3 Tips for Healthy Eating While Traveling

Whether you have food allergies, Celiac disease, or just try to maintain a healthy diet of unprocessed, whole foods, traveling can definitely make staying on track difficult. Suddenly, you’re no longer in your own kitchen, and have limited resources with which to prepare meals. You may not know of many restaurants that can meet your needs. How do you manage?

I recently went on a business trip for 4 days – my first time traveling where I wouldn’t have a mini-kitchen available, so I couldn’t cook my own meals. Instead, I employed some tactics to make my meals away from home safe and healthy.

1. Ahead of time, I scoped out the availability of safe food. I contacted the organization hosting our conference, and since the hotel would be providing daily lunches, I made sure my lunch would be safe to eat. I made sure my room had a refrigerator and a microwave. I also scoped out the nearest grocery store (there was a Whole Foods nearby!) so I could purchase some essentials once I arrived.

2. Before I left, I packed a ton of healthy snacks. I cut up some apples (tossed with lemon juice to prevent browning), carrots, bell pepper and celery and took that on the plane with me. I also packed a ton of LARA bars, mixed dried fruit and nuts, protein powder, individual packets of almond butter, and homemade beef jerky. This way, if I got stuck where I couldn’t eat anything, I wouldn’t starve.

3. Once I arrived in my room and had a few free moments, I headed to the grocery to stock up on fruit, veggies (stuff easily cut into snacks with a plastic knife!), a few cans of sardines, almond milk, and I made use of the amazing salad bar at Whole Foods and made several huge salads that would keep in my refrigerator. (If I wasn’t at Whole Foods, I would have instead bought the ingredients for a salad and made it myself in the room.)

My meals generally looked like this:

Breakfast: protein powder mixed with almond milk, shaken in an emptied water bottle, and a piece of fruit – either raspberries, an apple, or a banana. Although one morning, I had sardines and raspberries for breakfast.

Lunch: provided by the hotel kitchen – I had grilled salmon salad several times, making sure they left off any cheese and dressing. I enjoyed olive oil and red wine vinegar as my dressing. They also provided a cup of fruit for dessert.

Dinner: salads from Whole Foods, topped with sardines. I did venture out one night and ate at a trusted restaurant – where I enjoyed a salad.

Snacks: LARA bars, nuts and dried fruit, beef jerky, apples with almond butter, and cut up cucumbers, sugar snap peas, and red bell peppers.

And you know what? I didn’t starve! I didn’t get sick, either. In fact, because I stuck to a whole foods diet, I had enough energy to power through some long days learning and studying. This definitely was worth the advance planning effort!

How do you successfully manage your whole foods, gluten-free, dairy-free, or other “free from” diet while traveling?

Alta is the founder of the gluten-free, dairy-free blog, Tasty Eats At Home. Even without gluten and dairy, Alta can show you that meals can be simple and healthy, and treats such as cake, bread, and cookies can be mouth-watering!  Her goal is to share with you delicious, gluten-free, dairy-free food that can bring your heart joy and nourish your body, one recipe at a time.

13 Responses to 3 Tips for Healthy Eating While Traveling

  • Mrs G says:

    Well, it’s not always so easy.
    For me travelling means going abroad and that makes it even more difficult. In Europe hotels do not have microwaves ovens. Some might have a minibar/refrigerator, and in some countries they might have a kettle.
    If you go to another country, it might very well be forbidden to bring your own fresh fruits and vegetables (or dairy) and liquid limits regulations mean that you are not allowed to bring liquid or creamy food (such as a spread), so you often end up eating plain bread straight from the package or risk some contaminated airport food.
    Health food stores might not be available/ well stocked as you are used at home.
    I would like to add a few more tips: bring a 100 ml bottle filled with dishwashing liquid and a small cheap sponge and a couple of plastic containers. So you can make yourself salad or snacks and you can wash the bowl in the bathroom sink. Before going home, throw the sponge away.
    In case you do not speak the language, just learn how to write the foods you are allergic to, so you can spot them easily while shopping.
    For example, if you are wheat intolerant, have a look at a packaged bread in the shop: on the ingredient list, “wheat” will be on the first position. Note the word on a piece of paper and use it a reference while shopping.

    [Reply]

    Alta Reply:

    @Mrs G, Mrs G – Thank you for the additional tips. I can imagine it’s much tougher going out of the country! I have heard that some of the European countries are quite familiar with gluten-free diets, but not all. And as you mentioned, the language barrier can be difficult! I have yet to experience an out-of-the-country trip, but I do like the idea of your dishwashing liquid and bowl approach!

