Healthy Meals for the Hostel Traveler

Because budget travel shouldn't equal a culinary downfall

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

I have seen way too many fellow hostelers prepare a dinner of macaroni with salt and pepper masqueraded as a cheap healthy meal. Sure, it’s cheap, but it sure ain’t healthy.

And I have seen other hostel travelers yet who take cooking in a shared space to a whole new level. They occupy multiple burners and pots in a limited kitchen space, sometimes crippling the dinner efforts of other hungry travelers.

There is a happy medium between these two extremes! Here are some healthy meals you can prepare in your hostel (or even at home) that won’t cost a fortune and will give you the energy to keep on trekking. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Thaddeus Stewart)

Breakfast

Steel Cut Oats

Those prepared instant oatmeal packets may be yummy, but they are ultimately more expensive and nowhere near as healthy as the more natural alternative.

Oats actually don’t come rolled, as rolled oats are a form of processing. So if you buy steel-cut oats, you may pay more for a bag, but those little grains are jam-packed with goodness and it will take less to fill you up.

The good news is that they don’t even need to be cooked! Simply soak them (1/8 to ¼ cup dry is a decent serving) in water, preferably overnight, and they will expand to more than double the size.

Drain them when you’re ready to chow down, add some raisins, cinnamon, any fruits you wish, top it off with yogurt, and you have a breakfast of champions. Steel cut oats are one of the best protein sources you can find in a grain.

If you forgot to soak them overnight and you’re in a rush, you can soak them in the morning for about half an hour, or you can cook them just like oatmeal in less than five minutes — quick and easy. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Kristin Breneman)

Lunch

On The Go

Most travelers catch lunch on the road, so you can either pack a lunch or buy one on the fly. Of course the cheap healthy option is to pack one.

Lunches are some of the easiest meals to prepare, with sandwiches being the most logical option. For a twist on the average sandwich, try buying individual buns instead of a loaf of bread (which you know you’ll never finish). Wrap up a hunk of cheese, pack an apple or other indigenous fruit, and you have a decent quick lunch to eat on the go.

Cream cheese is also a great mayo-alternative in a sandwich, and keeps a little longer out of the fridge.

Ramen … With a Twist

Anybody who has spent time on the budget travel road could probably stand to own a few shares in a ramen company. These small packets of oriental noodles in a flavored soup base are cheap, yummy, and quick to prepare. But they are terribly processed, and lack many of the nutrients we need. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Pabo76)

If you must have ramen, you can easily spice it up and be the envy of your traveling comrades. Along with the noodles (or before you add them), throw in a mix of local vegetables (try broccoli, carrots, peppers, and onions for starters). Add some rice vinegar (or whatever vinegar is available on the “free shelf”), soy sauce, hot peppers, and fresh ginger to the broth. Then boil just long enough for the veggies to become al dente.

Just before you take your masterpiece off the heat, add an egg and scramble it into the soup. It will only take a minute to cook and will add amazing texture, flavor, and protein to your now well-balanced ramen meal.

Another less explored lunch option, if you are brown-bagging it, is to bring along leftovers from your glorious dinner prepared the night before. Read on …