No need to road ‘trip’ up on your diet!

Florida state line

I just came back from a fairly sunny and fairly warm week in Florida (the weather wasn’t always superb, but it was certainly better than here!). Instead of flying down and staying at a hotel, we drove down and rented a house on a resort.

Now, if you are trying to maintain clean and nutritious eating while you are away, renting a house is a no-brainer. Far cheaper than a hotel, we had all the amenities of a resort, with the convenience of a home. Having our own fully-loaded kitchen (it was huge too!) meant that we only ate at a restaurant ONCE the whole time. We made quick, simple meals out of fresh ingredients, and the cost savings, as well as the guarantee that we wouldn’t be getting a bad stomach after a meal were totally worth it. Now, I know many people don’t equate ‘vacation’ with ‘cooking’, but it really hardly takes any time to make a simple salad and balsamic organic chicken tenders!

So the challenging part of maintaining healthy eating wasn’t when we got to Florida, it was while we were driving to and from it. If you want to keep up your healthy diet while you are on vacation, (and this especially applies to those with allergies or sensitivities) planning ahead and bringing your own food is a MUST!

Before I go on road trips, I head over to the health food stores to stock up on snacks that are travel friendly. Bars, raw nuts, seeds, and crackers are easy to pack and don’t need to stay cold. Stores like Whole Foods and Nature’s Emporium have so many healthier options for snack foods. I highly recommend you do your shopping for packaged foods at grocers like these, as you will find a large selection of items that don’t contain preservatives, artificial flavours and colours, or refined flours and sugars.

If you have a cooler, you can also bring some chopped up vegetables and hummus as well to snack on. Vegetables are fine to bring across the border, however, fruits are NOT! Once you cross the border, you can stop off at a grocery store (or maybe even a farmer’s market!) and pick up whatever fruits you desire.

Cooler with food

As for meals while on the road, this is definitely more of a challenge to prepare for, especially if you don’t have a cooler to bring with you. If you are on a multi-day road trip like we were, packing meals for both days can be an issue. We were lucky and got a motel room for our overnight stop with a refrigerator in the room, so I was able to save my left over quinoa and zucchini pilaf, as well as my roasted organic chicken for the drive the next day. Unfortunately, you can’t really know ahead of time what your are going to get from these motels, so be prepared to have to eat at a restaurant after the first day.

If you have a cooler, you can pretty much pack just about any meal you desire. Some examples are:

– Sprouted bread sandwiches made with grilled vegetables, tempeh, or organic, nitrate-free turkey or chicken

– A whole grain pilaf made with quinoa, rice, millet, buckwheat, or teff

– Grilled vegetables like zucchini, peppers, and eggplant

– A mixed-greens salad with any veggies you desire for topping. Add 2 tablespoons of shelled hempseed to boost the protein and healthy fat content. Pack a simple dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, and dijon mustard in a small, separate container so the delicate greens don’t get soggy

– A pasta salad made with whole grain or sprouted grain pasta, veggies, olives, and an avocado, lemon, and olive oil dressing

– Fresh smoothies or juices made right before you head out on your road trip. These are perfect for breakfast on the go, or a mid-morning snack

If you have a thermos, soups stews, and chilli are perfect for having for lunch on the road, as they will still be warm if you pack them up in the morning.

As for drinks, I really don’t recommend anything other than water on the road. You aren’t going to be very active on that long car ride, so we don’t want to overdo-it with the calories. Everyone in the car should have their own re-usable bottle that they can fill up at pit-stops with larger jugs of water that you can buy at the grocery store. Buying larger bottles that passengers can fill up their own with dramatically cuts down on waste.

A special note to those with special diets like gluten intolerance: You better prepare to bring a lot of your favourites with you, because you may not find them in the U.S.A. We are very fortunate to have such a wonderful selection of healthful, gluten-free products like breads and crackers here in the Greater Toronto Area. I have found that even at Whole Foods down there in Florida, I could not find many of the products that I purchase here (thought you may find some new and interesting ones!)

Now, if you are on a multi-day road trip and you don’t have the luxury of refrigeration at your motel stop-over, there are still options. The best option is to find the nearest grocer or farmer’s market to pick up some fresh veggies and fruits. Grocery stores often have pre-made salads. Be careful about salad dressings, especially in the States. High fructose corn syrup is a common ingredient in most packaged foods there and it can spike blood sugar and leave you feeling hungrier. Buy, or bring some oil and vinegar from home.

