• Paleo Travel Lessons from Abroad — Part 2

    Paleo Travel Lessons from Abroad - Part Two | StupidEasyPaleo.com

    [This is the second in a three-part series about my experiences living, eating, cooking and blogging about Paleo in my past four months abroad. Click here for Part One.]

    Americans are lucky when it comes to Paleo. Not only does the movement really have its roots here, but Paleo-friendly products such as coconut oil / butter, coconut aminos and grass-fed meats seem to be increasingly easy to find in mainstream markets. Even many of Paleo’s most well-known books and cookbooks have a North American slant to them. That’s not a criticism; it’s just the way it is. Luckily, though, things seem to be changing. In Part Two, I’m bringing you some of my best advice for staying Paleo with short-term travel. (Long-term travel will be covered in Part Three).

    During my four month stay in Scotland, I was lucky enough to take two short trips: London-Paris and Munich-Salzburg. Lump that together with a trip to Southeast Asia in 2011 and extended travel to spots all around the Western coast of North America, and I’ve got a decent number of trips under my belt, all of them while I’ve been Paleo. I don’t have the most-stamped passport on the block, but I’ve learned some pretty important lessons from my short trips along the way.

    Paleo Travel Lesson #1: Airports are nutrition deserts.

    It’s usually far easier to get Paleo-friendly food when you get to your destination than when you’re in transit. Airports, train stations and truck stops are notoriously terrible for having healthy options. If you aren’t going to sweat the food once you arrive, seriously think about what you’re going to eat while en route. Sometimes (though reader experience may prove otherwise), you can get through airport security with homemade, well-packed food in your carry on. When I left San Diego for Scotland, I brought lots of snacks: cut veggies and fruit, jerky and even hard-boiled eggs. (I ate when the meal was served so I didn’t offend them with any “smells”.)

    Some folks report TSA throwing their food away, and I honestly think there’s no real standard on this, which is really frustrating. If that’s not an option and you’re going on an international flight, many airlines allow you to request special meals in advance of your departure. (I know British Airways, for example, has a gluten-free meal option which I’ve had several times. It’s not the best, but it’s better than the gluten-bomb dinner everyone else gets.) If you’re flying domestic, you may need to make a concession and get whatever looks like the least of all the evil airport food: usually a salad with some meat on it.

    Paleo Travel Lesson #2: Do your homework.

    A little pre-planning and research on food options before you depart is never a bad idea. Know what typical local food options are for the country / region you’re going to and what you’re going to be faced with so you’re not surprised. When I went to Bali, I wasn’t at all shocked to see virtually no beef on any menu; I looked into food ahead of time and learned that the Balinese, being mostly HIndu, don’t eat cows.

    Is it a faux pas to ask for menu substitutions? Are there public markets you can sample local specialities in? What’s going to be seasonal and fresh at the time of year you visit? These are all things to think about.

    Paleo Travel Lesson #3: Bring snacks.

    Bring enough snacky bits to get you through the unexpected. Maybe your tour group is stuck in traffic or it’s miles before the next available food. Fruit and nut bars and homemade jerky aren’t ideal, but they go a long way to quiet your rumbly gut when faced with no food for hours. On my trip to Bali, I made about two dozen homemade jerky packs by using a small vacuum sealer. They came in handy more than once. No time to make something like that? Check out options from Primal Pacs or Epic Bars.

    Paleo Travel Lesson #4: If you’re on business, scope out the area for future trips.

    Will your hotel have a fridge? Will you have a car? What’s available at local markets? If you’re traveling for business and expect to come back to the area again, it may be worth your while to see what’s nearby for subsequent trips.

    Paleo Travel Lesson #5: Decide what’s negotiable.

    This is perhaps the most valuable lesson I’ve learned. Food is a HUGE part of a travel adventure. So much of the cultural experience of a vacation is had through its food. Smooth French wine. Heady Indian spices. Creamy Italian gelato. If it’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip, seriously think if it’s going to make your trip more or less enjoyable to be strict Paleo. If you end up only eating jerky packs on your honeymoon to Tahiti, that sounds über-sad. This is where knowing yourself is really important. If you’re Celiac or milk wrecks your stomach but you’re okay with white rice, then maybe that’s where you can be lenient. Don’t put yourself in a world of hurt, but don’t miss out on the experience of your vacation, either. You can always go back to being strict when you get back to real life.

    When I went to Paris and sat on the back steps of the Chateau de Versailles under bluebird skies and a warm sun, having a bite of crispy baguette during our picnic lunch just seemed right. (Yes, I paid for it later with a sore tummy, but it was worth it because the food was part of the experience that made that day magical.) Here in Scotland, I had the chance to try haggis and black pudding which aren’t Paleo because they contain oats. I ate them anyway, and they were surprisingly delicious. Then, I went back to my normal eating routine.

    You may disagree and / or have a reason why you absolutely couldn’t ever eat XYZ but just consider if being really strict with Paleo will enhance or take away from your experience.

    Paleo Travel Lesson #6: Avoid paralysis by analysis.

    Out to eat at a fabulous restaurant in a international city but all you can think of is whether the meal was cooked in vegetable oil or not?

    Just. Stop.

    Yes, Paleo has guidelines to help improve your health but when you feel you can’t order off the menu because the food is cooked in some unknown oil or might have iodized salt, you’re missing the point. When you’re on that trip of a lifetime, don’t sweat the small stuff. You’ll be back home soon enough where you can control those sorts of things. It’ll make your trip much more enjoyable to relax a bit.

