Travelling can be a little challenging when one wants (or needs) to stick to a particular diet. Whether dietary restrictions are due to health, religion or personal reasons, there a few things you can do to make your trip more enjoyable. Because, let’s face it, no one can be happy when one is hangry and can’t find a restaurant to eat at that will allow them to meet their eating requirements. I’ve developed a few survival mechanisms for travelling and hope they help you out too!
General Travel Tips
- Check on PaleoTrip.com for restaurant and activity ideas 🙂
- Go prepared- I’m more likely to not eat something I shouldn’t when I have “friendly” food on hand.
- Don’t let yourself get “hangry” – When I’m hungry and have no “friendly” food close by, I get so grumpy and stressed that it creates a negative travel experience for me, and my travel companions. Pack portable Paleo snacks!
- Scout out restaurants ahead of time and make a list of ones you can eat at
- If travelling abroad, look up phrases for allergens and foods in the local language. Also research phrases such as “does this contain…” or “can you make it without…”
- Research local cuisines for “safe” options – i.e. in Japan, “shio” (salt-only) seasoned meet on a stick (yakitori) was a great option for me, as were restaurants that allowed me to grill my own food at the table.
- Stay at hotels with kitchenettes (most ideal) and stock the fridge. Aim for meals that are quick and portable, preferably ones you can cook in bulk and take with you to the park, on the train or other cool location. You don’t want to spend all your time cooking and eating in your room, after all. This is very cost effective too!
- At least make sure you have a microwave and fridge, if you can. Some hotels will let you request one ahead of time if they don’t normally provide. Call before booking and check!
- If you only have a fridge in your room and very restricted diet (or in an area without good food options for you), travel with an electric travel burner, collapsible silicone teakettle and camping pan (see packing list below) and cook your own foods. Yes, this sounds a bit extreme, but your health is worth the extra effort!
Make your own MRE for the plane/train/automobile
Airplane and train food is usually unappetizing, limited in options and rarely (if ever) Paleo-friendly. With unexpected delays routine during travel, I always make sure to pack a lot of food that I can eat on the plane or during layovers. Even if you are doing a road-trip, I’d recommend packing food to take along because you never know what restaurant options you’ll find along the way and it’s good to be prepared. Here are some suggestions on what to put in your own MRE (Meals-Ready-to-Eat):
- Hardboiled egg (eat within 2 hours if no ice pack used – good for pre-boarding snack… or use frozen muffins as an ice-pack to allow them to keep for 4 hours)
- Grass-fed beef jerky or nitrate/sugar/gluten-free turkey jerky
- Baby carrots
- fresh fruit
- A meat-free salad (so it can be at room temperature awhile) with 2 lime/lemon slices and a bit of salt in a baggie or other small container. This can be packed in a collapsible silicone bowl or in a baggie.
- Nut, seeds or a mix (my favorites are almonds and sunflower seeds, stored separately. The sunflower seeds are a great addition to my salad)!
- Your favorite herbal/green tea
- One green drink powder packet
- Two or three frozen Paleo muffins- this is the “ice pack” for the egg and carrots. If you need a recipe, check out the the recipes on the blog, such as this one for Paleo Blueberry Muffins
- Reusable water bottle (fill at water fountains) – they even make some bottles with a built-in filter
- Travel pillow, eye mask and ear plugs for a good sleep
- A paper plate, napkin and utensils (note: metal knives are probably not a good idea to take on a plane) 🙂
Always pack more of the shelf-stable snacks than what you think you’ll need in case of delays
When travelling to places where “friendly” options are difficult to find, pack some items in your check luggage to ensure you have some options for snacks at your destination and equipment to make meals in your room, if necessary. You can use the room left once you eat these for souvenirs!
- Grass-fed beef jerky or nitrate/sugar/gluten-free turkey jerky
- Green drink powder packets
- Packets of your favorite herbal/green tea
- Paleo Friendly bars (Bulletproof Bars, Lara Bars, Rx Bars, Paleo Protein Bars)
- Disposable plates, cups, bowls and utensils – or reusable ones and travel-size dishsoap (fill an old spice jar with screw on lid with soap and put in a baggie for travel). Collapsible silicone bowls are a light, space-saving option
- Baggies or foil – for packaging leftovers or taking food out sight-seeing with you.
- If you won’t have a microwave and are traveling to a place where eating out is really difficult, pack a travel electric burner, collapsible silicone tea-kettle and camping cookware. When I went to India, I made myself Paleo pancakes (from a mix) with dried blueberries in my room – they were awesome! I added maple extract and almond butter in place of oil to the mix.
- More frozen Paleo muffins – I usually take enough for a 5 days, longer if I know I’ll have a freezer. These pack well in a reusable/insulated lunch bag in your suitcase.
