One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is about how to stay plant paradox compliant while traveling, so I decided to write down the things I learned from my experience so far, hoping it will help those of you who are concerned about traveling on the plant paradox. Beyond all the specific tips about food items, I’d like to say that the way we think about food matters. Travel, even when is for pleasure, usually involves some kind of stress, and we don’t want to add to it, as being stressed is as bad as eating unhealthy, hence it defeats the purpose. We should not do things out of fear, but rather take everything as a challenge and try to have fun finding creative solutions and living the new lifestyle in different contexts.
Lectin-free travel essentials
I’ve been following the plant paradox lifestyle for about two years now, and I completely understand everyone who is concerned about traveling and staying healthy, as I’ve been there not long ago. We all know that food in transit, whether airports, gas stations, planes, or even hotels is unhealthy and this adds even more to the stress of traveling. All my tips about travel were tried and tested, because in the past almost two years I’ve travelled to Europe in three different countries, changed planes in many airports, and also did few road trips in the US, some of them in extremely remote areas, like West Texas.
Before I list some of my tips, I’d like to say that it’s important to travel with food that is satisfying, that you love, even if it’s not really the type of food you would have at home every day. For example, I never have Quest bars when I’m at home, but there is something satisfying about munching on a quest bar while on a plane, when other people are eating the food served. It feels like a cheat but it’s not. And just a short story, to confirm that being lectin free matters, when I traveled long distance last winter and changed many planes and airports and stayed compliant all the time, it was the first time in my life traveling without having a headache. I understood then that the headaches I would get when traveling were not from being for a long time in a plane, but for eating the food served in the plane. That being said, staying hydrated is as important as eating the right food (or not eating the wrong ones).
Below are most of the items I traveled with that helped me stay compliant and happy all along, and not feeling deprived:
- Lectin Shield – With all the efforts we might make, there will still be situations when you can’t control everything that’s in your food. Make sure you always have a couple of Lectin Shield in your purse, and take 2 30 minutes before a meal that you have doubts about. I would not recommend using Lectin Shield as an excuse to eat non-complaint food, but you do you. Make it’s worth it. I think I would do it for a croissant in Paris or a slice of pizza in Italy.
- Quest Bars – I know, maybe not comparable with a bowl of greens, but they are packed, they don’t need to be refrigerated, and and they are a lifesaver when you crave something sweet and consistent on a flight. It will keep you away from other, more unhealthy snacks that you will see everyone eating. Plus, when traveling we tend to be more stressed and therefore more tempted to have snacks. There are only three bars that are PP compliant, and my favorite ones are Quest Nutrition QuestBar Protein Bar Strawberry Cheese Cake — 12 Bars and Double Chocolate Chunk. I believe Cinnamon Roll is also compliant.
- Compliant Chips – When I wrote this article, none of these options were available, at least not in the stores I shop, but now (I try to edit this article regulaely to keep it updated) we have quite some choices and this is pretty tasty and satisfying stuff. We have two brands of green plantain chips, one of coconut tortillas and some sweet potato chips. We even have Puffs people, although careful, they are addictive.
- Dark chocolate – 75% and more, unsweetened, or, if sweetened with sugar, it has to have less than 1-2% sugar per serving. Today there are many brands making this type of chocolate, so it’s super easy to find. My favorite chocolate now is Taza, the 95%. Even my husband loves it, and he used to be a milk chocolate fan.
- Nut mix – I don’t leave the house without nuts. If I go on a longer travel, I usually buy packages of my favorite ones: walnuts, macadamia, pistachios, hazelnuts and pecans and have a small bag with a mix of all of them in my hand luggage or purse. Nuts are also an easy to find item in airports – not all, but most of them. So far, the best airport in terms of healthy food options was Heathrow London.
- Coconut Oil – I find individual packs of coconut oil at Trader Joe’s, and they are perfect to carry around in your bag, for when you feel hungry, need some energy or even for your skin.
