As you might notice from some of the references in my other posts, I travel a fair amount for my job, especially during certain times of the year. While travel means time away from my husband and home kitchen, I enjoy the unique experiences, meeting new people, and seeing new places.
However, my adventurous attitude dampened once I learned that gluten was a no-go. While on the road I tend to work long days and the last thing I want is to get sick when far away from home and facing a jam packed schedule. I also learned the hard way, even before cutting out gluten, the importance of making healthy choices when traveling. I have to remind myself that work travel is not a vacation and taking that attitude can add on some sneaky pounds and zap all of your energy. With lots of travel lately, I’m focusing on taking better care of my health and wanted to share what I’m learning thus far.
1: Pack Smart: Now you can’t take a whole gluten free pantry with you, but if you are strategic, you can (and should) bring a few smaller items with you that make eating out possible and stress free. You want to pack items that are multi-purpose, don’t take up a ton of space, and that ideally expand your healthy eating options. A few of my favorites:
Individual Peanut or Almond Butter Packets: I can always find bananas no matter where I am and pairing with these squeeze packs makes for a healthy breakfast or snack. This tasty brand is certified gluten free: Justin’s Nut Butter Natural Honey Almond Butter, 10, 1.15 ounce Squeeze Packs (Pack of 3)
Individual Gluten Free Soy Sauce Packets: My mom got me these packets and they are probably my favorite trick. A lot of Asian food is made with rice or rice noodles, but the soy sauce just destroys that option. Keeping these in my purse means I can order sushi or other tasty dishes without the sauce and use these handy packets instead: San J Organic Gluten-free Tamari Soy Sauce Travel Packs, 20-Count Packages
2: Re-think your eating options: Forget restaurants, there are so many opportunities for things to go wrong and relying on them for three meals a day is just asking for trouble. This smart approach has been a huge life saver and I’m grateful to my friends for sharing this outside the box advice to staying healthy on the road (thanks ladies!!).
- At the airport: Skip the fast food, likely none of it will work or be remotely healthy. I always hit up the newsstand and pick up healthy snacks like nuts and dried fruit (watch out for additives). I’m also loving these “gopicnic” meals lately, which have gluten free varieties and are a fun, healthier version of the lunchable for grown ups.
- Once you arrive: When I check into my hotel the first thing I do is find the closest grocery store. I stock up on gluten free essentials for my visit like gluten free cereal and portable fruit (apples, oranges, bananas). I also use the grocery store for meals too- Whole Foods has a great hot food bar with allergens clearly listed. Lots of stores have fresh sushi (in Charlotte I grabbed some veggie brown rice sushi and literally ate it on the go with my soy sauce packets). You will be amazed how creative you can get when you combine smart packing with smart shopping.
3: Put technology to work: Wherever you are going, there are certainly people who can’t eat gluten that live there and they must eat somewhere. With some quick searching on my i-phone, I’m usually able to find tips from locals on where to eat. Tools like Yelp or just simple google searches have been particularly helpful at scoring me some impressive finds. Like gluten free burgers in Charlotte (okay not healthy per say, but fun) and absolutely amazing everything from their gluten free menu at Girl and the Goat in Chicago (warning: plan ahead if you want to actually get a table!).
4: Order Smart: Yes it’s annoying to always have to be that person harassing the waiter, but this isn’t (for me) about some fad diet- this is my health and well being so ordering is not the time to be shy. Ask about specific ingredients, use the buzzword “allergy” to make the importance clear, request dressing or sauces on the side, and mostly importantly- always trust your instincts.
5: If it ain’t broke- don’t fix it: If you know a place that works for you, then go ahead and give yourself permission to stick with what you know. When traveling recently I was talking to a local colleague and felt embarrassed to admit upon asking that I had not found someplace cool and hip in town to eat, but instead ventured my way to P.F. Chang. Yes it’s a chain, but I’ve eaten from their gluten free menu multiple times problem free- so when in doubt, I’m just going to be cool with leaving my adventures for non food related activities.
Please share! I’m always looking for new ideas- what are your tips for eating healthy and/or gluten free on the road?
*Notes: individual packaging varies- so be safe and double check all labels! plane image from here.