Traveling is an adventure that often involves exploring new cuisines and savoring local delights. But for those committed to a diet plan, the temptations of indulgent dishes can pose a challenge. Plus, if you have any kind of food allergies, then to maintain your diet while traveling is a serious issue.
Below I am sharing a few practical strategies that will help you stay on track with your diet while still enjoying your travel.
How to Maintain Your Diet While Traveling
Familiarize Yourself With the Local Diet Culture
Perhaps the first thing to do before you jet off to a beautiful destination is to conduct a little research and get to grips with the local cuisine. For example, if you’ve cut out dairy, this won’t be too challenging in East Asian countries, where milk and cheeses are traditionally rarely used—but it might be more of a problem if you are heading to rural France.
You’ll have to be more conscious in Japan if you don’t eat fish, as it’s used as a base for many broths and sauces, while India (with 500 million resident vegetarians) should offer you plenty of amazing meat-free choices.
When traveling, arming yourself with knowledge beforehand can give you an idea of what to expect, and the go-to foods to order which are in-line with your diet.
Research and Explore Local Supermarkets and Health Food Stores
I suggest that you spend some time finding out where you can shop for groceries. This way you can stock up on essential items that fit your dietary restrictions. Local supermarkets or health food stores may have a wider selection of suitable products than you’d expect.
You should also explore local food markets for fresh produce, snacks, and unique culinary experiences. You might find fresh fruits and vegetables that are perfect for your diet, and it’s a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture.
Be culturally sensitive
When discussing your dietary restrictions, express your needs politely in the local language and appreciate the efforts made by locals to accommodate you.
Be Prepared for Your Allergies or Any Food Intolerances
If you have an intolerance or allergy you should also make yourself aware of the medical facilities in your location (like the nearest hospital and pharmacy). Also ensure you have comprehensive insurance and a full supply of antihistamines.
Ask your doctor to write up a document explaining key information regarding your allergy/intolerance and medical history, just in case you should fall ill. If you have severe allergies or medical conditions, consider consulting with local healthcare professionals for advice on safe dining and emergency measures.
Have a Plan B Handy at Airports
If you suffer from an allergy, you should give your airline a heads-up in advance. For most food restrictions, however, you may also need to come prepared. Airlines aren’t always particularly good at catering to different diets, so snap up a few snacks in the shops before boarding the plane, and carry some cereal, protein or fruit bars/energy balls for that extra boost if you need it.
Learn Key Phrases in the Local Language
If you’re traveling to a country where you don’t speak the local language, food allergy translation cards can be hugely important—even a lifesaver. You can also find free vegetarian and vegan phrase cards, while the International Vegetarian Union (IVU) has compiled useful phrases across a vast range of languages.
Research the Local Restaurants
While not always the case, many restaurants now provide their menus online—and you can always ring ahead to check how they cook certain foods (for example, if they fry in butter) and whether they will be able to cater for you. With some forward planning, you should be able to compile a list of the restaurants in the local area that are best suited to your needs.
Once you are traveling, try to visit restaurants and cafes a little outside of their busiest times, as they will find it easier to accommodate any special requests. You can also get creative with your meal by mixing appropriate side orders and starters to put together something tasty and satisfying.
Also, remember that while some things have been made earlier in the day and will be difficult to change (like soups or sauces), for the most part if an ingredient is on the menu, it is in the kitchen. Most places will be happy to whip up something simple for you (such as an omelette, or grilled meat and salad) using the stocks in their refrigerators, should you be really struggling for choice.
Pack Portable Snacks
Just in case you get caught out, remember to carry some emergency snacks. Taking an avocado out with you, for example, offers a great source of fats and energy if you need to skip lunch.
Alongside emergency snacks like avocados, consider packing a variety of non-perishable snacks that align with your diet. Nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and whole-grain crackers are nutritious and easy to carry, provided you are not allergic to any of them. These can be a lifesaver during long journeys or when dining options are limited.
Travel with Reusable Containers
Carrying reusable containers can be helpful for storing leftover restaurant meals or packing snacks for day trips. This reduces food waste and ensures you always have suitable options on hand.
Utilize Dining Apps and Websites
Utilize dining apps and websites that cater to specific dietary needs. Apps like HappyCow focus on vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants worldwide, while other apps like Yelp and TripAdvisor often have user-generated reviews that mention dietary accommodations.
Choose Accommodation With Self-catering When Possible
When choosing your accommodation, bear in mind that it can be far more convenient to have the facilities on hand to cook for yourself. With nearly endless options for self-catering accommodation—from luxury villas to holiday caravans—there’s something to suit every budget, and you can rustle up your favorites without much fuss.
Of course, exactly how you approach this will depend on the nature of your dietary restrictions, but one simple option is to take your preferred cooking oil and some spices in your luggage, and stock up at the local shop or market on simple whole foods like your favorite fruit and vegetables. This saves you time and eases the anxiety that accompanies deciphering long lists of ingredients in a foreign language. It also gives you all you need to throw together simple and healthy dinners.
Tip: Don’t Forget to Stay Hydrated
Drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated while traveling is as important as your sticking to your diet. Sometimes, thirst can be mistaken for hunger, leading to poor food choices. Carry a reusable water bottle to sip from and refill throughout the day.
Sticking to your diet while traveling is always going to need a little more thought if you have specific requirements or restrictions, you shouldn’t let this put you off from creating the travel experience you dream of. With some local knowledge and the means to express yourself, you’ll soon find that making the right food choices on vacation comes as effortlessly as it does at home.
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