Eating naked on the road: A real foods approach to travel

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A question I get asked all the time from clients and friends is about travel. It’s easy enough to eat naked at home but what about when you’re on the road?

It’s not an easy question to answer. It’s hard to eat well when you don’t have all the trappings and systems you have at home, and may not have access to the same quality of foods you’re used to.

While it may take some forethought and planning, it’s certainly not impossible or really all that complicated to eat well while traveling. We follow a few basic principles that make it doable.

1) Stay with family or friends wherever possible. If you can’t, then find a place with a kitchen (even part of one is helpful). Having access to a kitchen makes eating real food much more doable. If you have no house but are staying at a hotel, ask for a fridge and bring along some basic tools: a bamboo cutlery set, a pocket knife, a Magic Bullet for whipping up a quick smoothie, and a tupperware you can double for storage and a bowl should do the trick. You’ll be surprised at how much you can do with a very little.

2) Pack your plane food (or car, bus, train as the case may be). Do NOT rely on finding something at the airport or as you go. That’s near impossible. Yes, this takes up some room in your carry on but trust me it’s worth it. And once you get in the habit and are enjoying your yummy healthy food (while watching your neighbors struggle down their tasteless fare), you’ll be glad you did.

3) First stop: grocery shop! First thing we do when we arrive at a new location is to grocery shop. There are Whole Foods or small-town healthy markets in most towns, and even fresh food from a conventional supermarket is better than relying exclusively on restaurant fare. At a minimum we get the basics for a few days of breakfasts and snacks.

4) Bring your own salad dressing. This might sound crazy but it’s not as hard or as weird as it sounds. Salad dressings and sauces can be the worst offenders in an otherwise healthy meal – loaded with rancid oils, sweeteners, and artificial flavors. We bring little trial size bottles of extra virgin olive oil and every restaurant has some fresh lemon. You’d be amazed at how good this simple combo can be.

5) If you’re on the road for a while and you’re not sure of the availability of grocery stops and kitchen gear, we recommend a good protein powder and a greens powder, and pack a small blender like the Magic Bullet. Granted this is stepping a little away from entirely real foods, but if your source is high quality then it’s better to supplement restaurant meals than not. In a pinch you can whip up a smoothie with some frozen berries, the protein powder, greens powder, water and ice and know that you’re getting the basics.

6) On that note, bring your supplements. It’s easy to get off your routine when you travel but all the more important to stay on it as much as possible to combat stress. Here’s what’s in my travel supplement kit:

7) If you want to take this really over the top, pack a jar of cultured veggies. They don’t need to be refrigerated and can travel in either your carry on or in your packed luggage. They’ll make any meal more digestible and nutrient-dense, they’ll help to keep things “moving”, and they’ll help keep your immune system strong – all of which are important qualities when you’re on the road and exposed to new and different pathogens.

Last but not least, just do the best you can! We certainly like to enjoy ourselves when we travel and will have meals out. We’re not saying never eat at a restaurant and be obsessive about everything you put in your mouth. Enjoy yourself! If you can eat a good breakfast, supplement well, and have real food snacks to avoid over-hungry poor decisions, you’re doing great.

6 Comments

  1. Jack

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    These are all great ideas……too bad most of them don’t work so well when traveling overseas and going through customs……..since the cost of checked luggage is so dear and it goes by the kilo (i.e. my flight from Ireland to Spain has a 10 kilo max weight without paying a hefty surcharge); and the size is also very limited, it makes this kind of packing very difficult…….but I will use all this when I’m driving around and no one’s telling me what the limitations are……..

  2. Great info Margaret and glad you put this together for your tribe of devotees.

    Since doing the Sugar Detox I now travel quite differently than I used to. Before finding out about your recommendations and just using my common sense gage, after packing my clothes and toiletries which usually takes a bit of time, I then focus on my nutritional travel bag items. This equally takes much preparation and I’m always glad for it. Here are my typical items list: Magic Bullet with X blades and one medium cup with lid for it, a plastic bowl with lid and a set of plastic silverware, supplements in ziplock bags always including an extra week, flax and chia seeds in ziplocks to have with my morning smoothie/tea, and then I pack fresh foods for my next 24 hours. I’ll pack a fresh avocado and lemon (whole), carrots & celery, almonds, coconut and dark unsweetened chocolate with fresh mint, dehydrated chicken jerky and some other dehydrated food such as cheesy kale chips, seasoned tomatoes or sweet/regular potato chips.

