A Healthy Traveler’s Survival Guide to Good Food When On the Road

You’ve got a trip coming up and you think “OMG, what am I going to eat?!”

Today I want to share with you the tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years.  I hope they will help you stay off gluten, dairy, soy, excessive sugar, preservatives and other nasties (lurk below).

Because you want to feel healthy and energetic when you travel, not terrible at eating foods that you know will cause you suffering.

The key is one word: PLANNING

“Fail to plan and you plan to fail” – this idiom holds lots of truth here too.

Here is what to pay attention to when picking snacks and portable food. Do not rely on the marketing messages on the front of the label, read the back – this is where the truth is.

Low in sugar and only certain sugars

Coming to live in the US was a shocker for me on many levels and the amount of sugar found in everything was on top of the list.

Do the math – how much sugar do you consume every day? Four grams of sugar is one teaspoon. You will be shocked when you inspect your snacks, cereals, commercial yogurts, dressings, muffins and even kombucha and bread and find out how much sugar there is in everything.

How much should be consumed? The FDA ironically does not have a daily maximum recommendation but the American Heart Association suggests a maximum of 9 teaspoons (34 grams) for men and 6 teaspoons (23 grams) for women. That’s pretty close to what I’m advocating – which is a total of 20 grams or 5 teaspoons – all in, fruit included.

Sugars I recommend: coconut nectar, coconut sugar, maple syrup, honey, dates, stevia (unprocessed), yacon syrup and monk fruit.

Sugars you want to avoid: agave syrup, corn syrup, Maltodextrin, artificial sweeteners like aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low), Splenda and stevia brands like Truvia and Sun Crystals.

Sweeteners like xylitol, sorbitol, erythritol are actually not sweeteners but sugar alcohols and can be well tolerated by some people and not well by others (giving gastrointestinal problems) so you need to try it and tune into your body to decide.

By the way, aren’t these brand names just great? Who would have thought of “NutraSweet” as a nasty substance that messed up your hormones, gut bacterial flora, liver and can cause neurological damage?! To my point on marketing…

Protein

One way to slow down the absorption of sugar is to offer your body some protein. This holds true if you have a hypoglycemic tendency (feeling shaky, moody, weak and unfocused when hungry) but if you are dealing with Candida yeast overgrowth (which 70% of women I work with do), you need to pick no-sugar or super-low sugar snacks and load up on protein.

Additives and preservatives

As Michael Pollan said: “don’t buy anything that contains words you can’t pronounce”

  • Monosodium Glutamate – which also comes hidden under innocent names like Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Textured Vegetable Protein, and Yeast Extract. It can contribute to leptin resistance which makes us still feel hungry after a full meal.
  • Food Dyes, especially Blue #1 and Blue #2 (E133), Red dye # 3 (also Red #40 – a more current dye) (E124), and Yellow #6 (E110) and Yellow Tartrazine (E102).
  • Sodium Nitrate/Sodium Nitrite – a preservative used in processed meats and fish, linked to cancer.
  • Potassium Bromate – interferes with the thyroid function (bromate competes with iodine in the thyroid receptors)
  • Sodium Sulfite – a preservative used in wine-making and other processed foods like jerky (great travel food, but not with these nasties).

Hydrogenated oils

This one is a tough one as most commercial snacks, even the organic ones, are cooked in hydrogenated oils which are known to be highly inflammatory. These would include canola, grapeseed, corn, soy and sunflower oils, and margarine. Best to pick snacks made with unrefined coconut, palm or olive oil.

Food Allergens

If you have a problem with certain food, say soy, be sure to read the labels. Soy is a cheap filler for many foods and can be found in many processed foods.

Sodium

America is dead scared of salt in its oversimplified belief that salt = sodium = hypertension. True, but that’s only the case with refined salt which is stripped of all other micronutrients. Sea salt is perfectly healthy and should only be used in moderation by people who already have a problem with blood pressure. In fact, women with adrenal fatigue are advised to drink 1/2 tsp of sea salt in a glass of water every day. For the rest of us, bring on the salt, but sea salt. P.S the fancy name “kosher salt” is as good as refined salt, so put it away.

OK, let’s get going with the snacks here, shall we?

By no means is the food here a replacer for real and complete meals.

They are just the best alternatives when you have little choice, I just wanted to be sure you know that!

This guide is based on food low in sugar and high in real food.

BREAKFAST

SMOOTHIE

  • If no power is available (like on the airplane), bring a shaker smoothie bottle.  Amazon has one here
  • Trying to avoid plastic?  Bring a small mason jar with a lid – perfect for giving your smoothie a good shake
  • Collagen powder for a burst of protein.  Remove some from the tub and store in baggies for the trip.
  • Bring seeds (chia, sunflower, flaxseed) and nuts, unripe avocado, dried fruit like cherries, goji berries, dates, figs, cacao or carob powder.
  • Also, bring 
BPA-free coconut milk or almond milk
 and coconut butter (Artisana brand).  Another option: Coconut milk powder (Native Forest)
  • Ashwagandha powder to help your body cope with the stress of traveling and bring you some comfort
  • Organic stevia packets – for a bit of sweetness (if you can tolerate stevia)

MORE BREAKFAST

  • Ask for oatmeal at the restaurant with no added sugar. Add your own seeds, nuts and coconut milk to the meal.
  • Bring your own oatmeal.  Vigilant Eats has a superfood instant organic oatmeal
  • Ask for a sausage and sautéed vegetables – many chefs would make that for you.

