Okay, so you’ve survived travel day, and now you’re at your destination! Time to have fun! Definitely not time for curling up in a ball of pain on the couch of your hotel room for 24 hours. So how do you make sure to stick with food that you know works for you? Well it’s a combination of planning ahead (see previous post on this topic), being creative and staying open-minded! In part 2 of my vacation series I sum up 7 Tips for Eating Healthy on Vacation!
Tip #1: Find a Kitchen!
Book an apartment, condo or use AirBnB to make sure you have access to a kitchen. At the very least, get a hotel room with a mini fridge and a microwave. Making your own breakfasts is the best way to guarantee you start your day off with a nutrient-dense, filling breakfast. I find breakfast restaurants are the easiest to get “bombed” at because of how pervasive bread and milk are…toast, pancakes, home fries, yogurt, butter….it’s almost impossible to avoid! I try to eat an epic breakfast, that way if I don’t have a lot of options for lunch, a simple salad and meat will tide me over until dinner.
Tip #2: Locate Grocery Stores
Do some research ahead of time and locate a grocery store near by. If you don’t do this, then hit up the first store you see. Two summers ago we went to Newfoundland (for our honeymoon!) and thank goodness we stalked up at the first grocery store we saw. We almost skipped it, thinking there would be one closer to where we were staying, but there wasn’t.
Tip #3: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
If you’re in a location that has a Whole Foods or organic grocery, or is known for organic/farm-to-table cooking, that’s awesome! If not, don’t stress. When I’m at home I purchase only pastured/grass-fed meat, organic eggs, organic Dirty Dozen veggies etc. But when I’m away, I seek out real food to the best of my capabilities. I have a few non-negotiables: gluten, dairy and legumes, but I don’t worry excessively about crappy seed oils, non-organic meat and gluten-free grains. I try not to overdo it on seed oils, because I notice it in my joints when I do, but having a few fries on the side of a bun-less burger and salad, isn’t going to kill me!
Tip #4: Don’t be Picky and Eat a Lot When It’s Safe!
I will eat a bun-less burger once or twice a day when I’m on vacation. Why? It’s easy to find, you can top it with lots of veggies and it’s hard to accidentally sneak in gluten or dairy. You can’t be picky about eating the same things a few times over when you’re on vacation. Take advantage of the food that is safe for you and eat it all! On that note, don’t be afraid to play around with the volume of food you normally have. A typical breakfast for me at home is 2 eggs on veggies, maybe with some avocado or a few slices of bacon. On vacation I try to eat a huge breakfast hash with sweet potatoes and veggies, cooked in lots of fat, with eggs, bacon and a latte. I could go 6 or 7 hours before eating again.
Tip #5: Research Restaurants
Hop on the Google and locate restaurants that say they can accommodate gluten-free diets. Not sure where to start? Try Yelp, Tripadvisor, Chowhound, Message Boards and Facebook Groups. Restaurants that focus on farm-to-table and seasonal menus usually have no problem accommodating. Especially in Canada, where local and seasonal almost always eschews grains and legumes. Real food is made on the spot, so it shouldn’t be hard to swap out butter for olive oil. Most restaurants have their menus posted online, so check it out before booking a reso. Still not sure if it’s a safe option? Give them a call and see how they respond to your requests! If you don’t feel confident in their handling your food sensitivities, don’t go.
Tip #6: Anticipate Language Barriers
I was just in Quebec City, and while it is still in Canada, Quebec City is much more French speaking than Montreal (in my experience!). And although I have an okay level of basic french, I did not want to test drive my translation skills with all of my food sensitivities! Instead, I found an awesome website called Broker Fish which translates some common food allergies into 6 different languages. I’m sure there are others with more foods and more languages – do some digging! I printed off the French translation for gluten and dairy allergies and kept it in my wallet at all times. I also saved a copy to my phone, so I would always have it! Luckily, every restaurant we went to totally understood my gluten and dairy allergies, and was more than happy to accommodate!
Tip #7: Be Smart About Splurges
I know how tempting it is when you’re on vacation to dabble in less than ideal foods. Heck, I do it as well! But I strongly recommend limiting how much and how often you dabble. The last thing you want is to get sick, have a digestive nightmare or a disease flare up. Try to stick with the most ideal foods possible for you 90-95% of the time, and be purposeful about the splurges you do enjoy. For example, we were in Quebec for almost 4 days and this is where I splurged:
- A small cider every afternoon at the end of a long day
- A pure maple syrup lollipop at the Ice Hotel
- A few fries off my families plates at lunches
- A piece of gluten-free bread at a restaurant (they knew about our dairy allergy, so I trusted that it was dairy free)
- A small serving of my own fries, beside my bun-less burger on our last day (because I knew if the large influx of omega-6 fats resulted in achey joints the next day, at least it was just a travel day home!)
