Finding food to eat while on vacation is not really a problem for most people. No matter where you travel in this country food is easy to find–quick and convenient the way Americans have learned to like it. However, for those of us who understand the importance of nourishing our bodies, finding healthy food to eat while on vacation can be quite a challenge–a challenge you’ve probably faced before. So what do you do? Well, you basically have two choices–you can give in and say, “Who cares about eating healthy, I’m on vacation.” or you can try to eat the best you can with what’s available to you.
If you decide to just throw in the towel and pig out on unnecessary junk food while on vacation, you may suffer the consequences, especially if you are used to eating healthy. Almost all of my clients who really work hard at eliminating processed junk foods from their diet are amazed at how sensitive they become to it when they haven’t eaten it for a while. You may have experienced this before, especially when it comes to eating sweets. Let’s say for instance that you try your best to avoid sweets, but then give in to the pressure of indulging in some cake and ice cream while celebrating a birthday with friends and family. You’re likely to experience a reaction to the sugar that your body is no longer used to. Eating the innocent little piece of cake and ice cream may give you a headache, possibly nausea or indigestion, it could even make you feel anxious, irritable or depressed, or most likely leave you feeling completely wiped out for the rest of the evening.
My clients often wonder why they are now so sensitive to the junk that they got away with eating for so many years without any immediate reaction. Well, it’s similar to smoking. Let’s say you smoked for 20 years and then after quitting for six months, you took a puff of a cigarette. You’d probably cough, and maybe even feel a little light-headed or dizzy. This is your body’s way of reacting to the cigarette, in the same way it reacts to junk food. So for the typical American whose diet consists mainly of processed foods, pigging out on junk food while on vacation probably won’t make them feel any different from the way they normally do. But if you usually try to avoid junk food, indulging in it while on vacation may leave you feeling miserable. Sure, a little bit won’t kill you, but it may ruin your vacation!
Remember that the purpose of food is to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to function properly. So if you want to achieve your true health potential, you need to nourish your body and take care of it. This isn’t just something you do for a while and then quit, this is what you need to do everyday for the rest of your life–even when you’re on vacation! Here are a few suggestions that can help you make the best food choices while you’re away from home.
Making the Best Choices Possible While Eating Out
When you’re on the road you may have no other option but to eat out at a restaurant. This is an inevitable situation that most of us will never be able to completely avoid. So don’t stress over it! When we know the truth about where our food comes from and what it has been through, it can certainly be difficult to swallow. But worrying about it only makes matters worse and also leads to poor digestion. Try to relax and just do the best you can with what’s available to you. (You might call a local WAPF chapter for some suggestions!)
Here are a few tips to consider when dining out:
Avoid high carbohydrate breakfasts like pancakes, waffles, french toast, bagels or cereal. Too many carbs at one meal cause your blood sugar to spike up and crash–leaving you feeling symptoms like fatigue, depression, irritability, or poor mental function. This is not really a fun way to start your day, especially while you’re on vacation. Instead, choose protein foods (anything from an animal) for breakfast, like eggs. Fried eggs are better than scrambled or omelets, because you never know what is in those packaged egg mixes. Bacon is a better choice than sausage as it contains fewer additives and is unlikely to contain MSG. In some restaurants you can get steak with your eggs. You can even think outside the box and order off the lunch or dinner menu. Best to avoid fruit juices–they are loaded with sugar–and choose fresh fruit instead, such as a half grapefruit or stewed prunes. If constipation is a problem for you when you travel, the latter is an excellent choice.
A big, green leafy salad loaded with vegetables and topped with grilled meat is a good choice for lunch. Ask for olive oil and vinegar for your dressing. If you’re in the mood for a sandwich, avoid those made with white bread and processed luncheon meat. Also, ordering off the dinner menu can expand your options for lunch.
A good choice for dinner would be a piece of meat, served with steamed veggies topped with real butter (ask for butter and put it on yourself), and a green leafy salad on the side with olive oil and vinegar dressing. Your best choice for potato would be baked potato with butter.
Choose meats like Black Angus beef (best quality beef available, although still subjected to conventional farming methods), and other meats that aren’t as mass-produced, such as lamb, buffalo, venison or other wild game. Avoid commercial pork and chicken, which are raised in intense confinement. Avoid all processed meats and hamburger as these tend to be loaded with additives. When choosing fish, keep in mind that fish are only as clean as the water that they swim in. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, good fish choices include: albacore tuna, calamari, clams, Dungeness crab, Pacific halibut, mahi mahi (dolphin fish), rainbow trout, Alaskan and Californian salmon and striped bass (Chesapeake Bay rockfish). Whenever available, choose wild caught fish, preferably from Alaska. Avoid farmed fish.
Avoid soups in all but the most expensive restaurants. Unless you are at a very classy establishment where the chef makes bone broth, the soup will have been made from a “base” of hydrolyzed vegetable protein–another way of saying MSG. The same goes for sauces. Most restaurant sauces are made from a powdered base and are loaded with additives. Don’t be afraid to ask questions: “Is your soup made from a soup base or a bone broth prepared in house?” Some upscale restaurants buy pre-made soups from a company called Kettle Cuisine–these would be a good choice as this company prepares soups with bone broths and real ingredients, not powdered bases.
As for beverage, order sparkling water with pieces of lemon or lime.
When dining out, choose quality steak houses or ethnic restaurants– you may even get lucky and find one that still practices some traditional methods of food preparation. Also if you plan ahead you may be able to locate a restaurant serving organic food in the area where you are traveling. Just remember to do the best with what is available to you, and avoid the unnecessary stuff like white flour bread or rolls, pasta. . . and dessert!
What to Eat When Staying with Others
If you are on vacation visiting friends or family, there is a good chance that they will insist on feeding you while you are a guest in their home. Although their kind hospitality is gratefully appreciated, what do you do if they serve you things like Eggbeaters and toasted Wonder bread topped with margarine for breakfast? Sometimes there are no good choices and you just have to expand your options. You may want to insist on buying the groceries while you are staying with your guests. This will give you some control over the quality of foods that are available for you to eat. Check the phone book for health food stores or natural grocery stores in the area where you are staying. If you can get away for a while to do some exploring you may want to visit a nearby farm to purchase some quality meats or possibly pick up some fresh picked organic produce from a local farmer’s market. You can do a little research on the internet ahead of time or contact a local chapter for sources in the area you will be traveling. This will also give you the opportunity to share real food with the people that you care about–who knows, you may even get a few converts!
Eat well and enjoy your travels!
A Travel Emergency Kit
If you are traveling by car, it’s easy to take a small cooler stocked with items that will provide a few meals and make dining out easier. Be sure to include some sturdy zip-lock bags so you can make fresh ice packs every day to keep things cool.
- Aged hard cheeses, wrapped in parchment paper and stored in air-tight plastic containers
- Ghee in glass jars
- Crispy nuts in air-tight plastic containers
- A small bottle of olive oil to put on salads (many restaurants do not even serve olive oil)
- A small bottle of a good vinegar to put on salads
- Lemons and limes cut into wedges and stored in air-tight containers
- Water in glass bottles
- Kombucha (commercial or homemade) in glass bottles
- Several cans of Pacific (wild) salmon, sardines or anchovies
- Whole grain crackers stored in air-tight plastic containers
- Hard boiled eggs
- Fresh and dried fruit
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2003.