How to travel with dietary restrictions

July 16, 2018

Yes you can travel!  Go ahead, make those vacation plans!  Take that business trip!  ETP has your back.  The key is to plan ahead.  If planning feels like a daunting task, break it down into pieces, and work them out one at a time.

First, where are you staying?  If possible, arrange to have a suite with a kitchen or a kitchenette in your room.  If that’s not possible, ask for an empty mini-fridge in your room and if there is a microwave you can use.  You’d be surprised at how accommodating some hotels can be if you just ask.  This gives you flexibility in what you eat and the option to eat in during your trip.

Second, familiarize yourself with restaurants in the area.  Look at the menus online and call to confirm that they can accommodate your dietary needs.  Restaurants that don’t have everything pre-marinated or pre-mixed are your best bets.  These tend to be more upscale restaurants, but not always!  Dishes that can often be tailored to complex dietary needs are salads and simple meat dishes (beef, chicken, pork, fish) with a veggie side.  Sushi is another great option.  If the description of a dish has you salivating, don’t be shy to ask if it can be made-to-order to accommodate your needs.  You may be pleasantly surprised with a scrumptious meal!

Once you know the options for eating out and staying in, then you can decide what food to pack and what you’ll need to pick up at the local grocery store.

Before your trip, explore your options for travel food.  Aim for a variety of foods, some protein heavy, some fruits or veggies, and a pick-me-up snack.  Remember, snacks are important!  If you are driving to your destination, prep the travel food a day or two before the trip and pack it all in a cooler.  If you’re flying, remember that carry-on foods cannot be anything like a gel or liquid.  That means no nut butter, or homemade smoothies.  However, you can take a frozen ice pack, which broadens the choices for travel snacks.  Think pasta salad, hard boiled eggs, or homemade vegetarian sushi.  It can be helpful to check a bag filled with snacks and prepared food for the rest of your trip.  Toss a few freezer packs (in a ziplock bag to prevent them from sweating and making everything wet) in the suitcase if the items you’re packing need to be kept chilled, such as fruit muffins, extra pasta salad, or palak prantha (Indian spinach flatbread).

Next, familiarize yourself with what grocery stores are in the area.  Call the local grocery store ahead of time and ask if they carry items that you weren’t able to pack, like a specific brand of yogurt, bottled smoothie, or gluten free cookie.

If you plan to cook on your trip, decide what recipes you’ll be making ahead of time.  Recipes that are quick and easy tend to work best.  You don’t want to spend your whole vacation cooking and doing dishes right?  Sometimes comfort foods are good to help offset the stresses that can come with traveling.  Once you know what dishes you’ll be cooking during the trip, you can decide which ingredients to pack and which ones to buy when you arrive at your destination.  To save a little money, pack the spice mixes that you’ll need in a small container or ziplock bag.  That way you won’t need to buy spices that you already have.  You can just pick up the main ingredients: meat, veggies, etc.  The same tip works if you plan to bake.  Pack a premix of the dry ingredients in a ziplock bag and then buy the other ingredients at your destination.

As you’re planning for your trip, remember to think about food for the return journey.  That means more travel snacks and maybe a frozen ice pack for your carry-on snacks if you’re flying.

Last, but not least, stash some delicious food away in the freezer before you leave home.  Then, when you return from your travel adventures, you’ll have home cooked food waiting for you.  Leftovers from chicken slow cooker dishes freeze well, as does split pea soup, muffins, and scones.  Having frozen fruits and veggies on hand is also helpful if you want to throw together a quick veggie omelet or smoothie before you make it to the grocery store to restock.

Most importantly, enjoy the trip!  If you’ve planned ahead, you’ll have plenty of food choices that will keep you feeling great and ready to enjoy the adventure before you!

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