A reader recently wrote to me asking for some tips on how to stay paleo while traveling. I thought this was such a great question, that I would also share my suggestions here.
I travel about once a month for work, mostly to our headquarters in Orange County. I will actually be catching a flight tonight. Here are a few tips that will help me stay paleo for the next few days.
- On the flight: If taking a longer flight, I pack some snacks such as nuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit, coconut flakes and beef jerky. Some of these items I might not indulge in often at home, however they are still much healthier options than what they might serve on the plane. I also bring extra snacks for the trip or stop at a store and load up when I arrive, just in case I am in a situation that there isn’t something suitable to eat.
- May have to compromise on quality: Although at home, we always use organic & grass-fed ingredients, while traveling for work I understand that this is not always an option, so I may have to settle for conventional food as long as it is dairy, grain and legume free.
- Vegetable Oils/Industrial Seed Oils — Ewwww!: The major issue with dining out for me is that most foods are going to be cooked using vegetable oil (corn oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, etc.). I believe this is a very unhealthy food (if you could even call it that) and I try my best to avoid it. I choose dishes that are cooked without oil whenever possible, such as grilled meats and steamed veggies. I have also found that it really is difficult to completely avoid vegetable oil when dining out regularly. So, I focus on staying, dairy, grain and legume free and understand that I may be consuming some vegetable oil. I still try my very best to avoid it, but I also try not to get stressed over it, so I can actually enjoy the meal out!
- Communication is key: When I first started my current job, I did not mention the whole paleo thing to my co-workers, but I always managed to find something to eat regardless of where we went. However, now that they know how I eat, they are all really accommodating about selecting restaurants that work for me. If you explain a little bit about your diet to colleagues, choosing paleo friendly restaurants will become much easier.
- Review restaurant menus in advance: Most restaurants have websites, where they post their menus. If I know in advance which restaurant we will be dining at, I research the menu and find some options that will work for me before we arrive.
- Ask the server: If I am unsure about anything, I ask the server questions and they are usually happy to go confirm with the chef. I’ve noticed that more and more servers are becoming familiar with the term gluten-free. At times, when I’ve mentioned that I can’t eat gluten, the server has been great about making suggestions and talking to the chef.
- Conferences: If you are attending a conference, let the organizer know in advance that you cannot eat certain foods. The last conference I went to there were several of us who had requested gluten-free meals.
- Intermittent fasting: I personally don’t intermittent fast, but every once in awhile I may need to on a business trip. Like the time that we had a huge marketing meeting with a catered lunch that consisted of pasta, garlic bread and iceberg lettuce. I just had the salad and waited until dinner to eat. Skipping one meal didn’t kill me, and I figured eating pasta and bread would have made me feel much worse, than feeling hungry for a few hours.
- Lunch/Dinner options that work for me:
- Whole foods or mother’s market, where I know I can get some organic protein and veggies.
- Chipotle: not really my favorite place to eat, but my co-workers like it and it’s easy to stay paleo here. I usually get a salad with beef, salsa and guacamole.
- Salads: with some sort of protein, veggies and olive oil/vinegar for dressing.
- Mexican: You can usually get some sort of plate with beef, chicken, etc. and a side of veggies, plus salsa and guacamole.
- Thai-food: is always a good option, as you can get some sort of veggie/meat dish or curry. Make sure to choose options that are not made with soy sauce, since the first ingredients in conventional soy sauce is actually wheat. When in doubt, just ask the server and usually they are happy to check with the chef. Thai-beef salads are also a good option.
- Burgers: protein style. It seems like many places are popping up lately that specialize in grass-fed burgers.
- Sushi: I either get sashimi or I order a hand-role with no rice, plus some sides. Also, ask if the restaurant has wheat-free soy sauce, some places do. I personally tolerate white rice pretty well, so every once in awhile I might just have rice with my sushi.
- American/Continental: we tend to go to nicer restaurants for dinner, which are usually pretty easy to stay paleo at. I try to choose foods that are gently cooked or grilled, to limit the use of vegetable oils. I usually go with a protein and sub-out sides that don’t work for me for extra veggies or salad. If I am unsure about any sauces (sometimes flour is added as a thickening agent, or soy-sauce, sugar, vegetable oil are used), I just skip the sauce and let the meat and veggies stand on their own.
Hope these tips help! If you have any other ones that work for you while you travel, leave a comment & I’ll be happy to update the list.