When I travel I think about food. Partly because I like to eat, and partly because I choose to avoid certain foods for both health and ethical reasons. It’s important to me to eat foods that make me feel well all the time, not just at home. This means more thought, more effort, and more commitment when I’m not on my home turf.
Now that’s not to say that I might not be more flexible when I’m traveling but the non-negotiables for me (no gluten, no dairy, and no commercially raised animals) are non–negotiables if I’m at home or away. It’s a values thing for me. My values don’t go away on vacation. Feeling well and taking care of my body are paramount.
AND…my values are my own. Your values are your own.
If it’s more important for you to be carefree on vacation than it is to stick to your eating plan, if you don’t mind gaining a few pounds or dealing with whatever it is that comes down the pike from getting ‘off track’, so what? If a short period of indulgence doesn’t make you feel regretful on the other side, and you’re not dealing with a concerning health issue (celiac disease, diabetes, etc) that will be impacted significantly by short term indiscretions then seriously, don’t worry about it. As long as you’re not traveling a week out of every month, enjoy, relax, and stay the course when you get home.
The key is to get clear on your priorities and your values around your own health, energy, and general state of mind. If it’s part of your values system to feel well, to keep your weight in check, to avoid foods that you know undermine your health, period, is it ok for you to chuck it on vacation? Perhaps. Your call. But know either way it’s a choice. A choice within your control.
If it’s right for you, know that you can stick to your nutritional guns and still really enjoy your vacation. Really.
Don’t believe me? Here are my top 5 tricks for eating healthfully while you’re away from home.
1. Choose to stay somewhere you can cook some of your meals, or at least keep healthy foods on hand. Often you can get a hotel with a kitchenette. If not, you can rent something on airbnb or VRBO. As a last ditch option you can at least request a small fridge be placed in your room. I’ve yet to find a hotel that couldn’t do that for me.
2. Find the local health food stores. In any large city and most towns near large cities these days there are health food stores and almost all big box stores have organic sections and health food options. At Costco you can get large bags of wild salmon patties, frozen spinach and gluten-free pasta. Ditto for Trader Joes and Safeway. Find out where the health food stores are are before you go, or call the local markets and find out if you can get what you need. When I’m in NYC I often choose a rental that is in easy transit to a Whole Foods. I have one patient who actually only chooses vacation spots where she is within walking distance to this kind of store. With google at your fingertips you can work this out all from the comfort of your own home.
3. Do your restaurant research before you head out. These days most restaurants have menus on line. You can choose restaurants ahead of time, and even call in to find out if your needs can be accommodated without putting out the staff.
4. Pack it in. Bring some food with you. Nuts, bars, GF pasta, whatever you need. When I travel I’ll often bring a loaf of my favorite gluten-free bread (Happy Campers for those of you in Portland). I’ll freeze it and stick it in my bag.
5. State your intentions. If you’re going to visit your family, tell them ahead of time what you’re doing and why. Don’t worry about what they think. Stand firm in what you know is right for you. If you’re going on vacation with friends let them know the same thing. This doesn’t mean being whiny and demanding that everyone bend to your whim and cook you special meals, but you can always eat something before you go out or ask if it’s ok if you pick out some restaurants that will work for you.
Figure out what’s right for you and follow through. You deserve it!
Yours In Health,