A friend of mine from college, Lauren, is a fellow lover of travel but she travels with dietary restrictions after struggling for years learning what she could and couldn’t eat. She shared her whole journey on Facebook and Instagram. I reached out to her and asked if she could share a little about traveling with dietary restrictions when you feel so limited to what you can eat without getting sick. Thanks, Lauren.
Simplicity and planning are two keys when you’re traveling with dietary restrictions. The stress of travel is already draining. You don’t want to add to it with foods that don’t sit well with you or have to deal with the stress of trying to find foods that you can eat. It’ll just bring you down and bog down your trip. When you’re traveling, you want to do everything you can to support yourself so that you can get the most out of your trip – because that’s the whole point…to explore, experience and FEEL good while doing so.
A little background on my health and my experience with dietary restrictions- although I no longer see them as restrictions, I see removing them from my diet as a blessing. I’ve been dealing with chronic and autoimmune conditions since age 12. I’ve been labeled with fibromyalgia, lyme, chronic fatigue and so much more. My health journey has been a hell of a ride.
Three years ago I realized I wasn’t getting better doing what I was doing – pumping myself with pharmaceuticals and eating any and all food you can imagine. I hit rock bottom one day and threw out the pills, cleaned out the cupboard and never looked back! I’ve gone through all sorts of stages of removing, adding in and experimenting with foods, using myself as a guinea-pig-science experiment. I started out slowly by removing one thing at a time… gluten, meat, dairy, processed foods/sugars, soy, grains and so forth. After finding everything that didn’t work, I finally found a combination of things that DO work. I have ultimately ended up as a raw vegan, eating a diet consisting of predominantly fruit, some vegetables and nuts/seeds, which has been what is reversing my chronic and autoimmune conditions (it’s a process).
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During that time of experimentation, I became really good at dealing with the ever-changing dietary restrictions I was going through. I learned how to navigate through social situations, traveling and restaurants – and I’m here to share my experience to make it easier for you to live your life, no matter what dietary restrictions you may have and no matter where you are!
5 Tips for Traveling With Dietary Restrictions
1. Plan Ahead
Do your research before you get on the road! Research the area you’re going to and where you’ll be staying and traveling around. Look into restaurants and their menus – you can literally plan out what you’re going to get at each restaurant before you even leave for the trip if that will make it easier for you! Also, be upfront! You can call and ask them if they will be able to work with your food restrictions. Most restaurants are totally cool with it and they WANT to cater to you.
I like to personally make a list on my phone of restaurant names, the meals I was looking into that would work for me, phone number and the address of the place. This way when I arrive, I don’t have to go back internet surfing trying to remember what is what and which place carries what foods I’m able to eat. A good google search would be wording like “restaurants near/in cityX with gluten-free options/vegetarian options/dairy-free options” and go from there.
I have been known to BYO avocado a time or two… no matter your dietary restrictions, almost every place you go to is going to have some type of salad options, grains, vegetables, simpler side dishes, etc., in some form or fashion. A lot of the sauces and dressings have ingredients that don’t sit well for a lot of people so here’s what I recommend.
If possible, I’ll bring my own avocado, a travel packet of almond or cashew butter and/or a travel packet of coconut aminos. Nut butters makes a great creamy addition on its own in a dish, or mixed with the coconut aminos as a delicious dressing/sauce. The aminos also mix well with lemon juice and a little honey or maple syrup (almost all restaurants have one or the other). Other options are asking to sub any sauce/marinade with simple olive oil, lemon/lime or my favorite, lots of extra guac… because guac goes with and on everything (I’ll order like 3 servings of extra guac – and I’m not sorry about it!). Another idea is to bring mini seasonings to add massive flavor to any dish! Also, if I’m just going to an event or restaurant when not traveling, I make my own dressing at home, put it in my bag and bring it with me!
3. Mix and Match
Mix and match different items on the menu to create what works for you. If you look at an entrée description, you’ll see most of the foods that are in a dish. For example, if I saw a dish that had roasted vegetables or potatoes but what I was ordering didn’t have it, I would either sub out something from my meal or kind of create my own using sides and items from different entrées.
If they have it listed on their menu, that means they have it in the kitchen. Just because they don’t offer it with other entrees or on its own, doesn’t mean they can’t accommodate you and make you up your own serving! Also, if you see a sauce from a different entrée that would work for you, ask to have a side of it.