- Little helpers – Coffee Creamers, Collagen, Turmeric Tonic, or these Vital Proteins Collagen Sleep Shots. I call them little helpers for a lack of a better world, because I see them as helping to make a trip a little more bearable and interesting. You can always buy a black coffee from a coffee shop on the road and add your collagen creamer, or even turmeric tonic. And if you have a jet lag, or need a little help to fall asleep, this collagen shot with collagen peptides (their collagen is grass-fed), hyaluronic acid, melatonin and magnesium may help. I love them because they have the travel sizes. You find it in Whole Foods or Amazon (liked above). Same with the Turmeric Tonic from Further Food, you can find their travel sizes here. It’s amazing if you have a headache, sinus pressure or feel like you are catching a cold.
- Beef Jerky – Most of the beef jerky out there is not compliant (not 100% grass fed, has sugar or maple syrup or other non compliant ingredients), but if you search well you will find stores, local farms that sell compliant ones. I buy mine from Burgundy Pasture Beef in Dallas, a local farm/ranch’s store. They are a great source of protein and they keep hunger and cravings at bay, plus they are tasty, so satisfying.
- Home baked food – especially if you travel by car, but even in a plane, you can bake some of your favorite stuff at home and take it with you. I make avocado or sweet potato brownies, almond & flaxseed crackers, walnut bread, Italian almond biscotti, anything that you bake at home and can last for a few days. I also make fat bombs with nut butters and chocolate, also a good healthy snack to have so you don’t have to crave the bad stuff.
- Canned fish – I know, some people cringe at the idea of traveling with fish, but until you open a can, you won’t smell a thing. In my last trip I had some cans of BPA free, sustainable pink Alaskan salmon and it was a lifesaver, plus it is really delicious with just some lemon and olive oil.
- Transportable food – Especially if you travel by car, you can get hard boiled eggs, olives, raw veggies sticks, compliant cheese, lemons. I usually have a cooler box in the back of the car where I keep all the food.
- Enjoy not eating – when food is not available, take the opportunity to do intermittent fasting. You can still have a black coffee or a tea. Your brain will tank you for this. Usually breakfast is the easiest to skip, and it makes the most sense, because it gives your system a long break from digesting. I do intermittent fasting every day by just skipping the morning meal, and it makes everything so much easier. I can’t even imagine having to think about three meals a day.
- Stasher Bags – this new addition to the list is not sponsored or anything, but it is the best invention, I have to include it. They are the best way to transport food, especially when you travel by plane. They are transparent, made of silicon, and leak proof. Theoretically you can take soup with you. They are even microwave and oven safe, so you can even heat your soup. I’m not going to do that, but I’ve seen people doing it. They are a little pricey, but it’s all worth it. You can go plastic free and these will last you a very long time. Unless you misplace them, like I do…
Take it as a challenge, a fun one
I’ve came to realize that the fear that we will starve because there won’t be anything to eat is not justified. There is always an option, even if not the perfect one.
Make sure your accommodation has a kitchen, especially if you are staying for a longer time. Now even hotels have a little kitchen with a microwave, a fridge and a sink, but I definitely prefer Airbnbs. I’ve survived short trips in hotels with just what I brought from home. Actually, having a cold boiled egg for breakfast, with salt and pepper, few olives and few veggie sticks is more delicious and satisfying than you would think.
Check the local grocery stores. Now there are good grocery stores everywhere and even if you don’t have a Whole Foods, Sprouts or Natural Grocers in the area where you are traveling, believe me, you will always find broccoli, cauliflower, seasonal greens, salad mixes, sweet potatoes etc etc, all kind of vegetables you can cook with. Some of the best dinners we had were in Airbnbs.
And finally, if you visit friends and family – like it was my case when I went to Europe (my sister in the UK, my mother in low in Denmark and my friends and family in Romania) – have fun going shopping with them and cooking for them. We had amazing dinners with my friends and family. There was a little bit for everyone and we were all happy to share the experience.
