by Anna Denisch
Whether you’re trying to lose weight or your gastrointestinal system makes eating anything a challenge, traveling with dietary restrictions is difficult. Gluten free, lactose free, sugar free, carb free; all of these and more make traveling a daunting task, but with a few preparedness steps, you can enjoy traveling without the anxiety of finding food. You can go on vacation wherever and whenever you want; business trips will once again only be tough on your mind and not your stomach; and you can go on a romantic weekend with your significant other without having to worry about spending the night in the restroom. Don’t let your dietary restrictions restrict you from traveling anymore.
The easiest, and cheapest, way to travel with a dietary restriction is to bring your own food. If where your staying is farther away, and you don’t have a cooler to keep your food until you get there, you can also find a grocery store and buy your food there. Not only is this more cost effective than eating out all the time, but it also ensures that your food matches your needs.
Invest in a small lunchbox and bring your own lunch and snacks with you as you go about your day. If where you’re staying offers meals as part of your trip, be sure to let them know ahead of time what you can and can’t eat, as most places will provide different alternatives for diners with allergies, especially if your trip payment included meals as part of the price.
Protein is Key
The best types of food to eat when traveling are high in protein, especially if you plan on doing a lot of physical or mental activities such as hiking or sitting through hours of seminars. Protein bars are an excellent lunch replacement or pick-me-up snack in a pinch, and most of them are free of common food allergens (except for peanuts). If you aren’t lactose intolerant, cheese is an excellent source of protein, and hard cheeses can survive out of the fridge for a while before it goes bad. If you’re not a vegetarian or vegan, jerky provides a huge amount of protein and can easily be carried around without having to bring a cooler or large bag. Nuts are also a good choice. Almonds and cashews are full of protein.
If you’re going on a long trip, make your own bags of trail mix. It’s more cost-effective than buying the pre-made kind, and you can ensure that the mix has only what you can, and want, to eat.
Eating out is the most precarious part of traveling with a dietary restriction. The best way to survive a trip with nightly dinners at restaurants is to prepare ahead of time. Scout the area around where you’re staying to see what kinds of restaurants are around. Some restaurants serve specialty food for different needs, such as a special gluten free or vegan section. Most restaurants will have their menus on their website, and you can plan ahead on what you plan to order. As a good rule of thumb, it’s best to avoid themes restaurants, such as Mexican or Italian, as they are less likely to have the variance in their food that you need. Most things on a menu can also be ordered differently. If the salad you want has croutons on it, simply ask for no croutons. Because the food is prepared in the restaurant as you order it, you can easily replace or remove whatever you can’t eat. Don’t risk intestinal distress by being too afraid to order what you need.
Whether you’re planning on going on vacation, or you’re traveling for school or business, you can keep your stomach safe by preparing for your trip ahead of time. Bring your own food, and make sure it’s packed full of protein. If you have to eat out, scout the restaurants ahead of time and make sure that you order what will work for your system. By being proactive you can travel and stick to your diet.
Anna Denisch is the author of two children’s books and an active member of the Dragon Research Collaborative. She received her MFA from Western Connecticut State University and is actively pursuing her writing career.