I’ve spent a great deal of time in airports and other states and have become very familiar with finding food while traveling. Since my travels have mostly been via plane to metropolitan areas, it has been easy for me to pack what I need or find something reasonable in an airport.
Last month, a new challenge came my way — healthy eating while traveling via roadway, cross-country.
I took an 8-day trek with a friend, acting as co-pilot as he made his way to the east coast for new employment opportunities. The challenge of following a gluten, dairy, soy-free whole foods diet on the road were new to me, and definitely not without some slip-ups and hard lessons learned.
Here’s what I have discovered:
1) Wendy’s offers baked potatoes, and can be found along most major highways throughout the country. Pair it with a salad and you can have a reasonably healthy meal in what may seem a completely inhospitable area. A squeeze of fresh lemon can make a great dressing on any vegetable!
2) Sustaining oneself on nuts and trail mix does not lead to satisfaction (at least in my case). Portable sources of satisfying foods to have in the car: tuna or salmon in shelf-stable containment, organic soy or meat jerkies, whole grain crackers (Triscuits can be found anywhere, Mary’s Gone Crackers are gluten-free and at any Whole Foods), rice cakes and nut butters, and raw veggies with hummus can come in VERY handy when you are hungry and there is no decent food in sight.
3) Because I was traveling back west by plane, I did not have a cooler of goodies to take with me. If at all possible, bring a cooler for perishable items like hummus, fresh veggies, open containers of dairy-free milk (you can buy rice and soy milks in 8oz. lunchbox sizes – these are VERY handy when refrigeration is unreliable) and leftovers from restaurants. You can purchase ice daily or get it from hotels, or alternatively have a car-friendly portable cooler with you.
4) Expect slip-ups. When eating out, you cannot control what is happening in someone else’s kitchen. Sometimes, if ill-prepared, all that is offered you is something your body doesn’t favor. Or perhaps you make the epic mistake I did and wait too long, get too hungry, and maul the bread basket when it is placed in front of you. To combat mistakes, accidents, and lapses in judgment, bring along the digestive supplements your body needs to thrive. Depending on your individual condition, you may benefit from digestive enzymes, probiotics, fiber supplements, or hydrochloric acid. Having it on hand can ease the pain of most slip-ups. It took two days to get my system back on track after the breadbasket binge, and I know it would have been longer if I hadn’t been prepared for contamination.
5) Use your best judgment. My understanding has been that bread was one of the least dramatic sensitivities my body has, and soy is one of the highest. I know my body is sensitive to the protein in cow’s milk and cheese, and not as adverse to half and half, which is mostly fat. I know I can get away with some coffee, but not too much. Working with this knowledge, I had drip coffee with a little half and half and avoided soy/dairy lattes, did not punish my car companion by eating soy products, and learned (the hard way) that gluten has a much stronger impact on my body – especially if consumed repeatedly – than I had previously realized.
My next road trip is down the coast in July. I anticipate it will be a much smoother, easier process since I will have a cooler and it will be far less time on the road. I also have the benefit of roadside fruit vendors coming into season, especially as I head south. I’m excited to see how round two goes. If anything notable occurs, I’ll be certain to mention it here!
What is your experience during travel? How do you maintain a healthy diet or avoid foods you are allergic to when you are on the road? Your ideas are valuable gems that can help others; please let me know your healthy travel secrets!