I often get lots of questions about how to handle travel while maintaining a ‘Paleo’ way of eating. Challenging – no question! However, there are many things you can do to improve your experience and by-pass the standard junk out there.
1. Plan Ahead (no surprise here – we talk about this one a lot)!
• Before you head out, make sure that your last meal at home is a good one. Lots of nutrient-dense and maybe even calorie-dense foods with a good balance of veggies, meat and good fats.
• If you are traveling by plane, pack your own food for the flight. The TSA is concerned with liquids, so make sure your food is solid based and you shouldn’t have a problem. Pack any leftovers you can within reason of messiness, using leak proof tupperware. If your items are cold before you go, they should be okay for a couple hours, and you could always throw in a mini ice pack. A couple examples:
– Grass-fed burger over greens with a 1/2 baked sweet potato
– Baked chicken thighs with steamed veggies and salad greens
• Bring your own snacks
– Sliced raw veggie sticks (carrots, celery, pepper, jicama, broccoli, olives, cherry tomatoes, etc.)
– Hard boiled eggs
– Homemade trail mix (raw nuts, unsweetened dried fruit (a little), unsweetened dried coconut flakes)
– Artisana makes an organic raw almond butter in individual packets that are convenient while traveling
– Jerky (Steve’s Original, Gourmet Grassfed, EPIC bar, Nick’s Sticks and Primal Pacs are all good choices). It’s really hard to find beef jerky in the grocery store that doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup, soy, or added sugar! Try and order ahead!
– Canned tuna, canned wild salmon, canned sardines: You may not want to open these on the airplane, but they are very convenient to take along for times when you need good quality protein and healthy fats! Many quality sardine cans come with a pop top and you can also bring a mini can opener with you on trips for the others.
– You can even fill a 2 – 3 oz spill proof container with extra virgin olive oil to use on salads.
– Lara Bars and Tanka Bars are a couple of convenient bars when you must have something.
– Try to eat your most perishable foods first.
• Bring a few helpful “tools” with you:
– Soft cooler
– Mini can opener (like THIS one)
– Small, sharp knife (safely wrapped or pocket-knife style in your checked baggage only!)
– Zip lock baggies
– Plastic, or reusable utensils
– Paper, or light-weight reusable plates
• Also seek out restaurants in the area in advance. Check out their menus ahead of time (most restaurants will show them online) and have a plan of what you want to order before you arrive. You may also be proactive and call ahead to see if there are any gluten-free options. Gluten-free certainly doesn’t mean “paleo-friendly,” but it will give you an indication of whether the restaurant is willing to work with you and can ease your mind that there aren’t hidden sources of gluten in those particular dishes.
• You may also want to call the hotel where you will be staying to see if they offer a mini fridge for the room. Seeking out hotels that offer suites, which include kitchenettes is also helpful! It can make a world of difference to be able to prep and eat some of your own meals while on the road. We have found that many times these options are not that much more costly and we save on eating out every meal, while also feeling better over our trip. (Residence Inn and Embassy Suites are a couple that come to mind).
2. When you arrive at your destination, hit up the local natural foods store
…(if there is one) or at least a local grocery store of some kind. If you aren’t staying in a hotel with some sort of fridge option, you may want to purchase a disposable cooler for your room.
• Some easy things to pick up:
– Deli meat (Applegate Farms is one good brand to look for – still checking the ingredients as they vary from type to type)
– Imported chorizo (ingredients should only include pork, salt and spices)
– Canned tuna, canned wild salmon, canned sardines (Whole Foods and Wild Planet are good brands)
– Fresh veggies (note: romaine lettuce makes for good deli meat and veggie wraps)
– Raw nuts and nut butter
– Fresh fruit (berries, apples, kiwi, oranges, grapes, avocado, etc.)
– Canned sweet potato, butternut squash or pumpkin
– Mini bottle of dish soap and a mini sponge
– Recyclable paper plates (if you didn’t bring your own)
– Roll of paper towels
3. It’s also important not to stress about perfect balance on the road.
If you can’t get a great source of veggies at one meal, don’t worry, another opportunity will pop up where you will. If you don’t eat the same amount of protein as you usually do in a given day (maybe you can’t find good sources, etc.), no stress, you can make up for it later. And when you simply can’t find any good options around you, practice intermittent fasting. Those of you who have been eating paleo for awhile, and are fat-adapted, will probably manage this technique just fine. If you are a first-time paleo-ite, it might be harder as your body is used to relying on carbohydrate for fuel and will feel more hungry more often without food.
4. Remember that traveling doesn’t automatically justify poor choices.
Do the best you can given the situation, but it’s not a free-pass to sabotage your nutrition. It can be a fun challenge to plan ahead, seek out good options, and maintain your habits as best as possible so that you feel great on your trip and can jump right back into your normal routine upon your return.
5. Here are a couple apps you might find useful – for those of you with an iPhone:
• Healthy Out
– Smart phones can help you out when you are in a new area. For example, if you search “grass-fed” burgers, it will help you locate restaurants that offer such an option.
For those of you who travel, what are some of your strategies?