The art of ordering lectin-free food
Practice the art of ordering in restaurants, bacause if you are traveling, you don’t want to spend all the time cooking in a kitchen. Enjoy your nights out without stress. Take it as a challenge rather than a burden. And don’t be shy to ask for healthy food. We all know that the demand drives the offering, so the more we ask the more restaurants will think about the oils they use and how they source their ingredients. Look at the paleo community. Many restaurants now have paleo items in their menu.
Now, if you pick a fast food chain, there is no way you can get something healthy, so I don’t want to raise your hopes high. But there are so many local, good restaurants everywhere, some even have special menu items for people on diets (mostly paleo or gluten free). If they don’t, here it is what I learnt by experiencing it first hand.
If you haven’t read it yet, I have an article about eating out in New York City, in case you are traveling there any time soon but it also has tips and tricks for ordering food that you can apply anywhere.
- When it comes to protein, never order chicken, unless is specifically mentioned that is a pasture raised chicken (which you probably won’t find anywhere, and if you do, please let me know as I’d like to know that place).
- Pastured beef (100% grass fed) is difficult to find, but not impossible. If you find it go ahead and order, just make sure you are sharing with someone else and you don’t have more than 4oz per serving (the steaks, especially in the US, are enormous). Make sure you ask the server is they have grass-fed beef, sometimes it’s a special – probably only for connoisseurs – and it’s not added in the menu; they don’t even tell you they have it unless you ask (I have no idea why but I heard chefs always have special thing they cook that are not on any menu).
- My favorite protein to order is a wild caught fish (I always check restaurants menus in advance to see what kind of food they serve). Always ask about the oil they cook in.
- Sometimes, there is no protein option for me, so I go with a salad, or one or two side dishes. I had an amazing dinner in a restaurant just having Brussel sprouts and asparagus. They were delicious.
- Make sure you ask them in advance what oil they use, and ask them if they can replace any non compliant oil with olive oil or butter (which even if it’s not casein A2, is still a better option than canola or peanut oils).
- And above all, be nice and graceful with the staff when you make all these requests, usually they are super nice and accommodating, but it’s good to have a good connection with them for a great dinner experience.
- A glass of red wine or champagne always makes dinner more enjoyable, no matter what you are eating.
- Cheese platters are also an option, ask them what their cheeses are and select the French, Italian, Spanish or Swiss ones. Or goat cheeses. Because my husband is not on a diet, we usually take the whole stuff and I eat only what’s compliant, he eats the rest.
- When it comes to salads, make sure you ask to have it without the dressing and ask for extra virgin olive oil and lemon or vinegar on the side. A piece of tomato or cucumber is easy to remove from the plate, but a dressing is not. Alternatively, you can travel with small jars of olive oil and balsamic in your purse and use them for your salad. Don’t be shy or ashamed, do it with a sense of humor, have a laugh about it with your partner or friends.
- I learned this the hard way; some restaurant have dishes that sound complaint, but when the food comes to the table it has all kind of non-compliant stuff likes chickpeas, peppers, peas, chilly flakes, etc. You don’t want to be disappointed about your food when you are hungry, so nicely ask beforehand if the ingredients on the menu are exactly all the ingredients in the dish, or if they add something else.
- And if you need a reason to give for your requests, just say you have bad reactions to certain ingredients or are on a special diet for health reasons and want to make sure they are not included in the dish. I would not use the allergy reason, unless you really are allergic, because that makes things more difficult for people who are truly allergic.
- Oh, and forget about dessert! I’m sorry to break this news, but there is no way you will find a compliant dessert in a restaurant, nu matter what. If you know you like something sweet at the end of your meal, have a piece of dark chocolate with you or one of your home made desserts.
- And, if none of the above works, get that Lectin Shield out of the purse.
Did I forget something? If you have more specific questions ask me and I’ll add more points to this article if I know the answers.