- A glass of wine or 2 with dinner
- A few gluten-free crackers and 100% corn tortilla chips during Superbowl
Note: while I made these splurges purposefully, it was not without side effects. Upon my return home I embarked on an epic anti-inflammatory and gut-healing protocol, focused around eating as much broth and gelatin as possible!
Summary of how I ate on a Recent Trip to Quebec City:
I had a lot of questions about what exactly I did when I was on vacation, so here is a break down of exactly how a professional nutritionist, with a ton of food sensitivities, eats when away!
5:30am – epic breakfast of bacon, eggs and plantain biscuits
11:00am – snack on the plane of cashew/pecan butter and jerky
2:30pm – lunch at Le Chic Shack in Old Quebec. Enjoyed a bun-less burger topped with bacon, and snagged a few fries from my husband. (These guys were awesome. They state on their menu that they can accommodate gluten-free and vegetarian. They went over and above for us!)
6:00pm – dinner at Lapin Saute in Old Quebec. While I desperately wanted to enjoy some rabbit (since that was the name of the restaurant!) all of the rabbit and rabbit liver recipes used milk or gluten. Again, the staff was incredibly helpful and made sure we were more than accommodated – they even brought us out gluten-free bread! I ended up getting a green salad to start, followed by an incredible pork belly and seared scallops dish.
9:00am – home cooked breakfast in our apartment. I par-boiled sweet potatoes and prepped veggies for all 3 days to save time the rest of the weekend. Created a breakfast hash with cooked sweet potatoes, onion, mushroom and broccoli. Topped with 2 fried eggs and served with bacon. Also enjoyed home brewed coffee with coconut milk that I brought.
1:00pm – maple syrup on a stick! At the Ice Hotel they had a maple sugar shack where they pour thick maple syrup on fresh snow to cool, and you roll it up on a popsicle stick. It’s incredible!
2:00pm – baked salmon, white rice and veggies. Decided to take care of my belly after all the sugar!
8:00pm – my mom’s 60th Birthday Dinner at Legends in Old Quebec. This was an incredible restaurant, and again, they were beyond accommodating for us! We ordered a charcuterie platter to share, which was replete with organic sausages, locally cured meats and pate. We could eat everything but the butter-laden pate (darn!). I followed this up with a beautifully cooked beef dish, sliced and served on top of lightly sauteed spinach, white pea puree and topped with bone marrow. The original dish called for an aged cheddar mashed potato, but the server suggested mashed rutabaga instead. I told him any alternative was fine! The chef determined that rutabaga did not compliment the meal properly, so created the white pea puree instead. Like I said – they were incredibly accommodating!
I wish I had better photos of last night's meal at Legends in Quebec. It was probably one of the most delicious beef meals I've ever had! Sliced thinly over a bed of sautéed spinach and white pea puree (supposed to be potato and cheddar) and topped with bone marrow. Started with a charcuterie planner of local, organic cured meats. Holy delicious batman. Oh and they were AWESOME at working with our food allergies.
8:30am – same brekky as yesterday
2:00pm – hit up Le Project, a bar my brother was interested in visiting, because they are known for having a variety of interesting, local craft brews available. Not a ton of options for us there, so I went with an old standby – bun-less burger with bacon! This time it was served with a salad and a small portion of fries. The staff had never had such a ridiculous request for a burger, sans pain (no bread!), but they were awesome about accommodating us.
6:00pm – pre-superbowl snacks. My brother made a homemade salsa, which my family enjoyed with some tortilla chips, and I had with some gluten-free crackers (chestnut and rice flour based). I ended up having a few small handfuls of corn chips as well – probably not ideal, but alas, I did it anyway! Also had a new cider I found at the SAQ.
7:00pm – homemade dinner. My mom and I hit up a local farmers market that morning and bought some organic pork sausages and fresh veggies. The market was a little scant – I got the sense that it would be awesome in the summer, because it looked like a lot of vendors weren’t there. Also, there were very few fresh veggies – the only ones available were ones that keep well in a cold cellar! So we boiled up some potatoes, sautéed up some leeks and sliced some hot house tomatoes. It worked great!
9:00am – due to a massive snowstorm in Toronto, we were anticipating some delays on our flight home. So to fuel up, we made the rest of the hash and threw in leftovers from last night! Sauteed leeks and the remaining sausage jacked it up a notch for sure! Topped with 3 eggs and enjoyed with a coffee.
Snacks – I brought the remaining jerky, 2 packs of nut butter, a bag of dried mango, 2 cans of sardines and 2 cans of tuna on the plane. But I was so full from breakfast, I didn’t eat any. I also think I was paying a little bit for the corn chips last night, because my digestion seemed to have slowed down…regardless. I was good til we got home!
Well there you have it folks. How I tackle vacations to make sure I feel my best and can therefore enjoy it to the fullest!