Today, traveling is ongoing! Think of it this way, it used to be that when we planned a trip, it was a summer vacation with the family or a holiday trip. Nowadays, for me – taking a trip is going for a few hours. Those that know me, know I have a food intolerance to many foods, such as dairy, egg yolk, and gluten. Every day becomes a constant struggle when having the right foods readily available or accessible when going out. I just got back from Springfield, MO. and I have to say, it was one of the most accommodating cities to my allergies. They had a mom & pop store, called Mamma Jean’s and I tell you – I thought I was in heaven. It’s an all-natural, organic grocery store. I was like a kid in the candy store. Of course, I knew I couldn’t take a lot back with me as I had to go back on the plane and I have a tendency to get close to the luggage weight limit without evening buying anything on vacation. I took some time to talk to a staff member to let her know how impressed I was with the store, especially while traveling with food allergies. They are just located in MO, but what a great idea for the locations they do have throughout the area.
So, how does one stay healthy while away from home? Well, it does take some meal prep and planning and again watching how much is packed into your luggage or space in your vehicle. But I wanted to give suggestions based on my ideal adventure. This will, of course, vary depending on your allergies or desirable foods. The idea is to keep it simple, stress-free, and healthy. Of course, on a side note, the TSA is now adding a new rule that you must take out all food items and paperwork from your carry-on bag. Yikes, you might not want to be in line behind me. I like to have all my snacks for the entire trip on my carry-on to ensure no breakage or for temperature control.
Another way to save money is bringing along a pre-made salad with olive oil already added to your carry-on, which is acceptable by TSA standards so, you’re not starving once you get on or off the plane. Plus saving you in the long run on airport lunch robbery, as I call it. They really have you once you are checked through security, plus the requirement on time to be there provides them easy access to your purse knowing chances are pretty good that you will buy something or stop to eat. Ha-ha, well I fooled them when I brought my own lunch.
When selecting your hotel, ensure you are able to have a mini-fridge in the room, along with a microwave. I preferred hotels that are supplied with your own accessible kitchens, such as Extended Stays or Homewood Suites since they are around the same price. They provide you with a regular fridge/freezer, toaster, coffeemaker, microwave, stovetop, all dinnerware, utensils, and cookware, along with soap and a possible dishwasher. Always check the fridge temperature controls to ensure they are on or at the right temp for your food to stay cold or frozen as hotels keep them at the lowest setting possible. If the hotel does not provide a mini-fridge, you can use your own cooler, but refresh it with hotel ice every 6-10 hours as a backup.
Also check Trip Advisor or Yelp for hotels that advertise Farm to table, Paleo, and Gluten Free, as it could lead you to a hotel that offers a gluten-free breakfast and tie you into restaurants that do. As for someone with food intolerances, you usually avoid the hotel breakfast options. That’s why I prefer to first make a stop at the grocery store after checking in or as you are getting close to the hotel. The best solution is to find a grocery store in the vicinity as you may make a couple of trips during your vacation. This way I can make a nutritious breakfast right in my room and still can take advantage of options such as fruit. Even though I can’t have the egg yolk in the hard-boiled eggs they will have at the buffet, I will take advantage of having that additional low-calorie protein as long as I have time to take out the yoke. I usually get bottled water, hummus, vegetables, buckwheat waffles, along with my egg scramble recipe with peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, hash browns, turkey, and onions, and may add avocado while on the road. But definitely, is added at home for additional monounsaturated fats and flavor. I come prepared with the almond butter for the waffles, MS Dash seasoning, and cooking spray, and still bring plastic utensils and bowls, along with a refillable water bottle to ensure I have a backup. This will ensure I’m eating foods my body can tolerate and less hassle later with experiencing unpleasantness within a few hours to days later. Believe me, it’s not worth the misery.
