Healthy Eating on the Road (3): LUNCH

This post continues on from my earlier posts about how to stay healthy on the road. In post one, I shared some general thoughts on how to stay healthy when you travel a lot. Post two focused on some fun breakfast ideas. Today I’d like to focus on…LUNCH!

This one is tricky because you’re trying to find the sweet spot between buying stuff that lasts in the car/bus, but doesn’t contain a million strange preservatives and sugary crap. It also involves a stop at a grocery store. And preferably a knife and fork.

1. Look for whole, natural foods.

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My rule of thumb for travel snacks is to buy as many whole food snacks as I can before picking up a few healthy-ish processed ones like granola bars, dark chocolate, crackers, and very importantly, things to go on crackers. 

2. Bread and bread alternatives.

This one depends on whether you’re in the gluten-free camp or not. If gluten isn’t a problem for you, then choose a nice fresh bread to eat on the day, and stock up on some breads that won’t spoil as quickly, such as pita pockets or wraps that come in a vaccuum pack. The vacuum packs will allow you a couple of days storage before opening, and then should last a day or two once opened so long as you reseal the packs correctly!

If you are in the gluten-free camp, there are plenty of alternatives that last really well in the car. Rice or oat cakes are my go-to, or else rye crackers such as Ryvita or Finn Crisp (these are easy to find in most supermarkets in Ireland/Europe…maybe not so much in the U.S.).

Not a grain-eater? Not a problem. Buy a big bag of apples or pears and a knife. You can cut the apples into slices and eat them with cheese or nut butter on top. Yum.

3. Toppings.

My usual toppings are usually avocado, hummus and nut butters. So, for example you could stop to make a pita pocket stuffed with avocado slices and hummus, or a couple of rice cakes with peanut butter and banana slices on top, or apple slices dipped in almond butter. Some of my favourite combos:

  • Hummus on pita/rice cakes.
  • Nut butter or cheese on apple slices.
  • Nut butter on anything.
  • Avocado on rye crackers with a boiled egg or tuna (see 4 below!).
  • Rice cakes layered with peanut butter and banana slices on top.

4. Extra protein ideas.

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If you need something more meaty, tinned sardines, salmon or tuna is a handy option (just make sure you buy a can that has a pull-ring!). You can either eat it with a fork straight from the (drained) can, or mash it up with the avocado to make a super-healthy tuna-“mayo”. Be warned though- your travel buddies will NOT thank you for that one, especially if you try and prep it in a moving car! This one is DEFINITELY only doable if you are pulling over to the side of the road to avoid assaulting your bandmates nostrils.

IMG_7883And if you want to get even weirder, you could bring a couple of boiled eggs. I know what you’re thinking, ew. And who has time to be that organised? The reason I mention it is that when I traveled around Japan last year, you could buy boiled eggs as a snack in every 7-11 and Family Mart. They even sold them along some of the hikes to temples! It was brilliant. We were able to eat eggs for breakfast while walking to the subway! So, if travelling in Japan, you can buy some boiled eggs to bring with you as a snack. Anywhere else, you may have to boil them that morning, and eat within a few hours.

 

5. Snazzy Extras

Just in case you’re reading through this thinking ‘there is nooo wayyy a few crackers are going to fill me’, this section is for you.

After having a few rice cakes covered in whatever you fancy, try adding a few extras to your lunch. Kind of like how in primary school we used to have a sandwich AND an apple AND a carton of milk. Try a grown-up version of this: a few avocado crackers AND an apple AND a handful of nuts AND a couple of squares of quality dark chocolate. You could also buy a few healthy granola bars to keep you going (more on how to choose these in the next post). And maybe finish it all off with a green tea.

Teeny X

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Banana-Oat Bars

These are my favourite granola bars at the moment. They are so easy to make, they hold together well, they last outside the refrigerator, AND only require THREE ingredients! 

SO…what’s the secret?

BANANAS.

I have recently discovered how amazing bananas are in baking because they can act as a binder and a sweetener in one, making your recipe really simple because you won’t need flour, eggs, sugar, or honey. So the recipe is basically just banana and oats, and then whatever nuts (or seeds) you feel like putting in it!

