Traveling the world is exciting – I love seeing new places and experiencing new cultures. However, traveling can be hard for me when it comes to what I can and cannot eat. I eat food that helps me feel my best, and avoid food I know makes me feel poorly. My advice is, before you travel make your own assessment of what foods you need to avoid like the plague and what foods you could maybe get by with eating a few times while traveling. The lovely folks over at Whole 9 Life discuss this really well with regard to evaluating if a food is “worth it” to you. Check out their site sometime for additional resources.
I’m sharing a tiny about myself here just to give you a background on what my experience is like when I travel. What’s hard for me is finding food that is grain-free and dairy-free. I also eat tons of veggies and find that when I travel it’s not easy to get many into my meals. And then there’s breakfast. Probably the most difficult meal because I don’t eat yogurt, cereal, toast or pancakes, all of which are the most typical breakfasts served. Suffice it to say. some effort has to be made for me to eat the right food on a trip.
Recently my husband and I took a trip to the Caribbean. Overall, it worked out pretty well with finding food, but it took a little effort. Here are some things I recommend doing to make your trip more enjoyable and less stressful regarding your diet:
- Take emergency food: I take healthy snack bars, my homemade granola, grass-fed beef jerky, collagen protein powder, plantain chips and coconut butter (for my coffee). On this trip I only took things that didn’t require refrigeration upon opening because I wasn’t sure if we had a fridge in our hotel room. I could’ve easily found out with a little research but I was so busy leading up to the trip I didn’t remember to do so. We did end up having a fridge.
- Scope out a grocery store that is near where you’re staying either before travelling or upon arrival: We asked locals and they were really helpful in sending us to a store- again I didn’t have time to do any research before we left. Going to some type of food store allows me to stock up on the best options available that I can eat. Fruit, for example, always lots of water, and I usually find a few other snacks I can keep in the hotel room. On this particular trip, we didn’t find any great grocery stores, but we found one decent enough to have water, almond milk, fruit and veggie chips (I’ll talk more about chips in a minute). My husband has become quite the trooper in going on long walking adventures with me to find food!
- Find local fresh markets too: Many countries have great local outdoor markets that sell native foods- obviously in the Caribbean we got some amazing fresh coconuts! These markets often have some nice healthy snacks too.
- Consider staying somewhere with a little kitchen: especially now with the arrival of AirB&B, staying in affordable apartments is really easy. Anytime we go to Europe, this is what we do. It makes for a more authentic experience of the local culture in my opinion, but also this way I can go to a grocery store and then cook my own food at the apartment. If it’s a city or country you’re unfamiliar with, I strongly suggest doing research before staying in an apartment. There have definitely been countries we’ve traveled to in which I would not feel safe staying outside of a hotel. I guess it depends how adventurous you are with your travels, but we often go to more remote destinations and the reality is you do need to be careful.
- Check out restaurants and/or hotel dining options: This allows you to consider your options and potentially ease the stress of “what am I going to eat?”. Ask the concierge for suggestions or ask the locals. Also, check out the breakfast buffet options in your hotel. Most of this can be done ahead of time too. On my recent trip, the breakfast buffet had an omelet station, and they actually used fresh cracked eggs instead of some creepy eggbeater type mix. They also had vegetables as options to put in your omelet, which made me very happy.
- Eat a large breakfast if you can: This is easiest if you’re staying in an apartment and can make your own breakfast, but if you have a hotel buffet with acceptable options, it works too. I find that if I can eat a good breakfast, I feel much less concerned about where we’ll be for lunch (since we’re often out exploring and don’t know where we’ll end up). In the very least, I can default to my emergency snacks for lunch until we get dinner.
- Make a smoothie: If you have protein powder with you (I use collagen because I can’t tolerate whey), you can in the very least mix up a drink to get you through the afternoon. I don’t recommend regularly substituting smoothies for meals, but when travelling sometimes it’s the best option. I mixed my collagen protein with almond milk several times on this trip- I didn’t need to do so every day. It’s not amazing tasting when it’s so plain, but it’s better than nothing! I’m actually considering buying a super small cheap blender like a magic bullet type (but a cheapy one so I don’t care if it gets lost) and taking it with me on my next trip. I think being able to mix up some smoothies would be a good back up option.
- Less shopping, more eating: I’m not a big shopper when it comes to buying “stuff” like souvenirs and clothes on trips. So, from a budget perspective, my advice is, spend more on going to a good restaurant if you know they have food you can eat, rather than spending that money on stuff. I would much rather splurge on great food than anything else because then I don’t feel crappy and I have a much better vacation. On our recent Caribbean trip, the only things we spent money on were food and some really great experiences (like swimming with sea turtles).
- Ok, now about those chips: I mentioned buying some veggie chips earlier in this post. I also mentioned the idea of deciding what foods are “worth” eating if they’re not in your normal dietary routine. I will end by saying, there are a few choices I make on trips that are not so great, but I know I won’t feel so horrible from them. Chips fall in this category. Even veggie chips are made with pro-inflammatory oils such as canola, soybean or safflower oils, and I really don’t recommend consuming these on a regular basis. However, on trips, if faced with a real lack of food choices, I will snack on chips. So, if you’re going “off” your normal diet, just make sure you’re assessing if the situation really warrants the choice you’re going to make. Being in control of your choices is probably more important than anything!
I hope some of these tips are helpful. Travelling and maintaining a healthy diet is not always easy. My goal here today was to share some of the things I do and potentially give you new ideas. Happy travels!