- Enough supplements/vitamins to last for the trip – I pack mine in snack baggies, labeling with what time of day they are for using a sharpie. I’ve never had trouble taking these in my luggage to other countries, but just in case include a Dr’s note and/or list of what they are
Travelling can be stressful, even if it’s for pleasure. Airport delays, lugging heavy bags, navigating an unfamiliar place and walking until your feet feel like they want to fall off can all add up. Make sure to take some time for yourself. Look for a local yoga class, get a massage or find a hot springs/tub to wallow in. For your hotel room, these are great things to pack in your luggage and don’t take up a ton of space:
- Inflatable bath pillow
- Detox Bath Salts
- Travel Yoga Mat
- Meditation/Yoga app or MP3
After you arrive
Once you get to your destination, you can stock the fridge with the makings of a perfect meal or snack (the first thing I do upon arriving is find the nearest grocery store):
- Baby/peeled carrots
- Mustard greens or lettuce leaves
- Hardboiled Eggs
- Sandwich meat
- Green juice
- If you have a full kitchenette, go crazy!
- Breakfast is the hardest to eat out, IMO – I usually eat this meal in my room: Paleo muffins, sandwich meat, hard-boiled eggs, and yes, even my hotel-room-made pancakes on that one trip. Laugh if you want, but they were yummy and there are only so many eggs I can eat!
- For breakfast out – look for places that will make veggie omelets without milk and cheese. Best to stick with organic places that will also have nitrate-free or homemade bacon/sausages. These places usually have more vegetable options at breakfast too. Be sure to ask about gluten/sugar.
- Another breakfast option is to enjoy leftovers from the night before. Yum, some leftover grilled meat and vegetables make a great breakfast, especially when paired with a hard-boiled egg and avocado!
- For lunches and dinner: Most places will offer a grilled meat/seafood and a salad. Get it without cheese, dressing, croutons and other unfriendly foods. Top it with lemon juice, olive oil and avocado instead! This is my go-to meal!
- Look for restaurants where you can barbecue at your table and ask for un-marinated meat and vegetables.
- Order things without sauces, soy and dairy
- Broth fondue can be a fun meal. Pair it with a salad and a squeeze of lemon juice to round it out.
- If can’t find anything on the menu, ask for special preparation. Many restaurants are more than willing to accommodate allergies
- Take along a bag of baby carrots in your handbag or coat pocket
Recommendations by Cuisine
Whether you’re traveling or not, there are certain foods that each type of cuisine usually offers which are great for those eating Paleo or allergen-friendly diets:
- Mexican: Fajitas without chips, beans, dairy, rice or tortillas, depending on your tolerances. Ask for extra lettuce and guacamole. Take baby carrots to dip in the guac and salsa to stave off the chip-cravings.
- Thai: Chicken satay and steamed vegetables; ask if they’ll make a curry without sugar (this is only possible if the curry paste is not prepared already with sugar)
- Japanese: Sashimi, sauce-free yakitori and steamed or grilled vegetables. Skip the soy sauce or ask for gluten free. In Japan, look for barbecue places, shabu shabu hot pot, shio (salt) yakitori and sashimi. Shopping at a depachika is a great way to get pre-made food to take back to your room or on a picnic. They also have groceries so you can pick up some carrots, lettuce, etc to go with the yummy yakitori you’ll find already prepared.
- Chinese: Usually best to avoid altogether because of the soy, rice, sugar and thickeners. If you do go, ask them to prepare the dish steamed without sauce.
- Italian: Find a restaurant that has meat or fish entrees, with sides of steamed or roasted vegetables. If all they have is Caesar salad – order it with just lettuce and chicken – top with lemon juice squeeze and olive oil.
- Indian: I find Southern-Indian places are much more friendly to my dietary needs. They have more dry-spice prepared vegetables and meats; without the sauces that contain thickeners, sugar, or other “unfriendly” items. Skip the rice and breads, despite the funny looks that you might get. In India, they have barbecue restaurants which made it easy for me to eat grilled meat and vegetables. Make sure you ask for what’s on the menu without dairy.
- American/Other: Salad topped with grilled meat/fish of your choice and avocado. Squeeze a lemon slice and drizzle with olive oil. Look for grilled, baked, broiled meat entrees with steamed veggies. Roasted veggies are plentiful on many menus in the U.S. right now, for which I am so thankful. Don’t be afraid to make a meal out of skewered meat appetizers and a bunch of veggies sides. This is one of my faves!
Your body will thank you
Sticking to my “safe foods” while travelling actually makes me feel even better than I normally do at home, because when out of town I tend to sleep and exercise more, as well as have more fun. Even on work trips! These are all keystones of a healthy lifestyle, so I now embrace my trips as Healthy “Recharge” Getaways and I return a few unneeded pounds lighter, more energetic and with a smile on my face. Now I need to incorporate more exercise, fun and sleep in my home routine so I feel good all the time – but that is a separate issue and one that I am working towards.
I hope that you find these tips useful. If you have healthy travel tips of your own, please share below. Also, I’d love to hear your recommendations for Paleo/GF-friendly restaurants around the world! I wish safe, happy, nourishing and restorative travels to you all!
(originally posted by Sarah on 11/2/16 at https://thesisterrap.com/2016/11/02/traveling-with-food-restrictions/. It has been modified here to focus more on Paleo diet for any reason, not just for health reasons.)