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I know what you’re thinking, how could they possibly taste good?! You’ll be surprised. They have a light banana-y sweetness combined with an awesome chewy texture that make them taste like more. But don’t take my word for it, try them and see for yourself!

 

Banana-Oat Bars

 

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*This recipe is vegan-friendly, dairy-free, egg-free, refined sugar-free & gluten-free if you use gluten-free oats*

PREP TIME: 5 mins | COOKING TIME: 20-25 minutes | MAKES: 12 bars

INGREDIENTS

2 large ripe bananas, peeled.

2 cups rolled oats (jumbo oats)

1/2 cup nuts and/or seeds of your choice*, roughly chopped

optional extras: 1/4 teaspoon sea salt; 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon; 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

* I use just walnuts most of the time,  but in these photos I’ve used a combination of walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C/160C fan.
  2. Lightly grease a 9 X 9-inch square baking tray with coconut oil or butter.
  3. Mash the bananas in a medium-sized mixing bowl using a fork until they are mostly liquid, without any big chunks remaining. If using sea salt, cinnamon and vanilla, add them in now and stir through the banana mixture.
  4. Toss in the oats and whatever nuts/seeds you are using. Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon until the dry ingredients are evenly coated with banana.
  5. Transfer the mixture into your greased baking tin. Using the back of a wooden spoon, press the mixture down firmly and evenly.
  6. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the edges begin to crisp (It took 22 minutes for me, but every oven is different).
  7. Allow the baking pan to cool on a rack. Once cool, remove the mixture from the pan and cut into 12 rectangle bars. Store in an airtight container for 3-5 days. Try with a cup of tea or with some almondbutter slathered on top. Yum.

 

 

 

Healthy Eating on the Road Part 2: Breakfast!

 

A while ago, I shared part 1 of Healthy Eating on the Road, giving some basic tips for staying healthy while travelling. I know I have a lot of musician friends out there who struggle to find healthy options while on tour. I’ll be doing a few Friday posts sharing my favourite health nut tips and recipes to help you plan ahead so that you don’t have to eat crap and feel like crap on the road!

Part 2 is all about BREAKFAST. If you travel a lot for gigs and the food options are pretty slim, these tips might be just what you need to start off your day on tour!

Leaving at 7am to make it to your next venue by 6pm is no fun, and doesn’t leave much time or brainpower for making a good breakfast.  The trick is to be organized the day before! Below are loads of delicious, simple foods you can make or buy in advance and bring with you to avoid the seemingly inevitable 9am McDonalds’ pitstop. 

1. Nature’s Breakfast: fruit, berries, nuts and seeds

Ready-to-eat whole foods such as fruit, nuts and seeds make an awesome breakfast because they involve no preparation at all, and don’t even need to be refrigerated! You just need to buy them in advance. Choose local and/or organic veggies if you can, as these have more of the good stuff (vitamins, minerals and antioxidants) and less of the bad stuff (pesticides and weird textures from being picked before ripening).

Try keeping fresh fruit such as apples, bananas or berries in your bag for a quick morning brekkie. Berries are amazing because they contain lots of protective antioxidants such as vitamin C, and they also contain less sugar than other fruits! Just make sure you aren’t storing them right beside your gig clothes as that could get messy. 

One problem with a fruit-only breakfast is that it can spike your blood sugars and leave you feeling hungry an hour later. To avoid this, try pairing your berries with a handful of raw nuts and/or seeds for a more balanced breakfast. Raw nuts and seeds are an excellent energy source because they contain lots of protein and good fats, so are the perfect snack for keeping you going without spiking your blood sugars too much. 

2. Make your own granola

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If you’re travelling more long-term and get access to a kitchen, you can make your own granola to last you for the week, and BOOM that’s breakfast sorted for ya! I have stayed in a few hostels where backpackers shared their granola recipes with other guests by sticking them on the fridge! You can find healthy granola recipes on my blog here and here. Once you’ve made and cooled the granola, store it in a ziplock bag and keep in your car or bag for a quick breakfast or snack!