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  • Lovely tips Alta! I just got back from a 9 day trip in Europe and have to say I did pretty much the same thing. I brought safe snacks with me from home, scoped out the supermarkets, made sure the restaurants we ate at were safe. Instead of staying in hotels this trip, we opted to rent an apartment through airbnb.com which was amazing. We had our own kitchen, which was equipped with a blender, pots and pans, etc. We could cook if we wanted to (which we actually never did), or could make smoothies from the fruit we bought at the grocery stores. It definitely helps to be prepared when you’re away from home!

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    Alta Reply:

    @Alyssa @ Queen of Quinoa, That’s good to know that you navigated through Europe successfully! I love being able to stay in places that have kitchens – thanks for the airbnb.com reference! I need to tuck that away in the event that I make a trip out of country!

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  • All great suggestions. I am adding I really try not to by lara bars unless I have no choice the parent company is putting money into not having prop 37 pass. Food Babe has great tips on packing for trips aboard. I definitely go to her site to get more tips. I think everyone does this. I have also heard that other countries are more familiar with food allergies and gluten intolerance than america. We are behind on everything … politics and corporations.

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    Alta Reply:

    @connie curtis, I haven’t heard that about LARA bars and the Prop 37. Gotta look that up – that surprises me.

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  • I always make sure there is some way for me to store food and head directly to the local market or grocery store to stock up. I hate being hungry and feel better knowing that I can eat safely when I’m away from home. Great tips!

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  • Cat says:

    Well, I’m glad it worked out so well for you!

    While on a road trip, I was thrilled to find vegan and vegetarian restaurants on the happycow website. So many to choose from sometimes! I brought my own blender with me (it’s a smallish one – nutribullet) and had green smoothies for breakfast in every hotel, followed by a KIND bar when I needed a snack later while driving. Fresh fruits, lots of varied bottled water in the cooler – it made it easy to travel that way. I was even able to find things I could eat at a STEAK HOUSE one night!

    On a previous trip, however – even though I specifically told three different people with the organization I was with that I needed special meal accommodations, which they assured me they’d take care of, I wasn’t as fortunate as you were to have my needs met with the meals they provided.

    Yes, it’s so much better to be prepared…

    [Reply]

    Alta Reply:

    @Cat, Cat – I love that you brought your own blender. I seriously contemplated it.
    As for asking for special meal accommodations – I feel ya. I’ve had my fair share of that type of situation as well. That’s when those fall-back plans come in to play, and I make extra trips to the store. (Hopefully I haven’t been “glutened” in the process – and I have – but that’s another type of preparation situation entirely!)

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  • Donna Ryan-Cochrane says:

    Congratulations on dealing with the hurdle of eating safely while on a trip. I had been dealing with the Gf issue since last year and feeling pleased that I was doing ok, then this past spring found out I had multiple sensitivities..15 foods like dairy, eggs, corn plus the gluten…yikes!! Thankfully I am a holisitic nutritionist so that was a plus in ‘creating’ my own food. In June I went on a business trip out of the country for a week ( big challenge). I made granola (my version)to take with me, and bought a very small blender and made protein shakes with coconut milk and fruit in my room. ( I had previously contacted the hotel to request a frig in my room.) Lara bars, nut bars, dried fruit and some veggies were the snacks. Lunches and suppers were vegetables and meat or salads..I did just fine. One has to be not intimidated when questioning restaurant staff about the foods you are ordering.

    [Reply]

    Alta Reply:

    @Donna Ryan-Cochrane, Another blender traveler! I really must get myself one of those small blenders – sounds like an essential idea.

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  • Mrs G says:

    I would also like to add that in Europe differences are huge.
    For instance, I love travelling to Germany: there are plenty of health food stores (even at some railway stations) with an impressive variety of items and everything is very reasonably priced. Not cheap, of course, but not expensive either. I always end up with an enormous food shopping.
    Elsewhere it might be more difficult: in Riga (Latvia’s capital) there is only one small health food store and a once a month market for organic vegetables (I’ve been there 2 years ago, so maybe now it’s different). Across Eastern Europe, it’s very difficult for vegetarians: meat (expecially pork) is really everywhere and they are not very informed over allergies/intolerances.

    [Reply]

    Alta Reply:

    @Mrs G, I can imagine it’s different depending on where you go! I am not all that “worldly” and haven’t ventured outside the US (other than to British Columbia, and that was eons ago).

    [Reply]

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