Originally published in the Summer + Fall 2017 issue.
What do you do when you have foods that you can’t or don’t want to eat and you still want to explore? I recently took a month long trip to Asia while avoiding gluten, dairy and eggs. From this experience, I have developed five things to help you manage your food while you explore.
Step 1: Plan your foods and how to get them
Taking time to plan your food will help you feel better and honor your choices when you’re not at home. Start by making a list of foods you avoid and any variations of those foods that you may encounter while on your trip. For example, buckwheat is gluten-free even though it has “wheat” in the name. However, that doesn’t mean that I could eat the soba noodles in Japan because they are usually made with other gluten-containing grains. Also, plan how to ask for foods that you can eat. Because I couldn’t explain that I can’t eat gluten, dairy and eggs in Vietnamese, Thai, Khmer or Japanese, I got cards in each language that I could give to restaurant servers from AllergyTranslation.com that explain my needs in each language.
Step 2: Plan what you’ll eat in transit
What are you going to eat during your travel time? If you’re traveling by plane, you can request a special meal when you make your reservation or and add it. (Note: Most airlines need 24-48 hours before your flight to provide a special meal.) It’s also a good idea to take food with you. Some of my favorite foods to take are Munk Packs (liquid oatmeal), Enlightened’s Roasted Broad Beans and homemade granola bars. If you are making food at home to take, be sure to plan time to shop and make it before you leave so you aren’t rushed the day or night before. Check that you can carry the food on the plane. If you have any concerns, only pack a minimal amount in a carry on so that you don’t lose your food stash if security decides they won’t allow it.
Step 3: Plan what you’ll eat when you’re there
Plan what restaurants or types of restaurants will provide you with the food you need. The list you made in Step 1 will help with this. Using a local review app can help with this as well as larger sites like TripAdvisor.
Step 4: Plan to visit a grocery store
Grocery stores are a lot of fun to visit. Before you go, find a couple that you can visit. Also, research what brands and the names of foods you want to buy so you’ll know what you’re looking for when you get there.
Step 5: Plan your supplements
If you take supplements — vitamins, minerals, etc. — plan what you need, how much, and how you’ll carry them. I like to use little pill zip bags you can get at your local pharmacy. I have one each for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I put all the breakfast ones together then put them in a larger bag. Then, do the same for lunch and dinner. I just need to reach into the right bag for the right supplements when I need them.
With a little planning, you can honor your food needs and still have a great time exploring.