3. Make your own travel treats.

The day before you leave, set aside some time to premake a few healthy snacks for your trip. 

One really easy option is trail mix: Just combine your favourite nuts, seeds, and dried fruits in a plastic bag and bring it with you! (e.g. almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds and maybe some fruit like grapes, raisins or dates). Make sure to buy your nuts raw and unsalted, with no suspicious extras in the ingredients list. Unfortunately, store-bought roasted nuts are often made using unhealthy oils such as canola or sunflower oil that you’re better off avoiding. 

If you want to get fancy, you could try my grain-free granola recipe, which tastes amazing on its own as a trail mix! It combines nuts, seeds, coconut chips, maple syrup and sea salt together to make an awesome sweet-salty snack!

Another great idea is to pre-make a bunch of energy balls and granola bars to bring with you. Although I LOVE making raw truffles and raw energy balls, they do tend to get a bit soft if they’re out of the refrigerator for more than a couple of hours, so might not work if you have long days and no way of keeping them cool. Granola bars are a far more portable option. I’ve shared a recipe here for some grain-free ones, and am still working on perfecting my favourite oat-based ones which will be up on the blog soon!

There we go. That’s breakfast taken care of. Stop by next week for some lunch tips!

 

Teeny x

 

Homemade Nut & Seed Butter

When there is no nut butter in the house you’ll usually find me looking forlornly into the cupboard where the jar once was, trying to think of a replacement snack. It has become a total staple in my diet. Since lashing nut butter on everything is quite an expensive habit, I’ve been on a mission to find a cheaper way to feed my addiction by making my own at home!

Mixed nuts tend to be cheaper to buy in supermarkets here than one type of nut, and seeds are cheaper than nuts. So I experimented with making a mixed nut and sunflower seed butter, and it was delicious!

LRM_EXPORT_20170511_094730Two cups of nuts/seeds yields 1 cup of nut butter, or roughly 220g (so if you imagine those tiny jars of nut butter that are sold by many different brands in Ireland, it makes about a third more than the quantity you would get in one of those). You can make it with any nut you like, or a combination of your favourites! I usually buy Dunnes Stores or Supervalu mixed nuts bags which contain a combo of walnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, and almonds.

The ratio of nuts to seeds is really up to you. I used about 1 1/4 cups of mixed nuts, and 3/4 cup of sunflower seeds here and you could definitely taste the sunflower seeds (which I liked!), but if you’re not into that then I would go with more nuts and fewer seeds!

Once you have chosen your nuts then all you need is a pinch of salt, a powerful food processor, and patience my friend! It takes anywhere between 15 and 20 minutes to transform the nuts into butter, so maybe grab your laptop so you can check emails.

INGREDIENTS

2 cups mixed nuts and seeds of your choice (always buy raw unsalted!)

a pinch of sea salt (optional)

you’ll also need a sturdy blender or food processor. I would go with a food processor over a hand-held blender as you can blend larger quantities more evenly this way. 

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 150C (130 fan/300F).
  2. Place your chosen nuts and seeds on a baking tray and leave to toast for about 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly for about 15 minutes.
  3. Put the toasted nuts and seeds in the food processor and blend for 15-20 minutes, stopping it occasionally to scrape down the sides and to let your blender cool. Please don’t give up and be tempted to throw in some water or oil to speed up the process because it will ruin the consistency of the but nutter! Here are some photos of the process so you know what you’re looking for:
  4. Once it reaches a smooth, creamy consistency, scrape it all out and store it in a clean airtight jar or container. Tastes great on banana slices, rice cakes, in porridge, or in these grain-free granola bars!

Recipe adapted from Green Kitchen Stories.

Super Berry Bircher Muesli

Bircher muesli is a quick and nutritious breakfast that could possibly save you an extra 10 minutes in the morning! Yes, you read this correctly, that means one extra hit of the snooze button! You prepare it the night before, leave in the fridge, and then boom. Instant breakfast in the morning. No cooking, no clean-up.

