It is the time of travel. Now that Memorial Day is behind us, it is peak season to be out of the house on day trips, weekends away or major vacations. But how do we, as conscious and intentional eaters, make sure that we are not compromising the health of our families as we travel? Traveling is often stressful, even when it is happy travel. Whether you are trying to catch a flight on time, driving amid semis going 80 mph, changing time zones, or trying to soothe tired children, your body is under stress. When we are stressed, the last thing our bodies need are foods that are low in nutrients, and high in sugar and chemicals. Frequently when on a trip we take a break from our normal nutritional habits. However, I’d venture to say that eating well while traveling is at least as important as eating well while you are home!
If you want to travel as stress-free as possible, with kids as happy as possible, sleeping as well as possible in a new place, continue reading. Here are 8 tips to help you eat well even while you are away from home.
1) Look up the local Weston A Price Foundation chapter
This is one of the first things I do when I decide to travel domestically. I always look up the chapter leader closest to the area in which I am traveling and ask them all of my questions: what restaurants might I find best quality food? Are there local artisans that make quality foods like sauerkraut, raw yogurt, and real sourdough? Is there a place I can find grass fed/grass finished liver? Getting these foods locally is great for a few reasons: you get to support local businesses that provide quality foods to their community, you can travel lighter, and you get to see a wholesome community where you might otherwise only hit the touristy spots.
Along the same lines as above, looking up your destination on realmilk.com will help you find quality raw dairy depending on the local laws. In some states you can buy raw dairy in stores, in some states you need to go directly through a farmer. If your family depends on your raw dairy, definitely look up your vacation spot on realmilk.com!
3). Frozen foods for airline travel
Airline travel can be tricky, as typically the food in airports and on planes are very low on my nutritional radar, expensive, stress-producing, and leave you feeling unwell or at least unsatisfied as you travel. In general (make sure you verify with your airport/airline), solid foods are allowed through security. This includes not only dry foods but also frozen foods. All you need to do is keep it frozen through security. Afterward, if it thaws, it’s generally not an issue, as most foods can be out in room temperature for at least 12 hours without any bacterial growth. So, unless you are flying around the world, you should be ok. Freeze your foods overnight (yogurt, applesauce, smoothie, hummus, guac, butter, sour cream, etc) and place in a good cooler to take through security. If it’s been a few hours since you took it out of the freezer, stop by any of the fast food restaurants at the airport and ask for ice. They are usually happy to accommodate and will fill up your cooler for free. Remember, unless you want to keep it frozen (in which case you can just keep getting more ice as needed at the various airports in which you might find yourself), you can dump the ice after security so it is not too heavy.
For my GAPS people, you can freeze meat stock in an ice cube tray and pop the cubes out into a good thermos right before you leave for your trip. You can also dehydrate your stock: make it the normal way, separate the stock from the meat/bones/veggies, return the stock to the pot, and let it simmer down until very very low. You can then take this concentration and either freeze it in cubes or dehydrate further in a dehydrator or oven. After taking the frozen concentrate or dehydrated stock through security, you can add hot water to rehydrate/reconstitute!
Also remember that breast milk, formula or baby food is allowed through airport security, usually in fairly large quantities in whatever form, liquid, gel or solid. Just be sure to check your airport’s specifications.
4) Nutrient dense solid finger foods
For airline or road travel, especially with kids, I almost always prefer solid foods to smoothies/purees. Foods in liquid or pureed form that can be slurped instead of chewed typically do not provide satiety as well as solid foods. Also, when traveling with my kids, I always want to occupy them for as long as possible, which solid foods do better than slurped foods. My favorite solid traveling foods are: veggie sticks, boiled eggs (for older kids, unless you’re ready for a mess), roasted veggies, fruit, cheese, quality sausage (I’m a fan of kielbasa thanks to my Polish dad), chunks of chicken or beef, meatballs, or nutrient dense baked goods (in my family that is usually sourdough crackers or almond flour blueberry muffins.
