Whether it's cookies from the vending machine at a rest area or yet another slice of pizza from the boardwalk, sometimes traveling makes us forget our healthy eating habits. It can be hard to stick to a diet or find the healthiest choices when you're in an unfamiliar place. But thanks to technology, there are some easy new ways to get this information whenever—and wherever—you need it. Here are a few smartphone apps (for iPhone and Android) that can help travelers make better food choices while on the road or abroad.
Track Down Fresh, Local Food
Locavore, available for both iPhone and Android, lets you know where you can buy produce straight from the farm. It provides a map of the nearest farmers markets and farms where you can get in-season ingredients, and even gives you recipes to help you make use of the seasonal bounty available. Then you can brag about your local eating adventures on Facebook—all with this free app. Even before you leave on your trip, you can use Locavore to research what fruits and vegetables are going to be in season in the state you're going to.
If you're traveling with a vegetarian or vegan, or just want to cut back on your meat intake, this mobile guide from HappyCow (VegOut for iPhone or VeginOut for Android) gives you the nearest veg-friendly restaurants to where you are at any given moment. The app is based on a global directory of restaurants that are entirely vegan or vegetarian, plus those that cater to vegetarians and meat eaters. It also includes some stores that carry vegan and vegetarian products.
The Best Available Options
When your restaurant options are limited to fast food chains and other unexciting establishments, like during a road trip, you may want to try an app like GoodFoodNearYou. It points out some healthier choices to remind you not to automatically order a cheeseburger and fries just because you had to stop at a diner. This app, available for iPhone, Android, and Blackberry, calls out menu items like low fat ice cream, half-size muffins, and garden salads, and recommends limiting condiments like mayo and dressing.
Informed Grocery Shopping
A trip to an unfamiliar supermarket can throw you off the healthy eating track, too. When your usual brands aren't available, try using an app like Fooducate (iPhone and Android) to compare your options and find the healthiest alternative. Just scan a product's barcode on your phone, and find out if it's as healthy as it looks. The app warns you about any unhealthy aspects of each product—like, for example, the fact that your snack still contains some trans fat even though the nutrition label indicates zero grams of trans fat. Luckily, it then gives you a list of better options to look for so you can avoid the pitfalls it warns against.
Translate Your Food Preferences
When you're not fluent in the language of the place you're vacationing in, it can be even harder to stick to a vegetarian diet or other healthy food choices. The Veggie Passport app (iPhone only) translates phrases like "I do not eat meat or poultry" into 33 languages to making eating out easier. If you can't pronounce them, just show the phone to your server and they'll get the idea. This app is flexible in that it includes multiple options for dietary nuances, based on whether you're willing to eat fish, eggs, dairy, and so on.
Joanna Eng is a New York-based writer and editor who covers travel, green living, food, careers, entrepreneurship, and more. Her travel experiences have ranged from hostel hopping in Mexico to staying with distant relatives in China to renting a beach apartment in New Jersey.