    We usually ask for a fridge in our room or we bring along our own small one whenever possible because as soon as we get to our destination, just like you, I go shopping for fresh foods! And when there is no fridge, I resort to doing it caveman style: continuously supply ice cubes in a plastic bag of the destination trash receptacle – it’s better than nothing!

    So the usual items I’ll shop for (preferably organic) are: sweet peppers like red, green, orange and/or yellow, a cucumber, a bag of carrots, a jar of unsweetened almond butter, a can of coconut milk, plain unsweetened yogurt, granny smith apples and berries and maybe a can of tuna or Pacific/Wild-caught salmon. These are my snack foods or go to meal items when not wanting to opt for fast food or save on pricey restaurant fare.

    And all this fuss ALWAYS guarantees I FEEL and LOOK GREAT while away from home 🙂

  3. Wendy Miller

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    Great ideas as always! Since I’ve been following the GAPS protocol for the past year, I’m eating a lot of chicken, beef and fish soup. (OK we’re supposed to but haven’t figured out the fish soup yet). When traveling I freeze a bunch of soup and pack it in a suitcase. I even pack some in a thermos for the airplane. They are fine with it as long as it’s not too brothy. I tell them it’s meat and veggies. (our soups are more stew-like anyway). Hard boiled eggs are another good travel protein. I’ve tried freezing yogurt and it works fine if it’s thick (drained of much of the whey). If it’s runny it gets weird when it thaws. I almost always pack ripe avocados because I’m addicted to them and can’t always find ripe ones at the store. Love my magic bullet!!!! When traveling, I find I don’t take the time to eat as much salad, so blending it works great! I’m not eating sugar or honey and can’t tolerate much fruit, but the coconut milk (often pack a can in my suitcase since only TJ’s sells the kind without guar gum)and a little vanilla gives it a nice flavor.

  4. Leslie

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    I’m clearly not as advanced of a traveler as many of your readers, but I hope to be one day! And when I do start traveling more, these ideas will save me I’m sure. So valuable. Thank you!

  5. Lisa

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    Margaret, I couldn’t agree more. And the posts have some great ideas. Before bringing my own food I always got very sick when traveling. I knew if was the change in food. I felt toxic.
    I was starving as wasn’t eating nutrient dense food (as I was at home) and I was much more prone to eating carbs and sugar because I was so hungry. Even my kids noticed how terrible they felt.

    This last trip we brought our juicer and shopped immediately. While our final destination was staying at the home of relatives in another state, we camped in the Sierras on the way. I am sure we were the only ones with a juicer in the bear box!! But the juicer and shopping for ourselves saved us. I offered to do most of the cooking for my relatives, politely justifying it as my husband’s sensitivities so they would not be offended that their food wasn’t “good enough” for us.
    My relatives ended up loving the food and might try to incorporate some of it into their own diets.
    Thanks for the great suggestions, everyone.

  6. Dottie

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    To travel with good fresh food, you need good hardware.
    Here are 2 things any seasoned airline crew who brings food owns:

    1) A food carryon cooler like an eBage or Strongbags Candian Crew Cooler. This acts as both food bag and a misc carryon. I even keep my iPad in the bottom of this and it doesn’t leak. (You can pour icewater in it.)

    http://www.strongbags.com/products/coolers-duffels/canadian-ice-flight-crew-cooler.html

    2) A way to keep the bag cold- a screw cap CLOTH ice bag. Don’t get a rubber one as it sweats and leaves puddles in your lunch box. Ice can be had at the airport, on the plane or at the hotel if no refrigerators are available.

    http://www.amazon.com/ICE-HOT-BAG-Blue-Checkers/dp/B006GHPVKU/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1385509638&sr=8-2&keywords=icebag

    I also have frozen individual servings of oatmeal and used them to cool the bag.

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