Note: For drinks I only recommend water – who wants to clean up spilled anything else? For a special treat we sometimes do sparkly water flavored with a splash of fruit juice, which also cleans up easily.
Pro tip: If you live near a Chick-fil-a, you can ask them for several kids’ placemats. These have stick-on strips on the top and bottom and are great for sticking on an airplane tray or even to your kid’s lap/carseat if you are traveling in the car and want to minimize mess!
5) Bring your own…
When it comes to eating out, it is almost impossible to eat as cleanly as you could at home. However, by bringing your own staples, you can make it easier! Remember that most foods can stay out at room temperature for at least 12 hours without unwanted bacterial growth. With this in mind, this is what I usually bring when I eat out:
Butter (melt on top of veggies, grains, anything!)
Olive oil (drizzle on top of veggies, salad, meat, anything!)
Sea salt (add to whatever you want – don’t use the table salt!)
Seasonings (healthy food is NOT bland or boring. Take along your favorite spices!)
Sour cream (plain or with seasoning, can make a lovely dip!)
Pro tip: Buffalo Wild Wings actually uses tallow for their wings! If you get them without seasoning, you can make your own with sour cream and a basic salt/garlic/dill mixture for a lovely homemade ranch!
6) Rent a home with a kitchen!
With so many housing options, it is actually not hard to find a short term rental with enough of a kitchen to make your own meals! Even if you commit to making breakfast and lunch at your rental home and eating out for dinner, you can significantly cut back on costs, usually kids are more happy because they get to eat earlier (going out can take a long time!), and you can make significantly more filling and nutrient dense meals. If there are no short-term rental facilities, or if you are using points, call the hotel company you are using and ask if they have a unit with a kitchen. They often are happy to accomodate if they can.
7) Stick to the basics
Just because a menu has 100 options, it doesn’t mean you need to branch out. You can usually build your own plate if it is fairly basic. Start with a protein, add some healthy fat and veggies.
Eggs should always be in a form that allows you to see the white and the egg separately (fried, poached, etc) – otherwise many restaurants use a liquid egg product. Ick. Get a burger (you can always ask for bunless if you prefer) with avocado, cheese, veggies, locally-caught seafood if you are traveling on the coast, salad with soft boiled egg and chicken, etc. You can always ask for your food to be cooked in real butter. If they don’t have real butter, ask for no vegetable oils, and add your own fat on top.
8) Stay away from:
Table salt – most places are familiar with requests for low/no sodium. Ask for no salt, and then add your own quality sea salt!
Vegetable oils – just plain say no. They’ll make you sick, it’s not worth it. Add your own butter or olive oil.
Fake butter (margarine, butter spreads, individually wrapped butter pads – who knows what is in these!?)
French fries – these munchables are satisfying for such a short amount of time. If you can get something else enjoyable that will last longer, go for it! Once you forego fries a few times, it becomes really easy to skip them on the regular.
Sugary coffees – can you get a plain coffee and add real cream? You can even sprinkle some cinnamon and drizzle honey on top if you are feeling really special.
Display case baked goods – these are typically filled with sugar, poor quality flour (even the gluten free ones!) and fake oils. Usually we don’t really want them, they are just staring us in the face. If you’re especially hungry with no other options, go for a breakfast burrito or parfait instead – while they usually do have some undesirable ingredients, they do usually contain some protein and natural ingredients that can help sustain you better than pastries until you can get some more quality food in your belly!
Remember that vacation does not need to be all about food! Plan some outings and activities that are not centered around what you are eating. Food certainly is an element of celebration, relaxation and vacation, but it should not be an obsession. Let food be a lovely part, but not the core, of your daily life.
Finally, remember that if you have been eating well at home, healing your gut, reducing your sugar, you have been preparing yourself well to be able to adjust to some new and different foods. Try not to obsess and stress over your food. Do your best, enjoy your trip, eat yummy foods and move on.