5 Tips for Traveling with Food Intolerances
Don’t go hungry — go wherever you want.
For me, going on vacation means relaxing, trying new things and making memories. But when it comes to food preferences, traveling isn’t always that simple and fun. If you have food allergies or sensitivities, or certain foods just make you feel less than your best, the prospect of unknown lands (and unknown cuisine) can be daunting — when you should be letting loose!
The good news is that many restaurants are getting hip to the food sensitivity groove by updating their menu selections and labeling for food group allergies. Plus, with a little bit of research, you can discover some culinary gems near your destination and feast like the locals! Here’s a few tips to help you prep and put your stomach at ease, so you can focus on enjoying your getaway.
Before you hit the road, hit the internet to research the restaurants and food culture at your vacation spot. It’s a great way to find out how food is served in the area: raw, family-style, street eats or in multiple courses — all of which have their own challenges for those with specific dietary needs. The more you learn, the more you may find that the culture/cuisine of the area is naturally gluten-free, vegan-friendly or abundant in unprocessed, whole food options.
I was especially inspired by the post, How to Find Local Food Experiences on Vacation, by Sherry Ott. She tackles the more adventurous side of travel food by focusing on authentic, home-grown fare, including local restaurants, food tours, and even services that arrange (carefully vetted) opportunities to eat with locals in their homes or attend dinner parties hosted specifically for travelers! When in Rome, right?
I also recommended dropping by a farmers or street market to get your hands on local flavors crafted by folks from the area. I’ve eaten (and brought home) some of the best produce and artisan goods I’ve ever had from little farmers markets — plus, you’ll be giving back to the local economy, which is a win-win!
Whether you’re being accommodated by friends/family or you’re in a hotel situation, communicate your dietary needs to your hosts — at the very least they can help you find out if you’ll have options onsite. I am extremely lucky to have understanding friends and family, so this is not an intimidating task — but I also get that it’s not that easy for everyone. Unfortunately, even loved ones can be judgmental or insensitive when it comes to eating needs and preferences.
If this is the case, communicate only what you are comfortable sharing, and then empower yourself with your research and some strategically packed snacks. Bottom line: You deserve food that will not make you sick, and a little communication can go a long way to preventing hurt feelings over someone’s “famous” macaroni and cheese.
Put your research and communication skills together to connect with locals, food experts or just other folks who have traveled with the same dietary needs as you. Alana Scott’s post, Buckle Up & Get Travelling: Don’t Let Food Intolerances Hold You Back, is an amazing resource of traveling tips for those with food sensitivities. In addition to genius ideas for translation, packing and lodging accommodations, she recommends tapping your social network for advice.
For my most recent trip to Austin, TX, I messaged a food and fitness blogger local to the area (Kelly Nardo @eatthegains), and she sent me a whole list of spots that fit my eating preferences! Her blog has tons of helpful content for paleo peeps, like this Whole30 & Paleo Restaurant Guide to Austin, Texas, but she went the extra mile and messaged me back with additional suggestions based on my specific eating requirements. (Thank you so much, Kelly!!) Just remember you’re not alone — there are tons of good people facing the same challenges as you that would love to share their knowledge and experience.
Prep & Pack
Depending on your mode of travel and destination, the amount and types of foods you’ll be able to pack may be limited. At the very least, I pack sensitivity-friendly bars, my favorite tummy-soothing teas and any herbs/medicine I may need if I experience digestive upset. Ideally, I like to bring some fresh produce, whole foods and clean-eating snacks so I can nibble and indulge just like everyone else.
As a result of my research, communication and connection (wink, wink) I ended up bringing back most of my packed food untouched from my last trip, but it was nice to have on longer stretches of country road and good to know I had options. Scroll down for a listing of some of my fave travel snacks!
Yeah, that’s right — relax, you’re on vacation! You’ve prepped, you’ve packed, but you can’t control everything. Plus, travel and food anxiety won’t do your digestion any favors. Take comfort in your preparations and compliant snacks, then venture out optimistically to discover some new favorite getaways. Who knows, you may discover a new favorite food too 😉
Title image: Photo by Porapak Apichodilok from Pexels