If you want a hot meal, most grocery stores have those as well, and that food will generally be of much better quality than at a restaurant. If you are lucky enough to find a Whole Foods along your journey, you are really in for a treat. They have delicious, nutritious prepared foods all day long, and ALL ingredients are labelled so you know exactly what you are getting!

Road trips should be fun! Seeing new places along your journey can be the most exciting part of your entire vacation. With some thought and preparation, food doesn’t have to become a source of stress on what is supposed to be a relaxing time! Don’t let a road trip ‘trip’ up your diet!

How to Eat Gluten Free While Traveling.

In the last five years I have been fortunate enough to go on more trips than I can count. From London, Paris, Monaco, Palermo, Barcelona, New York, and Vancouver, to name a few, I have become addicted to the excitement of visiting new lands, seeing amazing sights and trying new food.

For the person who suffers from gluten intolerance, however, traveling can become a daunting and frustrating experience, so much so actually that some just give up on traveling altogether.

The good news is that you don’t have to have a miserable vacation, or worse, banish travels completely because of your dietary restrictions. I am gluten intolerant (amongst other food sensitivities!) and have learned that good preparation is key to safe, happy, and yummy travels when special dietary needs are involved.

Here are some tips for safe and happy gluten-free travels, wherever you may go!

1. Check with your carrier to see if a gluten free meal is offered.

Many airlines now offer the option of ordering a gluten free meal at no extra cost. However, this option is usually available only on international flights. I’ve had gluten free meals on four different airlines now, and I’ve been fairly impressed with the selection and quality. An added bonus is that you are usually the first one to be served in the cabin! The option of ordering a special meal is usually available at the time of booking. Make sure you confirm with the airline the week before you travel that your meal has been ordered. If it hasn’t, there is nothing that they can do once you are in the air!

2. Pack some snacks before you go.

Paris restaurants

Paris seems to be the land of gluten- but the prepared traveler can still avoid it!

It has become a ritual for me to hit the local health food store a week before I go on my travels to stock up on gluten-free nut bars, seeds, crackers, kale chips, dried fruit, and cookies. All these snacks that I buy contain lots of fiber and no refined sugar or flour, ensuring I have a healthy source of energizing food with me at all times. These snacks sure come in handy as quick breakfasts, as well as blood-sugar stabilizers mid-day between lunch and dinner. While your ‘can-shove-anything-down-his-gullet-without-getting-sick’ boyfriend can pick up a small sandwich or muffin at a cafe on your way to the next art museum, you unfortunately do not have that luxury. Pack your own healthy “fast food” to ensure hunger is not something you have to worry about while trying to enjoy your travels.

I also highly recommend packing some snacks in your carry-on, whether you are traveling by plane or train. There is a common misconception that you cannot bring packaged food with you on an airplane. Packaged food is completely acceptable, as long as liquids are not involved. Be sure to check the laws of the country you are traveling to, as fresh fruits and vegetables are usually off-limits. Bringing food with you on the plane is great because even though a gluten free meal maybe available, snacks usually are not.

3. Stay in an apartment or hotel suite with a kitchen.

During my last visit to the south of France, we stayed in residence hotels. These very inexpensive and super modern and comfortable accommodations came equipped with fully functional kitchens, ensuring I could prepare my own snacks and meals in the morning so I could enjoy a stress-free, enjoyable day of sightseeing without having to worry if I would be able to find something to eat.

I have also rented apartments specifically for vacation stays in Paris, Vancouver, and New York City. This option is generally more expensive than a residence hotel, however it is usually still cheaper than a hotel if you have more than two people traveling with you. Look for a rental that is close to a grocery store so that you can easily pick up a few fresh items each day. Don’t forget to also buy resealable bags, disposable cutlery, and those nifty collapsible food storage containers. Prepare your meal and snacks before you head off sightseeing for the day (a quinoa salad would be great!). When you’re done eating, you can simply collapse the container flat into your day bag and carry on with your adventure!

4. Carry gluten-free restaurant cards printed in the local language.

It would be a shame to travel to exotic lands and miss out on sampling the local food because you are weary of restaurants due to your intolerance. Many people and restaurants all over the world are becoming more educated on gluten-free eating, so it is becoming easier to be accommodated for. Gluten Free Passport has printable cards in a variety of languages. Simply present a card to your server before ordering. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that your needs will be able to be accommodated for. To be sure, choose some restaurants that interest you online while you are still at home, and either email them or call ahead. Many have English-speaking staff, especially in Europe and large cities in Asia. Always remember – don’t be demanding and be polite! This will go a long way in getting a restaurant to go above and beyond to help you.