SALADS / LUNCH

  • BPA-free can of sardine, chicken, or salmon
  • Smoked salmon (keeps well with no refrigeration for a week)
  • Nitrate-free salami (keeps well for 5-6 days or longer even with no fridge)
  • Avocado
  • Pre-mixed salad dressing (olive oil, lemon/ACV, salt, herbs)
  • 4oz olive oil bottle (or any small bottle)
  • Mixed greens (keep well for 4 days in an air-tight container, put paper towel at the bottom)
  • Sprouts (keep well for 4 days in an air-tight container, put paper towel at the bottom)
  • BPA-free can of chickpeas or any beans
  • Cherry tomatoes (if nightshades tolerated)
  • Seeds and nuts for some crunch. Avoid trail mix, it’s typically loaded with sugar-coated fruit.
  • Gf crackers like Mary’s Gone Crackers or flaxseed crackers from Doctor in the Kitchen
  • Hard boiled egg, if tolerated
  • Wraps: see below 🙂

 

MAKE YOUR OWN WRAP

I’ve found this to be the best thriving traveler’s trick: WRAPS!

You can use nori sheets, collard greens, lettuce, cabbage leaves or coconut sheets but I found the latter not to be too tasty.

A couple other wraps to check out:

Julian Bakery Paleo Wraps – sold on Amazon

Cassava Flour tortillas – the brand is Siete Foods.  They are available at Whole Foods

What can you put in a wrapper? Anything from the items I mentioned above under “Salads.” I just find wrappers to be more portable food than a salad, so therefore, I prefer them.

This is one example of my quick wrap when on the road: wrapper filled with smoked fish, sprouts, arugula, and olives, drizzled with pre-made olive oil and lemon dressing. Two of these make a complete, healthy and tasty lunch or dinner.

For more quick meals and wrap ideas, head over to Cooking for Balance, an online cooking program that teaches you how to eat to rebalance your hormones.

One chart from the Cooking for Balance program I will share with you here is a chart showing you how to mix and match food in a wrapper.

DINNER

People who are vegan or eat kosher have no qualms asking a restaurant or friends to comply with their nutritional needs. You should therefore never feel sorry or guilty for requesting something special at a restaurant. I personally find that it helps to just state that you have special dietary needs and ask the server to help you navigate the menu and the kitchen.

Here are some simple and safe meal ideas most chefs would be happy to make for you:

  • Grilled or roasted animal protein or fish (no batter) with a salad or sautéed vegetables.
  • Large salad without the food you are avoiding, plus dressing (see below).
  • Dressing: ask for olive oil, salt, and lemon/lime to accompany your meal. Do not eat the premade dressings.

 

SNACKS

Hummus

Travel packets – Wild Garden is a good brand.  Serve with any of the crackers below

Nut butter

Also available in travel packets.  I like Raw Almond – Artisana brand.  Pair with pear slices, apple slices, any of the crackers listed below, or veggie sticks

Bars

I’ve spent the last 2 hours researching them and pre-selecting them based on low sugar content. Most bars are loaded with sugar (remember? 4g = 1 tsp, so you do the math), therefore always remember to check the back of the packing (not just the pretty front).

  • Paleo bars: EPIC, Tanka bars
  • Ancient Grains bars
  • Healthy bars (low sugar, high protein): GoRaw, Mama Chia, Lara bars (high in sugar, though..)
  • Bulletproof Collagen Protein Bar

Crackers & Chips

  • Dena’s Fuel For Fitness – a few flavors
  • Mary’s Gone Crackers
  • Doctor in the Kitchen
  • Edwards & Sons rice crackers
  • Go Raw Flax Snax
  • Kale Chips: Rhythm Kook Ranch
  • Nori Snacks by SeaSnax

Jerky

  • The New Primal (love them, as they are lowest in sugar – 1gram per serving, awesome)
  • Epic Bars
  • Krave (not loving the amount of sugar in them, though – Teriyaki contains 8g per serving)

 

TEAS

Bring your own flank to make your own teas. Bring tea bags of tulsi (holy basil), fennel, nettle, peppermint, ginger, green tea, matcha tea, etc.  Another good trick is to bring a packet of coconut oil (they come in travel size packets) and mix into your tea for energy.

 

WHERE TO SHOP (before you travel)

My favorite go-to place is Thrive Market – it’s like Whole Foods meets Costco, online. It’s the perfect place to stock up on healthy packaged food but allow at least 7 days for shipping. With a purchase above $49, shipping is free.

Amazon (of course!)

Whole Foods

Your local health food store or major grocery store

 

LOCAL FINDS

We often assume that the place we are going to is never going to have food as good as we like it. Sometimes that’s true but not always. I, therefore, recommend that you also hit up a few online spots:

  1. Google “organic health store” or local Whole Foods
  2. Visit the Eat Well Guide to look for healthy options.
  3. Look up Yelp.com and enter “organic restaurant” or “organic shop” or “food co-ops.”

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Mary Burke says:

    Good list! I recently made muesli packets in ziplock bags for a trip – organic quick oats, raisins, and nuts. At night I put a packet in a pint jar and added rice milk. Refrigerate overnight if available. I love your idea of powdered coconut milk. Could add that to the muesli mix and simply add water instead of milk when mixing a serving. Could also add collagen to the muesli mix.

    Great ideas! Thanks!

    • Angela Sidlo says:

      Hey Mary,
      Thank you for sharing your travel ideas. I’m glad you found a few new tips as well.
      Warmly, Angela HB Team

  • Sue Arnott says:

    Thank you so much Magdalena!! You are so generous to send this out to us. I really appreciate it. Wonderful tips and very timely for me as my husband and I are moving in January and I will be without ‘my kitchen’ for 2 or 3 days (not to mention being a bit tired!!)!! This is perfect and I am printing it out to follow at that time. I hope you are continuing to recover well from your surgery. Thanks again…sending hugs and love. Sue

    • Angela Sidlo says:

      Hi Sue,
      I’m so glad you found this helpful. Thank you for your enthusiasm and support.
      Warmly, Angela HB Team

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