healthy while traveling
This handy 1-liter water bottle goes with us everywhere we travel

Tip #10: Use Food Apps

Happy Cow shows you restaurants around the world that are vegan, vegetarian, or have these options. There are a lot of vegan fast-food places you should avoid consuming in excess but there are plenty of healthy ones too.

Another super useful food app you can try and is widely accessible is Too Good To Go. It gives you access to food places such as cafes, bakeries, supermarkets, and restaurants that have food left and give it away for a cheap price at the end of the day for you to pick up.

We also like to use Cronometer from time to time to see if we are getting all the vitamins and minerals we need from our food. You simply enter all the food you have eaten and it will tell you if you are reaching the recommended daily intake of all the micro and macronutrients you need.

Now you know how to Eat Healthy and Cheap while Traveling

You don’t have to be perfect to eat healthy and cheap while traveling. If there is a great local dish you would like to try that’s unhealthy go for it! But try to stick to the 90:10 rule: 90% eating healthy, 10% not.

Especially if you get into a routine of preparing healthy meals at your accommodation and sticking to healthy snacks on the go will help you save money and your health at the same time.

If you eat healthily you will have more energy to fully enjoy your travels so make it a priority and you won’t regret it. If you have more tips on how to eat healthily and cheap while traveling please let me know in the comments below!


Hey there! Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means that if you choose to make a purchase we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help us to generate income and keep creating content for you. So we greatly appreciate your support! Thanks!

Hi, I am Allan, a travel, health and fitness fanatic from New Zealand. I'm a former lawyer who turned into a full-time nomad in 2020. For the last 4+ years I've been traveling the world. I'm always on a hunt for good food, activities on a budget and workouts on the go. I hope you find my tips helpful and get inspired to travel more!

Helpful? Share it!

2 thoughts on “How to Eat Healthy and Cheap while Traveling (10 Easy Tips)”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top