It was originally created around 1900 by a Swiss doctor called Maximilian Oskar Bircher-Benner. This smart dude fed it to the patients in his hospital, where a diet rich in fresh fruit and veggies was a core aspect of his therapy. The original recipe included oats, apples, nuts, a squeeze of lemon juice and sweetened condensed milk. The oats were soaked overnight to make them more digestible, and then served in the morning with yoghurt.

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All grains, legumes and nuts naturally contain quite a lot of phytic acid. During digestion, the phytic acid binds to vitamins and minerals in our food, making them more difficult to absorb. By soaking our grains and legumes, we break down some of this phytic acid ahead of time, making the awesome goodness of grains and legumes more available to our bodies!

Of course, Bircher muesli has evolved over the years since 1900, and now there are dried store bought muesli varieties that often contain far more grains and sugar than the original light recipe, which was more focused on fresh fruit.

The good news is that health nuts are always finding creative ways to pimp up this awesome recipe.  The one I’ve made here replaces the apples with berries, and the condensed milk with homemade nut milk. I’ve also used a combo of nuts, seeds, and some fancy extras instead of just nuts.

This serves one small person, but feel free to one-and-a-half it or double it if you know you have a long day ahead of you!

*This recipe is vegan-friendly, refined sugar-free & gluten-free if you use certified gluten-free oats*

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SERVES: 1 | PREP TIME: 5 minutes | COOK TIME: 0 minutes!

INGREDIENTS

3 tablespoons oats (use gluten-free if you’re gluten intolerant)

3 tablespoons nutritious nuts, seeds and dried berries! I used:

  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fancy extras (I used this superfood breakfast topper, but it’s not necessary! Use whatever you have lying around the house- chopped nuts? flax or chia seeds? cacao nibs? goji berries?)

Handful of fresh mixed berries (I used raspberry and some blueberries)

1/2 cup nut milk of you choice (I used homemade but store-bought is fine)

A squeeze of fresh lemon

METHOD

  1. Place all the ingredients into a breakfast bowl or kilner jar. Mix around and mash the berries into the other ingredients.
  2. Cover and leave in the fridge overnight.
  3. That’s it! Instant nutritious breakfast awaits you the following morning. Eat it as is, or top it off with yoghurt and more berries, banana slices and drizzle of nut butter, or whatever you fancy yourself!

Quinoa Tabbouleh

This is one of my favourite on-the-go lunch or dinner recipes. It uses quinoa instead of the traditional bulghur wheat used in tabbouleh. The cucumber combined with the fresh parsley, lemon juice and mint give it a refreshing taste. It makes a great side dish to bring to a potluck or BBQ, or you can take it with you to work as a tasty desk lunch!

Quinoa is a 5,000 year old grain that originated in The Andean region of South America. The Incas thought the crop to be sacred, and referred to it as “the mother of all grains”. Technically, it’s not actually a grain but a pseudograin. It has a pretty impressive nutritional profile, which explains its popularity among health nuts!

Vegetarians love the stuff because it is one of the few grains that contains all nine amino acids, making it a complete protein! One cup of cooked quinoa contains about 8g protein, which is good for a grain (but still lower than other protein sources, i.e. you could get 6g protein by eating a single egg, or 1oz raw almonds).

Quinoa also boasts an impressive 5g of fibre per cup, which is higher than what you’d find in one cup of long grain brown rice (about 3.5g per cup). This fibre-and-protein combo helps keep us full for longer and doesn’t spike our blood sugars quite as much as comparable grains.

You may have heard quinoa referred to as a superfood. As well as its protein and fibre attributes, quinoa contains a high level antioxidants, B vitamins, folate, magnesium and iron compared to other grains. One cup quinoa gives you an impressive 30% of your RDA of magnesium! Most people who eat a standard American Diet are not getting enough magnesium as it tends to be lost during food processing. Chronic magnesium deficiency can lead to leg cramps, muscle pains, insomnia and anxiety, so it is important to eat more whole foods to keep our magnesium levels up!

