Do you struggle to know how To Travel Low Carb, Whole30 and Paleo? This is part 1 of a series. Follow these easy guidelines and you can navigate business lunches and hotel catering easily.
How To Travel Low Carb, Whole30 and Paleo - Part 1
Whether you are travelling on business or on a family vacation, here are my best tips on eating Low Carb, Whole30, Paleo and real food as often as you can whilst away from home. If you make some simple changes, you can eat amazingly well. Read Part 2 which covers self-catering holidays.
First, think differently. Think simple meat, fish, and vegetables. Eat real food as often as you can but don't be discouraged if there are occasions where there is no alternative. Eat the best option there is available. Travel is stressful enough without having the added stress of worrying that you had a bad meal or snack.
The options I have given below will have to be tailored to how strict you need to be depending on your situation. So you would be far stricter if you are still wanting to lose weight or control a medical condition, compared to those who want to do the best they can, as often as they can.
Before you even leave home, plan snacks (see below) until you catch your flight, cruise, train etc. When you fly you can usually choose your meal ahead of departure, or even better, many airlines now the meals are optional so you can take your own low carb, Whole30 or paleo food and snacks.
If meals are provided take a look at the different options. These will vary enormously with each airline or carrier so maybe make a phone call or visit their website for the full breakdown. It will be on their website under "Special Meals".
- Diabetic - may have less sugar or carbs but may also have whole grains, potatoes and other starchy low GI foods.
- Vegetarian - many rely heavily on pasta, rice and bread
- Gluten intolerant - it may be gluten-free but may be higher in carbs as GF products are made with tapioca starch or rice flour. British Airways state their meal is free from "wheat or wheat flour, barley oats and rye, bread, cakes (unless wheat free), pastry, sausages or any flour-based products". This is probably the best option for remaining wheat-free but not necessarily low carb or grain-free.
- Low Calorie - reduced protein and fat so won't keep you full for very long. May also contain wholegrain products.
- Low Fat - so maybe high carb.
No meal will be perfect and each airline will be incredibly different, even which country you are departing from will dictate how strict they are with each special meal. Choose the best option for your situation and resign yourself that you may have to leave a few items in the tray uneaten.
Drinks, go for water (still or sparkling), tea/coffee if allowed on your eating plan. If you are going to enjoy an alcoholic drink, choose red wine or a spirit with a diet mixer. Don't go for beer, cocktails, sweet wine or liqueurs.
And remember fruit juice can contain as much sugar as some sodas. If you're children really want a juice as a treat, dilute it half with sparkling water and call it a "mocktail".
Choose hotels where the breakfast is fabulous, it will save you $$$ all day long. If you have no choice over accommodation because of business or budget, then choose the best you can from their breakfast menu or avoid it altogether. Hotel breakfasts can be hit and miss. I have stayed in hotels with just fruit, croissants and low-fat yoghurt (basically a sugar feast) and I have also stayed at hotels with THE best breakfast buffet you have ever seen.
Avoid all the bread, toast, pancakes, jam, waffles, maple syrup and fruity sweet yoghurts. We went for the full cooked breakfast with scrambled eggs with cream, bacon, black pudding, tomatoes, mushrooms - bliss. That meal set me up all day and I didn't eat until 3 pm or even dinner.
Children however will still be hungry at lunch, but they won't need snacks as often if you can fill them up on a healthy sustaining breakfast. I tell my children to choose breakfast, not a dessert - they know what I mean. They are allowed treats for sure, they're on holiday, but not every meal, all day long.
Continental breakfasts are brilliant. Cheese, cold meats, sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, olives and fruit. Natural yoghurt, nuts and berries are all fabulous options.
Before you leave, look online at the restaurant's menu. Choose dishes which are the simplest and have the least ingredients. Avoid all the pasta, rice and bread options. Don't choose meals which have heavy sauces which may be laden with sugar or flour. And don't go hungry so you give in at the end and order a blow out dessert which you will regret as soon as you finish it.
My go-to meal EVERY time we eat out is a chicken caesar salad. I ask for it without the croutons but ask politely if they can add some extra salad to make up the volume. I have never encountered a problem asking for this simple swap, I don't believe in making numerous substitutions as the chef has gone to the trouble of creating their menu, and doesn't need me to change half a dozen ingredients to suit my requirements.
Other great options are steak or fish with salad/vegetables, soups (no bread), vegetable bakes, and even all-day breakfast with eggs, bacon and mushrooms.
More ideas for eating out and remaining low carb, Whole30 or paleo:
- snack before you leave so you are not ravenous by mealtime and make the wrong choices
- swap fries for extra vegetables or salad
- if you don't know the ingredients, swap their shop-bought mayonnaise for olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice
- ask to not have bread served at the table
- ask for a burger but without the bread bun, and the salad on the side
- choose a stir fry or curry, but without the rice. Choose more vegetable sides instead
- antipasti platters are a great option that will have cured meats, olives, cheese and vegetables
- go without the sticky sauces and dips
- if a sandwich or deli is the only option, choose as much salad and meat fillings as possible (no sauces) then remove the top bun and eat the filling with a fork
- buffets are great if the options include salad, meats, cheese and vegetables. Avoid them if it's all pizza and pasta
- if McDonald's is the only option left, ask for a burger and replace the fries with a green salad. Choose water, not soda or juice. Do not touch their desserts. Go and buy some fruit on the way home.
If you ever wanted to give up french fries but find it really hard, take a look at this video made BY McDonald's answering the question "Why do french fries contain 17 ingredients"? Well, actually they contain 19! Knowing what goes into food makes it easier to say no. UPDATE: McDonald's has removed their video explaining exactly WHY they use 17 ingredients. This alternative video I found is possibly even more enlightening.
Get some zip lock bags. Pack them up with your favourite low carb, Whole30 or paleo snacks. Bring an insulated bag or lunch box with a freezer block to keep snacks cool and fresh. Frozen water bottles also work well which can be drunk as it melts during the day.
- Ham and cheese roll-ups
- Low carb fruit such as berries (not dried fruit which has as much sugar like candy and very little nutrition)
- Boiled eggs
- Beef jerky
- Tiny tins of tuna (you may not want to eat this next to someone on a plane out of courtesy)
- Fresh coconut chunks
- Vegetable sticks such as carrots, peppers, cucumber and celery
- Paleo scotch eggs
- Salmon and cream cheese bites
Take a look at these pages for more ideas:
FREE printable healthy sugar-free snacks
So next time you travel be prepared and don't get stressed because you couldn't eat how you would like for the occasional meal. Some days there are no healthy solutions. For me, I would rather go without or delay a meal for a few hours until I can find somewhere, but it is a different story with children. They want food and they want it now. It makes even more sense to plan with them in mind. It also makes more sense not to feed them processed carbs as they will just be hungry again in an hour or so.
With everything in life "do the best you can, as often as you can".
I'd love to hear your travel tips. Leave a comment below and see if we can collect even more great ideas.
And if you;re heading off to sleep under the stars, take a look at the keto camping food lists.