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10 Tips for Traveling Healthy with Food Restrictions

Posted Mar 12 2010 12:00am

One of the biggest pain points for those who adhere to restricted diets whether due to food allergies, health concerns, ethical responsibilities or simply to make better food choices is the limitations in dining out. Worse yet, it can make traveling a nightmare. Eating out is tough, so what do you do when you don’t have a kitchen, and you wouldn’t want to cook even if you did?

One strategy is to let loose and indulge in foods not eaten on your average, normal day. This works great for those who are simply trying to make better food choices, yet have a little breathing room.

But unfortunately, for many others, this just isn’t an option. For this scenario, the most important thing is not to travel blind, letting yourself just “figure it out once you get there”. ‘Cause inevitably, once you get there, you’ll be hungry, and if you don’t have a strong action plan, you’ll most likely find yourself eating somewhere that isn’t able to accommodate your ultimate needs.

A good solution is to do a little preliminary sleuth work in preparation for your trip. With so much information at our fingertips on the web, we can pretty much find everything we need before we even touch down.

Search for restaurants: Do a Google search for restaurants using your specific criteria (i.e: grass-fed beef, organic, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc). Get a list going that includes the name, address and phone number of each location. You may even want to “map it” and get a print-out for easy access later. Go ahead and give a few of them a call to see if they TRULY can accommodate your needs. Cross off the restaurants that can’t. Make sure to specifically call the restaurant at your hotel or B&B, as this will be the fastest, easiest food option.

Request a room with a kitchenette: These rooms always have a counter area, small refrigerator, hot plate, serveware and utensils, making it easy to store left-overs, healthy beverages and snacks. See if the hotel can provide you with a blender: a little nut milk, nut butter, frozen fruit, spirulina and protein powder equals a power-packed, high energy smoothie in minutes.

Consider hiring a personal chef: You may gawk, thinking “I can’t afford that!” But after tallying your restaurant food costs at the end of your trip, I’ll bet it comes out pretty much even. But the BEST thing about a personal chef is that they are far more capable of accommodating special-needs diets. For example, I’m hiring a PC for my Bozeman, Montana trip next week, and she’s making a few of MY OWN recipes in large batches and delivering them to my room for me to keep in my fridge. See? What restaurant is gonna do THAT for you? Do a Google search for “personal chef” and your location, or go to the American Personal and Private Chef Association’s chef locator.

Decide where to eat once you get off the plane: The last thing you want is your blood sugar to drop and your energy to crash without a good place to eat mapped out ahead of time. Most likely the climate will be different and you’ll be a little taxed from all the traveling – these can make the body tired and stressed. The solution: know where you’re going to eat once you’ve arrived, AND know how to get there.

Extra! Find a yoga studio and do at least one class while you’re there!

Snacks: Pack a small zip-lock of nuts and dried fruit for your purse or carry-on; if it gets confiscated, it’s no loss, but if you can get away with it, you’ll have a little something to nibble on if your plane gets delayed or your blood sugar drops. The only thing I’ll say about eating at an airport is to go for fruit and tea with a little honey. This will bring blood sugar up… but not for long. A pack of nuts (albeit overly roasted and salted) from a gift shop can help with sugar crashes.

Immune Supplements: Never get on a plane or go somewhere far and away without an arsenal of supportive supplements. Pack vitamin C (Alacer Emergen-C packs are great) vitamin D, a multi-mineral, an immune tincture (I like Kick-Ass Immune by Wish Garden Herbs) a flu homeopathic like Boiron Ocillococcinum or Heel Engystol, and Yin Chiao herbal.

Collapsible cooler: Stuff this into your room freezer once you arrive so you have a cold tote to pack your food for tomorrow’s excursions. Also make sure to bring some small plastic containers and zip-lock baggies in a couple sizes.

Extra! Bring your own pillows for a good night’s sleep, and some aromatherapy oils and a few tea candles for relaxing baths before bed.

Hit up the local natural food store: The day you arrive, make sure to stop in a get some staple items that will come in handy right off the bat. Pick up quick energy, high-electrolyte foods like dried fruits (especially prunes and raisins – these will keep you from getting constipated too!) unsweetened banana chips, coconut water, Brazil nuts and cocoa nibs. Nut butter on gluten-free or raw crackers make a great snack or breakfast. If you have a fridge in your room, you can also stock up on some healthy prepared foods or deli meats and cheeses.

Order extras at restaurants: If you find a good dish that “did you right”, don’t hesitate to place a second order to go. Take it with you and store it in your room refrigerator; eat it for breakfast or lunch the following day. Never hesitate to back to the same restaurant if you know it worked for you.

Stay hydrated: If the water in your room is nasty, buy gallon jugs of bottled water from the health food store. If you can find a market that has a “you fill” reverse osmosis water station, that’s the best option.

Extra! Do some stretching and breathing when you wake up to get you going for the day. Better yet, get to a yoga class at least once while on your trip.

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