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, as they will help you stay off gluten, dairy, soy, excessive sugar, preservatives and other nasties (lurk below).
This way you will feel healthy and energetic. After all, when we travel we want to enjoy our trip and not feel terrible from eating food that we know we suffer from.
The key is one word: PLANNING.
“Fail to plan and you plan to fail” – this idiom holds lots of truth here too.
Here are the few things that we need to pay attention to when picking snacks and portable food. Do not read and 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…
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 preservativeused 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 – preservative used in wine-making and other processed foods like jerky (great travel food, but not with these nasties).
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.
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.
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 are 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.
- Bring an immersible blender and a large container that can fit the blender.
- Bring: seeds (chia, sunflower, flex seed) 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)
- Ask for oatmeal at the restaurant with no added sugar. Add your own seeds, nuts and coconut milk to the meal.
- Ask for a sausage and sautéed vegetables – many chefs would make that for you.
SALADS / LUNCH
- BPA-free can of sardine 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)
- 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 a air-tight container, put paper towel at the bottom)
- Sprouts (keep well for 4 days in a 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!
My favorite choice is this dehydrated veggie wrapper from Easy Living Foods (organic, sprouted and raw – see the wrap above) and they ship nationally. The wrappers last for seven days with no fridge and one month in the fridge.
You can also use nori sheets, lettuce, cabbage leaves or coconut sheets but I found the latter not to be too tasty.
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: dehydrated veggie 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. Click the image to download it. I hope you find it helpful.
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.
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.
Thrive appealed to me for four reasons:
- It by-passes the retailers and can offer quality products at 25-50% off retail.
- The Thrive Gives program – every paid membership is matched with a free membership for a low-income American family so they too can buy healthier food at lower prices.
- It constantly adds new products. When I asked them if they plan to carry tiger nuts, their customer service emailed me and said that “not yet” but they are adding 1000 products each month.
- Thrive’s commitment to sustainability is pretty awesome – they are 100% carbon neutral (certified by carbonfund.org) and they expect the vendors to use recycled paper.
What I recommend getting from Thrive Market
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..)
- Dena’s Fuel For Fitness – a few flavors
- Mary’s Gone Crackers
- Doctor in the Kitchen
- Edwards & Sons rice crackers
- Go Raw Flax Snax
- The New Primal (love them, as they are lowest in sugar – 1gram per serving, awesome)
- Krave (not loving the amount of sugar in them, though – Teriyaki contains 8g per serving)
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.
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:
- Google “organic health store” or local Whole Foods
- Visit the Eat Well Guide to look for healthy options.
- Look up Yelp.com and enter “organic restaurant” or “organic shop” or “food co-ops.”
You can download the “The Healthy Traveler’s Survival Guide” PDF here.