    Stay tuned for Part Three where I’ll delve into longer-term travel tips for Paleo.

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    Steph Gaudreau is a certified holistic nutrition practitioner, weightlifting and mindset coach, and the author of the best-selling Performance Paleo Cookbook. Her recipes and expert advice have been featured in SELF, Outside Magazine, Elle, and Greatist. Steph loves barbells, cats, and anything Lord of the Rings. She lives in San Diego, CA.

    14 thoughts on “Paleo Travel Lessons from Abroad — Part 2

    1. Thanks for these posts. We are going to Dublin for 8 days in mid Feb. and I am so excited! Guiness is absolutely in my plans, but no desserts or scones, candy or other treats. In my opinion, that’s a fine trade-off. I’ve ordered some Yawp bars and we’ll make beef jerky to take with us as well as some raw nuts ans HB eggs. Airport food is a disaster, although I have been noticing more and more stands offering fresh fruit. And it’s great to have something with you for an emergency. I almost always have a “picnic” style lunch from a grocery or a market when I can. It saves you money as well.

    2. We frequently travel to meetings in other countries where the food is served buffet style. Our solution…stck with meat, salads and fruit. It has worked great so far. Breakfast nearly always has eggs of some style, bacon and fruits. As you said- we don’t sweat about the kind of oil it was cooked in or the small stuff but we stck as closely to the plan as possible.

    3. I just returned from 4 months traveling through Central America. The first month was pretty easy to stay paleo (or close to it) but that was because we were stationed in one place. The next 3 months were sooooooo hard! I was constantly on the move, usually eating on the fly or when we saw a food cart. Not all was bad…lots of veggies/fruits and meat, but also lots of rice and beans and sugar and bread. When I returned home I immediately started a whole 30 to reset myself because my body was so out of whack! These are super helpful tips, but also tricky when you are constantly on the move because you don’t have the comfort of packing snacks or being picky sometimes! Maybe I should write a post about Paleo for backpackers…hmmm!
      Thanks for everything you do, love it all!

      1. Your trip sounds phenomenal, Katie!

        You’re very welcome and I think the backpackers post would be a GREAT idea!

    4. Good article and one I can relate to as one of my regrets was, when working in South Korea, being offered to be taken out for a meal with the locals and it turned out to be BBQ’d beef. I was vegetarian at the time so while I was able to eat around it, I didn’t eat the main meal. If I was able to go back in time I’d genuinely like to punch myself in the face for being such an arse, as it was a life opportunity missed (not to mention being somewhat rude) for the sake of “principle”. So my advice: Before getting all high on principle hill ask yourself if there is the chance you may one day want go back in time and punch yourself in the face for doing so?

      Of course if eating something will result in other socially awkward (e.g. toilet centred) issues then it’s not just a matter of principle. Then you’d likely be being polite in not accepting.

      Just a quick note for those mourning for their black pudding: Although the UK black pudding does generally contain oats and/or other grains there are other versions of blood sausage that don’t. For example it’s easy here in Australia to find a German style blood sausage in the supermarket that is just meat (and perhaps some tapioca starch, it’s been a while since I’ve had it). I’d be surprised if you can’t find gluten-free, or suck like, black pudding in the UK now too.

      Oh and another thing: Airports aren’t always deserts, for example, we found a staff restaurant in Kuala Lumpur that serves a range of interesting foods (we eat rice and unless you have issues with it, I’d suggest it’s pretty important to go with it and do so if travelling in SE Asia). There are even reasonable eateries in the airport itself.

      Ultimately it brings up an interesting thought: Many of us eat this way to make ourselves stronger. Travelling however does highlight just how much we end up eating within a bit of a bubble or comfort zone. How strong are we really if, when taken out of this bubble, we collapse under a heap of food issues? I know Robb Wolf has discussed this on his podcast particularly with regards to those in the armed services who cannot guarantee what they may have to eat when on active duty overseas.

      1. Very wise observations, Nick! I definitely had some of those “would I regret this later on if I missed out on a perfectly amazing experience” experiences while I was traveling.

        I think that’s a really important point…at AHS this weekend, there were many of us, myself included, who lamented the whole idea of not finding the foods we are accustomed to while traveling. Really keen observation. I think maybe Z could write a pretty awesome blog post about that.

    5. Great tips!

      About special meals on international flights – I flew to Germany last week and brought my own dinner mostly because I wanted to eat specific foods before a big race. Anyway, the lady next to me had special ordered a gluten free meal. It was chicken with rice (same as the general meal, hopefully prepared separately), with rice cakes. It looked terribly boring and bland!

      Do you have any paleo recommendations for London from your time in the UK? I will be spending a couple of weeks there very soon.

      1. Hi Petra,

        Gluten free meals on the plane are generally pretty bad :/

        Hmmmm not that I can think of. We just sort of ate wherever and I made do by making modifications 🙂

    6. My tips: Stay in either self-catering accommodation or a hostel, that way you can be in charge of the majority of your meals. Also, take advantage of local markets! Europe is a fantastic place to pick up locally grown and reared food: most of my time in Northern Spain was spent eating fresh fruit, vegetables, cured meats and cheeses from the local markets.

      I agree to be more lenient while away, especially if it’s that trip of a life time. A croissant and any French pastry while in France is a must! So is pizza in Italy!

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