Healthy in Shanghai

When I traveled to China for the first time a few months ago, I visited Beijing — ground zero for polluted air. I had a fantastic time on my trip, but I returned home sick. For a solid month afterward, I battled a cough, felt lethargic, and wondered why I hadn’t taken more precautions while visiting.

I’m getting ready to visit Shanghai in a few weeks and want to make sure I take all preventive measures to stay well on this trip. I’ve chatted with a friend who has lived in Shanghai for the last two years, and she gave me some solid tips on staying healthy.

There are three areas of concern when it comes to health in Shanghai: air quality, water quality, and food safety. Here’s what you can do to stay aware.

photo by Photographing Travis via Flickr Creative Commons

photo by Photographing Travis via Flickr Creative Commons

Check the Air Quality, and Plan Accordingly

Each day that you are in Shanghai, check the Air Quality Index  to see what the pollution is like, then plan your day around it. This means if the air quality is hazardous, you should take a bus tour instead of walking around the city. Eat at restaurants inside instead of getting food on the street. I know it’s hard to stay inside when you want to explore a city, so when go outside, make sure you wear a mask.

Stay in a Hotel That Has a Gym

If you want to continue your exercise routine while on vacation, choose a Shanghai hotel that has a gym. If the air is bad, you don’t want to risk going for a run or HIIT workout outside. The Hotel Indigo Shanghai on The Bund’s Fitness Center has a fully equipped gym overlooking the Huangpu River and an indoor swimming pool.

Only Drink Bottled Water

Shanghai’s drinking water sources are the two rivers around the city. These rivers are regularly polluted with sewage, factory waste, and animals. Though their water gets treated before being sent to taps, its quality and contamination level are not assured. To stay safe, make sure you are only drinking water that comes from a purified bottle source. Green Initiatives shares the best sources for safe drinking water in Shanghai.

Learn Some Food Words to Help You Decipher Menus

Eating super-healthfully in Shanghai isn’t something that someone visiting short-term should worry about too much. After all, you do want to experience the food scene. However, if you have a food intolerance or want to stick to your diet, learning a few Chinese characters will help you figure out what the best options for eating are. Look for menu items that say steamed (蒸, zhēng) or sautéed (炒, chǎo) for the healthiest options.

My friend suggests enjoying a meal at Jian Guo 328, one of the few restaurants in Shanghai that has a no-smoking policy, and recommends use of high-quality cooking oils.

Know What to Look for at a Food Stall

If eating street food is part of your travel plans — and it should be — there are a few things you should do to stay safe. Go to the street cart where the most people are. This means the food is probably being made fresh and hasn’t been sitting out for long periods of time. Plus, you know people like it! Also, take a look at the oil and make sure it isn’t cloudy and doesn’t have tons of food debris in it; these typically mean it’s being reused. In particular, explore Wujiang Road, a pedestrian-only promenade known for its busy street food scene.

Follow these tips to have an enjoyable and healthy trip to Shanghai!

*This post is sponsored by IHG Hotels