Keep in mind, by bringing your own snacks, you are saving money in the long run vs eating more while eating out or at a quick convenience store shop. It’s unbelievable how much you can spend on a vacation and keep in mind, you’re kind of stuck so you tend to give in. Another way to save money is to bring a refillable water bottle, but make sure prior to going through the security check, you have it completely empty. But this way, you can always refill and save on buying bottled water and on the environment. I have to say the Stay cations are not a bad plan. They give you a chance to unwind without the traveling hassle and avoid the chaos of people. I know for some, also travel with a cooler with gel ice packs or large Ziplocs to get ice as they arrive at their destination. I tend to not go this route due to high temps and it seems to be easier to just do the grocery store trip to avoid the additional carry-on bag and security check, which we all cringe when you are the lucky soul picked to go through your bags. But if you are traveling by car, having an electric cooler is ideal to keep food fresh while mobile. Make sure you are packing in a sealed and spill-proof container when packaging those items.
I have to laugh when I saw a sign at the TSA that said to get undressed and unpack prior to the scan, I thought to myself, you know- truly I feel like I have to repack all my stuff and redress when leaving the scan area. And the less I have to do, the better. Believe me….. Again, traveling is enough of a struggle in itself.
Options for travel-friendly perishable foods:
- Vegetables like carrots and celery along with almond butter packets or hummus
- Hard-boiled eggs (pre-peeled!) and in my case, yokeless
- Wild-caught salmon (in a pouch, not a can)Preferably or canned, depending on travel
- Fresh fruits like apples, bananas, or oranges
- Salad mixes, along with olive oil or dressing packets, as I find there isn’t a huge selection in many restaurants
Options for travel snacks for car & flight:
Most of these items are only found at Natural Food Stores: The key is to avoid messiness as I’m thinking you don’t want to add cleaning the car later to your tasks later or if you’re renting a car- there could be additional cleaning fee charges. Yikes! Keeping a backup of Ziplocs or reusable containers is beneficial for transporting and keeping your snacks organized.
- Microwaveable Oatmeal or Quinoa packets
- Almond Butter packets – to add to oatmeal, quinoa, or if purchasing waffles
- Dehydrated vegetables & fruit
- Nuts, trail mixes, and seeds
- Protein Bars
- Dark Chocolate (70% or higher cacao)
- String Cheese and whole wheat or gluten-free crackers
- Roasted Chickpeas
Please note The reason I tend to travel with snacks on every road trip, flight, or even afternoon adventure, is because when you eat small meals every 2-3 hours – studies show that it sends a signal to your brain on fullness and you may burn those calories quickly. In addition, maintaining smaller meals leads to providing additional energy. Allowing yourself to eat heavy meals can make you feel lethargic and sluggish and those calories will get stored as fat.
Grocery store or even checking out the local farmers market: Remember the key is eating healthy on a budget. You’re already spending enough on vacations and planning out your trip to the store will keep your budget in check. Take advantage of the flyer and coupons when entering the store. If they opt for all savings on their store card, sign up for the card as long as it’s free knowing you’re saving in the long run. It’s worth the couple of minutes it will take to keep additional funds for an emergency fund. Yes, a backup is nice for vacations too.
- Selecting fruits, and whole grains such as toast and peanut butter instead of jelly, oatmeal, yogurt, and hard-boiled eggs. They may have a full-service buffet with eggs, hash browns, and sausage so, keep in mind – you don’t want to consume all your calories at breakfast. If it says- turkey sausage, then elect that selection but maybe pass on the hash browns and opt for the whole grain toast with peanut butter or in my case, gluten-free waffles that were part of my grocery store trip with my packed almond butter.
- Be cautious of the beverage selection, as juices consume so much added sugar that you already take in just in regular fruit consumption. Choose coffee, tea, and water and if you can have dairy, then select fat-free or 1% milk. Even though I have an egg allergy, I will select hard-boiled eggs for protein, but as long as I have time to de-yolk them.
Keep in mind that there are so many hidden ingredients when dining out. Even asking for an ingredient list is never the same as making the recipe in your own kitchen so, choose simple yet cautiously when dining out. One thing that might be beneficial in the future, if you already don’t have one is – investing in a Fit Bit or adding an app such as Fitness Pal to your phone to track your daily steps and add in your food diary to get a better handle on calorie consumption. Always check the hotel magazine for additional coupons, offers, and 2-for-1 meal deals.