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So, anyway….back to the recipe. I usually add some kind of protein or good fat source to the dish if it’s going to be my lunch or dinner to make it more substantial. Here I added a can of chickpeas, but sometimes I put it in a lunchbox with a soft-boiled egg on top, or maybe half an avocado or some feta cheese. So once you’ve got the basic recipe down, feel free to add whatever protein you like to it, box it, and bring it with you when you’re on the go!

*This recipe is gluten-free, vegan-friendly, plant-based, and refined sugar free*

SERVES: 4-6 | PREP TIME: 30 mins |

INGREDIENTS

1 cup of quinoa, rinsed well*

8 small-medium tomatoes (or 1 pint cherry tomatoes), diced

1 cucumber, peeled and diced

1/2 cup mint leaves (1 small bunch), chopped

1/2 cup parsley leaves (1 small bunch), chopped

Juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon (depending on how juicy it is!)

3 tablespoons olive oil

a few turns of the sea salt and black pepper mills (to taste)

optional:

1/2 medium red onion, diced (unfortunately raw onion does not agree with me, but it is nice in the recipe!)

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed OR a soft boiled organic free range egg OR some feta cheese from sheep’s milk)

*You can save time by cooking the quinoa earlier on in the day, or the night before. Sometimes I put on some extra quinoa for dinner, cool it and keep in the fridge to use for this recipe.

METHOD

  1. Measure out 1 cup dry quinoa. Rinse well in a fine sieve, then knock into a medium size pan. Cover with 2 cups water, bring to the boil, and leave to cook on medium heat for 12 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and leave to stand for 3 more minutes until all water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork to separate grains. Transfer to a bowl or tray and allow it to cool.
  2. While your quinoa is cooking and cooling, prep your veggies! Peel and dice the cucumber, dice the tomatoes (and onion if using). Chop the parsley and mint leaves finely. Combine all veggies and herbs in a large mixing bowl.
  3. If using a can of chickpeas, rinse and drain thoroughly, then stir in to the veggie mixture.
  4. Prepare your dressing by adding your freshly squeezed lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to a small bowl. Use a whisk or fork to combine.
  5. Once your quinoa is cooled, add it to your mixing bowl with the veggies and toss. Drizzle the dressing over it and toss again until evenly coated. Transfer to an airtight container and keep in the fridge for a handy on-the-go lunch or dinner!

Grain-free Coconut Granola

This granola may lead to some serious snacking-by-the-handful. You’ve been warned! It is amazingly delicious with almond milk, on top of porridge, or as a homemade trail mix to snack on when you’re on the go!

I decided to try out a grain-free one because I seemed to be eating oats non-stop there for a couple of weeks and thought I’d try something new. The oats have been replaced with coconut flakes (the big kinds, not desiccated coconut!). They go a lovely golden colour and have a moreish crunchy texture- you’d hardly notice there are no oats!

This granola is packed full of nutrients since it is made entirely of lightly toasted nuts and seeds coated in a little maple syrup and coconut oil. It is inspired by a recipe by Dr. Sarah Ballantine, an award-winning paleo food blogger (see original here).

Grain-free Granola

*This recipe is vegan-friendly, paleo-friendly, grain-free, refined sugar-free & gluten-free *

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PREP TIME: 5 minutes | COOKING TIME: 20-25 mins

INGREDIENTS

dry:

2 cups coconut flakes

2 cups mixed nuts (I used a mix of walnuts, pecans, almonds, brazils, and hazelnuts)

1 cup sunflower seeds

1 cup pumpkin seeds

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

*you’ll need to buy the coconut flakes, nuts and seeds raw and unsalted 

wet:

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup extra virgin coconut oil

a few turns of the sea salt grinder (optional)

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees celcius (fan oven).
  2. Cover a large baking pan with some parchment paper.
  3. Pulse the mixed nuts in a blender until they break down a little bit, but still have a good bit of texture and CRUNCH!(Or just chop with a knife if you don’t have a blender).
  4. Put the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix well.
  5. Put the wet ingredients in a small saucepan, melt over a low heat, and stir gently until combined.
  6. Pour wet ingredients over the dry ones and stir until everything is evenly coated.
  7. Place the mixture on a large baking tray and spread out evenly.
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the coconut chips turn a golden brown. You might need to shake and turn it halfway through. (Always keep an eye on your granola because it is sooo easy to burn-I’ve done it so many times!)
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on the baking tray before storing in an airtight container.