4. Fruit for Breakfast
Fruit makes the morning meals a breeze wherever you are traveling. Almost anywhere you go for breakfast will have some sort of fruit. A lot of the time they’ll just come as sides or as accents to other dishes, but that means they have some in the back. It’s easy to order let’s say, 5 sides of whatever fruit platter they have (you’ll be full – trust me…order five servings of any fruit platter and then tell me you’re still hungry!).
In a similar sense, you would save time and money if you researched markets/grocery stores ahead of time and bought your own stash of fruits. That way, you can wake up, have your breakfast and start your adventures, having one less meal to worry about trying to accommodate. It’s also a great snack to have on you throughout the day as a snack.
Fruit is a perfect meal and your body’s best friend. And no, fruit does not have too much sugar in it (biggest myth EVER), but don’t get me started…that is totally for a different article.
5. Travel Prepared
Be prepared to succeed and stay full & satisfied. There are a ton of great snacks and foods you can travel with to have with you throughout the duration of your trip. Especially if you’re checking a bag, that means you get a personal item and a carry on. You can bring a bag solely for the purpose of stocking with fruits and snacks.
The fruits are great because that way, you have food on the plane and some for when you land, so you’re not scrambling to get to somewhere to eat right away. You can also stock your suitcase with easy, on-the-go snacks that you can throw in your bag and have with you while you’re traveling. My favorite travel snacks (in no particular order): dried fruit, delicious bars, granola, raw nuts and seeds, crackers, nut butter packets and coconut amino packets.
Traveling with Dietary Restrictions is Possible!
I know it may feel overwhelming at first when you’re adapting to living with food restrictions, but know that you are not alone and it is totally doable! Start playing with the recommendations above and you’ll find that even though it may seem like a lot of planning at first, it really doesn’t take much effort and you’ll become an expert in no time!
I wanted to touch on the emotional/mental part of having dietary restrictions and living life with them. I know how frustrating it can feel going to social situations and restaurants and feeling like there’s nothing for you to eat. It gets easier with a little planning, adapting and becoming creative by working with what’s around you, I promise.
I know it’s taken me awhile to come to a place where I’m comfortable with what I will and will not eat. It’s easy to give in to peer pressure and feel uncomfortable in social settings, but it takes courage and strength to stand up for yourself and feel confident in the choices you make for your body. A lot of times it can feel isolating, embarrassing and like somethings wrong with you, like you’re an inconvenience (YOU’RE NOT). I used to feel like that a lot.
I would feel massive guilt around saying “no” to foods that were being served and what everyone else was eating. I used to feel so uncomfortable at restaurants because I would have to change my order so much: can I please have X without a,b,c,d,e, etc. and can I sub that with this and can I have an extra side of that, actually can I just make up my own dish, etc.
But here’s how I’ve come to see it…we only know one thing FOR SURE: we have the body we’re in for the rest of our time here. Don’t you deserve to feel good and treat it properly, the way it’s asking you? If you eat foods that don’t agree with you just because of other people and then you feel unwell, even sick, then what’s the point? Who has to experience that unpleasantness – YOU DO. This is your vehicle through which you move in this world – feed it the way it’s asking to be fed!
A list of healthy travel snack that you can buy on Amazon, curated by Lauren:
- Dried Fruit
- Coconut Chips
- Banana Chips
- That’s It
- Simple Squares
- Kind Bars
- The Gluten Free Bar
- Redd Superfood Energy Bar
- Purely Elizabeth
- Kind Clusters
- Raw nuts and seeds
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Sunflower Seeds
- Crackers & Chips
- Mary’s Gone
- Rice Cakes
- Jackson’s Honest Chips
- Buddha Bowl Popcorn
- Nut butter packets
- Justin’s Squeeze Packs
- Travel-Friendly Condiments/Spices
- Coconut amino packets
- Travel Size Spice Kit
- Endangered Species
- Alter Eco
- Seaweed Snacks
- Snack Packs (Different Flavors)
- Large Raw Nori Sheets
- Alternative to Wraps
- Raw Wraps Spinach
- Coconut Wraps
Thanks Lauren, for these tips for travel with dietary restrictions!
Author Bio: Lauren is on a mission to ignite a heal-yourself revolution and create something massively different than what’s been going on thus far. Three years ago she went on a journey to heal herself from debilitating chronic & autoimmune conditions and is now successfully overcoming them. She is a Certified Regenerative Detoxification Specialist & Iridologist, working with people to help them identify where and how to start healing themselves. You can follow her on her Instagram, website and subscribe to her soon-to-launch YouTube channel, as well as visit her Shopify store which carries spunky t-shirts for plant enthusiasts. Check out