Travelling healthy: Edinburgh

Last year I travelled approximately 70 000 miles, and if you on the road as much as me (or even more) you can relate to it being a bit of a challenge eating healthy while travelling. I often see weary business travellers loosen their ties, take off their suit jackets, and throw back a few drinks while eating slices of pizza. Whatever is easy, convenient, and perhaps within the travel budget. These may very well be the people most in need of a big salad. Travel stresses the body already, fuelling it with empty calories and foods that are low in micronutrients is not going to make you feel more energised. When I first started traveling for business, I gave in to a few bad choices as well, but I figured there has to be a better way.

I tried juicing while travelling when I visited New York and Paris, and I’ve previously talked about how important it is to be prepared and take some snacks with you when heading to the airport. It is always still a bit of an adventure when you arrive in a new city and you are trying to stay on track with your diet and exercise. Last week I went to Edinburgh, and it was my first time visiting this gorgeous city. To prepare, I Googled to see if there were any juice bars or healthy cafés.

Find the healthy cafe before you travel

What brought me to Edinburgh was a workshop I was giving at the EAHIL annual meeting. Hula cafe was right on my way from my hotel to the conference venue. While they have delicious smoothies and juices, they also serve up soups, salads, sandwiches, and breakfast. To my great disappointment though they do not serve any dishes with eggs. It is not a veggie-only place, so I wasn’t sure why. Either way, it did not take away from the fact everything on the menu looked delicious. In an effort to be completely healthy, I even had a salad and green juice for brunch on one of the mornings.

hula cafe breakfast image

Ask for something not on the menu

I expanded my boundaries a little bit while in Edinburgh. While not being a stranger to asking for slight modifications on a menu, I have never before asked if it was possible to eat something that just doesn’t exist on the menu at all. Whether fuelled with an overwhelming desire for eggs, or a strong commitment to avoiding the sweets that were out for breakfast at the conference, I mustered up the courage to ask a small local shop called Picnic Basket on West Nicolson St. I simply asked if they had any way of making me some boiled eggs. The answer wasn’t only “yes”, they actually had a generous side of smoked salmon to go with it.

healthy breakfast edinburgh image

My healthy breakfast of boiled eggs and smoked salmon from the Picnic Basket.

I tested my new courage to ask for non-menu items at a small downtown cafe, and was again successful. I do have to say that the Picnic Basket was the nicer of the two experiences, but still.

Conference dinner strategy

Before attending an elaborate conference dinner I devised a bit of a strategy as far as what I would say “yes” and “no” to that evening. Travel often enough and the bread baskets and red wine at dinner start to add up, so they were out for me for the evening. I am not going entirely carb-free, but I am trying to apply what I think is ‘mindful eating’. To me that means choosing foods I really enjoy, in the context I can fully enjoy them in. So instead of a (stale) croissant while running to my gate, I would rather have an apple. Instead, I’d enjoy the croissant another day sitting out on a patio with a nice cappuccino. Applying the same principles, leaving the bread on the table at my conference dinner was easy. It didn’t look as tasty as I’d like it to be if I am going to indulge. I took one small sip of wine to taste it, and again decided I’d rather stick to a bottle of my favourite red in the company of a good friend another day. A pleasant side effect of not drinking that evening (or the entire week for that matter) was that I had a lot of energy to dance some Scottish dances they taught us throughout the night. It was good fun and great exercise to top it off.

One of the secrets to eating healthily while travelling is to plan ahead, but also not be afraid of asking for something that is not on the menu. If it can’t be done, you get a “no”, but perhaps it can just as well be easily accommodated.


Christine Buske is a former academic who left science at the bench, and now considers herself a woman in tech. She is a frequently invited speaker, and enjoys talking about career transformation (particularly leaving academia for the business world), tech, issues around women in tech, product management, agile, and outreach. She is a proud Canadian resident, and qualifies as a "serial expat".

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  1. Jane O.

    7 July

    Nice post! Edinburgh is on my bucket list for this year.

  2. Don

    7 July

    What about the sights??? Edinburgh is so nice. Did you go see the castle?

    • I just saw the outside. Being there for work made it a bit more difficult to actually go and see everything, but it is a fairly small city core so I still feel like I saw a lot just from walking to and from the conference.

  3. K.L.

    29 July

    Looks like you ate some good stuff there.

  4. pblondon07

    15 October

    Looks good! are you trying low/no carb? If so, what has your experience been with it so far?

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