 

Healthy Eating On The Road (1)

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Driving towards the Colorado mountains last June.

Happy Friday everyone! I’ve decided to dedicate Friday to non-recipe posts. These will focus on other thoughts about our health and the environment. First up is a series about how to stay healthy while travelling! If anyone is away over the weekend, this post might be just what you’re looking for. Shout out to my fellow musician friends who know how tough it is trying to eat healthily while on tour. We’ve all been there: you’re on a healthy streak of eating well and even exercising a bit, when suddenly you get a call to play a gig in the middle of nowhere, and before you know it, you’re deciding between a McDonald’s burger or that dodgy-looking sandwich in the petrol station. Not very inspiring. For anyone who travels a lot for work or otherwise, here are some things I’ve found useful for keeping healthy while on the road:

1. ALWAYS bring water.

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Multnomah Falls, Portland, OR.

This is so simple, yet so easy to forget! And it’s a great place to start if you’re trying to make some small changes. Try stocking up on couple of bottles of water before you take off (or if you’re flying you might need to wait until you’ve landed), so that you always have some on hand. Fun fact: a lot of the time that we think we feel hungry, we’re actually just dehydrated because our bodies can sometimes mistake thirst for hunger. So one possible way to keep hunger pangs at bay is to sip on water during your travels. Not only will you feel fuller, but you’ll also feel more energized, awake, focused, and (for the touring musicians who enjoy the occasional drink) less hungover!

2. Be ORGANISED.

Easier said than done, but sooo important if you want to be able to eat healthily while driving through the arse end of nowhere. The day before I go away, I usually try to make time to go shopping and stock up on a big bag of mixed nuts and/or seeds  (unsalted and raw is best- and just make sure to read the ingredients list for any weird additives before buying!), maybe a few fruits and veggies, and some other snack ideas which I’ll elaborate on in my next post.

It’s always great to start as you mean to go on, so if I have time I attempt to make the first day as healthy as I can (the calm before the storm). On the morning you leave, how about giving yourself a little extra time in the morning to make a nice healthy breakfast at home (scrambled eggs and veggies, or a big bowl of porridge), and prepare a packed lunch? Either a salad, sandwich, or some leftover dinner from the night before. Then you’ll only have to buy dinner out! Look at you, being healthy and saving some pennies at the same time!

3. Buy REAL FOOD snacks.

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An amazing spread at a City Growers fundraiser, Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm, NY.

It may seem obvious, but when we’re in a rush it can be easy to forget that snacks don’t actually have to be packaged in the form of a granola bar or bag of crisps. There are plenty of real, whole foods out there that keep pretty well in the car, are pretty easy to find on the road, and are far healthier and filling than sugary granola bars! Fruits like apples and bananas are usually easy to find, as are nuts and dried fruits like raisins or dates. If you pass a grocery store, some baby peppers or carrots and hummus can make a delicious savoury roadside snack, or some avocado mashed on crackers. Or how about peanutbutter on apple slices? There are so many real foods out there that need little to no prep- it’s just a matter of thinking outside the (snack)box a bit!

4. Break up with COFFEE: Make friends with GREEN TEA.

It is tempting to rely on coffee as a crutch to get your through the tour, but personally I find the more run down I get, the less my body can handle it! The first few days are great, but after a few late nights coffee often starts to make me jittery for a couple of hours. Next comes the giant caffeine crash, and finally the hanger sets in. If this sounds all too familiar, try to limit the coffee to once in the morning, then switch to green teas the rest of the day to keep your energy levels a bit more balanced throughout the day!

Do you have any tips for keeping healthy on the road? If you do, please feel free to share them here or on Instagram, I’d love to hear from you!

Teeny x