Recently, while preparing food for a week-long trip out of town, it occurred to me that one of the most common questions I get asked is on that very topic. So, just how do I eat while traveling?
Since I eat gluten-free, and most of the time grain-free, dairy-free, and egg-free, my diet is a challenge to accommodate in the comforts of home, let alone on the road!
It certainly wasn’t easy at first, and it definitely took some practice and commitment. But it can be done, and even done with style! So, here are some rules-of-thumb I have come up with which work well for me.
Whether the trip is a drive or a flight away, I always pack food to bring with me. This is the most time consuming option since it requires a lot of preparation time.
Having grains, dairy, and eggs on my food sensitivity list, breakfast tends to be the most challenging meal. So, I make a batch of a sweet potato and veggie hash with sausage in advance. I freeze this meal in single serving containers, and either place it in the cooler that we drive around with or pack it in my checked luggage for the flight, to be placed in a refrigerator when I arrive at my destination.
These frozen meal items stay cold enough to keep, and they also keep the other items I pack cold for the trip.
In addition to the food I place in a cooler or pack in my luggage, I also take veggies, crackers, dried fruit and other favorite foods in the car or on a plane. Gas stations and other quick stops are not as likely to have snacks to fit speciality diets nor do they tend to contain the healthiest ingredients, so I make sure to stock up by using online services such as One Stop Paleo.
Preselect Restaurants with Apps
The number of restaurants on new websites and apps, such as Find Me Gluten Free and AllergyEats is growing quickly. With these tools, it is getting easier to identify in advance which restaurants you might safely be able to eat at.
Check the menus, read reviews and call the restaurants in advance if you need any clarification. Allergy Eats goes beyond gluten-free and allows restaurant filtering based on dairy, nuts, soy and other allergens that people often need to avoid.
Double-check the menus and read through the reviews with a critical eye to make sure that a restaurant’s claims stack up. And, if I may reiterate: Be willing to call the restaurant for a clarification!
This might take some research and a few calls, but when you don’t have time to do a lot of food preparation, this is a particularly good option.
Web Search to Identify Restaurants and Grocery Stores
A broad web search using the location and keywords such as “gluten-free”, “allergens” and “health food” can bring up more options to choose from. Often, this type of search brings up restaurants and grocery stores that are not yet listed on a website or app like Allergy Eats.
You may have to research places you find this way a little more, making sure you look at menus, check reviews, and again make phone calls to ask questions about ingredients. But, let’s face it; you are much more likely to get what you need if you are armed with ideas ahead of time.
Create a Grocery List
I usually plan to purchase some items when I arrive at my destination, typically from a health food store I have identified. These items often include things like cut veggies, hummus, guacamole, fresh fruit, pre-made salads, pre-cooked meat, or even pre-made meals if available. This, of course, requires that the hotel/motel/condo/RV that I am staying in includes a refrigerator and/or a means to warm up food.
Try Pre-Made Food Services
There are several pre-made food delivery services, with some even offering the ability to have items sent travel destinations! Pete’s Paleo, TrueFare, and Paleo on the Go are three such services. The food is delivered frozen in dry ice in individual servings that can be stored and warmed up when needed, assuming again you have access to a refrigerator and/or a means to warm up food.
Well Worth the Effort
Eating to accommodate food sensitivities and allergens while traveling does take planning and a little work, but with practice, you naturally learn to hone your preparation routine. And, if you make the commitment and fine-tune the process over time, your body will thank you for it, and your trip will much more enjoyable and stress-free.