For the traveler with food restrictions, the thought of travel can be even more overwhelming.”Can I get organic or gluten-free meals or snacks on the way to my destination? What will the airline allow me to bring on the plane since I can’t even eat their “healthy” meal option? What’s my back-up food plan in case my flight doesn’t leave on time or I get stuck in traffic?”
I am lucky to have overcome my food allergies, but that doesn’t mean that I can eat just anything. Once you’ve been eating a nourishing diet for as long as I have (going on 15 years), there are just some things you won’t eat. It’s not because you want to prove superiority to people who do choose Hot Pockets and Bagel Bites, but because you know how best your body works and food loaded with chemicals and preservatives just “doesn’t sit right” in your stomach. That said, when I’m on the road, I still try to eat foods that allow me to have lots of energy and think clearly.
If you or your child has severe food allergies or intolerances, your task is even harder. Not only can you not tolerate preservatives and other chemicals that have no place in the human body, but the allergies and/or intolerances are probably to real, otherwise nutritious foods such as wheat,eggs, or dairy.
Here are a few general ideas to keep in mind when adhering to a nourishing diet on the road:
1. Have an arsenal of snacks and cold foods that is at least double what you think you will eat. If your drive or flight are more than 3 hours, pack even more than that in case of unexpected traffic or airplane delays.
2. What time of day will you be arriving at your destination? For example, flying from the New York to Western Europe means that your flight will arrive at breakfast or lunch time over there. Just because you’d normally be asleep at home, doesn’t mean you won’t be hungry getting off the plane. Also, keep in mind that places like the Netherlands have laws that prevent all stores from staying open past 7 pm most days of the week. Pack extra food accordingly.
3. What day of the week will you arrive? When are stores open at my destination? Much of Western Europe is closed on Sundays — that includes farmer’s markets and supermarkets. In non-Christian countries, that day off could be Friday or Saturday. Check the net or ask the hotel or owners of the rental property you’ll be staying at about what your options are for the first 48 hours after arrival.
4. You are allowed to bring dry snacks and foods. Homemade popcorn, hard boiled eggs, strips of bacon, sandwiches, trail mix, pork rinds, raw milk cheese, veggie sticks with dip, hummus and pita, and cold chicken are good options. Packing them in large plastic baggies or Tupperware type containers should be fine.
5. Is any of the food you’re packing for the plane going to leak at high altitudes? While bottles larger than 3 oz are not allowed on planes, you may decide to take small amounts of other foods, such as a small jar of a non-dairy butter alternative to spread on your bread. Believe it or not, I have been permitted to bring thermoses on the plane too — just make sure you don’t put something like a smoothie inside, which will ooze everywhere!
6. Is the water potable at my destination? Many countries still have water sources that upset the digestive systems of “civilized” Westerners. Find out if the place you’re staying in has proper water filtration or adequate access to bottled water. Some companies make special travel filters that you can bring along in your luggage. In restaurants, make sure the cap is tightly sealed and you open it at the table, not the waiter. Remember that salads will be washed in this stomach-churning water, so go easy or avoid them unless they are from a reputable hotel.
Throughout this site you will see other ideas of good snacks and tips on how to control your food intake overseas. Don’t think that because you can’t “just eat anything” that you’ll be missing out on a lot. While most other countries don’t have the same level of familiarity that Americans do with food allergies and intolerances, they often have much wider options of delicious local foods that are ignored by the average North American traveler.