Here are some great tips to keep top of your mind while dining out:
- If the restaurant offers a lunch size option or smaller plate vs the regular dinner menu selection. Pay attention to fullness cues- you can always get a box to take to your hotel for the next day. If the portions are large, consider dividing one meal between the two of you to reduce calories and still enjoy the meal you want.
- Check the menu for healthy side options to substitute such as a side salad, vegetables, and fruit. I tend to stay away from soups as unsure of sodium count and along with my food allergies, I have to even be careful as to what spices are added to the recipe.
- Choosing grilled vs fried and requesting no mayo, reduced-fat dressing, or even a side of yogurt would be a great selection, or request it on the side.
- As I always say, a girl just needs a burger every now and then, so I select it without the bun on a salad option with no cheese, of course, due to my dairy allergy. Restaurants are adding gluten-free buns as an upcharge to aid in our food allergies.
- The best scenarios are when you have a salad bar to add an additional amount of vegetables to your burger to fill you up faster and provide the nutrients needed for our bodies.
- Fish is loaded with protein, along with good fats, which makes it an easy selection as long as you are opting for the baked, or grilled with no cream sauce added to the plate. Protein aids in stabilizing blood sugar levels and increasing concentration.
- Another huge way to save is – just to order water, coffee, or tea…. Besides most of the time, I’m too dehydrated to consider wine. You need plenty of water to keep your energy level up, fuel your muscles, and recover easier.
- Even being prepared with water bottles, I tend to get easily dehydrated because you’re either limited or climate changes that provide our bodies with different humidity. They keep telling me it’s better because it’s dry heat. Well, 125 degrees is insane when I was in Death Valley, CA. I’d rather be out in 50-below weather, right here in MN. I guess my point is always to take enough water with you- staying hydrated is so vital for your health and for our bodies to function. Stay away from what I call, Fufu drinks like lattes or pop, they tend to be a sugar and cream factory that will only add to your calories and sluggish energy level later.
Tip: Add your favorite fruit to plain water, lime, lemon, cucumber, etc. to add flavor if you have a hard time consuming the 8-10 glasses of water per day.
If you’re like me – Food allergies are always on my mind and we need to be careful to ensure an accommodating trip, to say the least.
- Prior to your trip- search Yelp, or Trip Advisor for “gluten-free” along with the name of the city.
- It’s always a good idea to let the waiter know you are gluten-free (dairy-free, egg, or another food allergy) and if it’s celiac, where they need to do the additional cleaning in the kitchen or intolerance. Most are very accommodating to these recommendations and will let the chef know your sensitivity.
- You can always ask for dressing on the side for any dish or salad and any cream-based dinner items to ensure you aren’t consuming anything that would give you a reaction later. Also letting the waiter know to not add cheese, croutons, etc. when getting a lunch or side salad, since they both vary in toppings. This will ensure you don’t get any gluten or dairy reactions.
Last, but not least, don’t forget to exercise! I always plan out my trips by finding free things to do in the city I’m traveling to and looking for opportunities to still see the city on a tight budget. Plus, it provides the additional exercise that we don’t necessarily get enough of when isolated to a plane or car for extended amounts of time. I have found many chambers of commerce sites offering the free 50 things to do in their city, which consists of museums, tours, sculptures, gardens, parks, trails, etc.
Personally, I see almost every free listed event, because most of the time you end up walking so much more since the sculptures are within a distance of each other and I will tend to go on a hiking route or running trail to take advantage of additional scenery, and nature vs using the exercise room at the hotel. We all need that Vitamin D for serotonin and additional mood-boosting effects, but again all in moderation with proper clothing and sunscreen protection.
We can never be sure of anything that is added to our food or what it is cooked in, so eating healthy and adjusting to your food sensitivities is all about balance and moderation. So go out and enjoy your vacation. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Be happy!
As always, consult your health professional on any health concerns or questions.
I hope this article finds you in good health.
Connie Stoltz-McDonald is a Certified Life & Health Coach, Wellness Educator, Blogger, Author, Entrepreneur, and Clean Recipe Master & Chef, whose passion for living a healthy lifestyle has become her mission through helping others achieve a balanced life. You can connect with her at www.lifestylehealthmentor.com