I’m just going to say the thing you’re not supposed to say. Traveling makes me super anxious. That’s not saying I don’t enjoy new experiences and new places. But when you’re like me and you have anxieties that revolve around food/germs being far from the comfort of your own kitchen/bed can be difficult. Add an elimination diet on top of that and you get a panic attack inducing affair.
Now, can you guess who’s travelings across the country for twelve days next week? I guess I win that prize. While I’m excited to make the trip because I’ll get to see a good childhood friend get married and spend a week vacationing with my family, I’m also quaking in my boots at how I’m going to handle this. I haven’t even eaten at a restaurant in four months and now I’m going to have to somehow come up with twelve days of meals with no kitchen. Commence panic.
I’ve decided to share my current tips for dieting on the road. Thankfully I have traveled a little bit while on elimination. Quick trips to the beach or to weddings out of state, only for a weekend at most. I’m hoping that using some of the tools that I’ve learned during those quick trips will help make this longer excursion more manageable. While I’m away I’ll keep track of how things go and give a full update when I return!
“I think preparation is probably the greatest anxiety release.”
I agree with Rick above. Being prepared and planning for different situations that I might encounter definitely helps to soothe the anxiety that sits in my chest. For me, being prepared for a trip from a food perspective usually has three stages. Research. Brain Storm. Execute.
Thankfully when going on family trips my mother does most of the accommodation/travel planning. She books the flights and she reserves the hotel rooms. This takes a lot off my mind by not having to worry about where I will stay. If you don’t have someone planning those items for you that should probably be your first step. Look at hotels in the area you plan to travel to. I recommend if you’re on a restricted diet that you get a room with at least a mini fridge and ideally a microwave. Unfortunately, I will only have a mini fridge for this trip. So that goes into my mental notes when I get to the next step.
After you know where you’re staying its time to do some reconnaissance on the surrounding area. How close is the nearest grocery store? What type of store is it? Will you be able to find things you need there with little to no issue? I’m visiting Santa Monica, California. Thankfully the Californian food scene is really geared toward healthy eating. I’ve managed to locate a Trader Joes and a Whole Foods close to my hotel. Because I shop at these chains regularly I already know whats safe and could easily run through the grocery store to pick out what I need. No one wants to spend their whole vacation in Whole Foods (then again maybe you do?).
Then take a peek at restaurants. If you’re on a specific diet, like paleo or vegan, you can see if there are any restaurants that cater to that style of food. I’ve also been on the lookout for juice bars since those are popular out west, fruits are my main stay right now and that could be a good way to get some nutrients in without having to worry too much about ingredients. Another great thing to search for are farmers markets. I’m lucky enough that Santa Monica has three farmers markets a week. This means I’ll be able to load up with fresh fruits and veggies no problem. There also might be some new paleo/vegan products I could try made by local vendors if I got up the courage!
Lastly you always want to try and find new and exciting things to do when you’re on vacation. Don’t forget you’re out there to have fun! By finding things you want to do it gives you something to look forward to which can also help ease that anxiety that threatens to creep up on you. In terms of Santa Monica everything seems to be relatively close, within about a 15 mile radius. While this could equal decent driving time with traffic it opens up a lot of different options for things to do and places to see. Which is always an exciting part of vacation.
Now that we have some idea of where we will be, whats around us, and what we will be doing we have to formulate that into a plan that works for us. Because a lot of my issues are IBS related I would much rather control my food and feel great on vacation than chance it out somewhere and have to spend a day in the bathroom. This means I’m going to have to get pretty resourceful with my food options. By taking a moment to brainstorm potential ideas it can help give you a little comfort that you’re not going into this situation blind. Here are some of my ideas:
- Bring a lunch box/cooler – This will allow for me to bring lunches (like salads or fruit) on the road when we visit different locations. I won’t have to worry if we are out and we have to stop for lunch if there will be something on the menu I can eat.
- Non-perishable snacks are your ally. – I plan to load up on my friendly packaged snacks and also homemade items that I know keep me full and satisfied. Things like granola bars, cookies, and trail mix are going to be vital for those times when snack cravings strike. (They are also great for breakfasts which alleviates stress related around that particular meal)
- Make a list of potential food ideas you can create in the hotel room. – I won’t lie to you. If I had a microwave I could pump out ideas like you wouldn’t believe. Things like rice, sweet potatoes, eggs, and more could be a part of my diet. Since that’s not the case I have to get a little more creative. Some of the ideas I jotted down are: tuna/avocado salad, basic salad, rice crackers and guacamole, raw banana splits (aka bananas with berries and nut butter), hard boiled eggs, apples in nut butter, fresh fruit, dried fruit.
- Take the list of meals/snacks you created and try to plan a day of food. If you have a hard time thinking of an option for a certain meal you might want to take some time to think of food options specifically for that meal. My day might look something like this:
- Breakfast: Banana w/nut butter
- Snack: Dried Fruit
- Lunch: Salad
- Snack: Granola Bar
- Dinner: Tuna/Avocado Salad
- Snack: Chocolate Chips
Now if I had to eat those items 12 days straight I’d probably go insane. That means I will most likely have to eat at a restaurant there’s just no way around it. So next for me to do is try and think up ideas of what I could have at an establishment that would most likely align to my diet. For me this is mainly protein since my vegetables are still so limited through elimination. Don’t forget if you find something out at a restaurant that you can have it may be a good idea to grab an extra serving of it. Keep it in your fridge at the hotel and have some cold steak for breakfast (yum!)
- Steak on the grill no pepper/oil
- Poached salmon
- Poached eggs
- Salad with no dressing
- Steamed veggies
- Grilled Chicken no oil/pepper
- Steamed Rice
I also plan to create little containers of safe oils/herbs so that I can easily season up what would otherwise probably be a very bland dish. I could dress salads, add herbs to grilled chicken, and salt to my hearts content to give my food all the flavor it needs.
Last thing in this category I promise! Something else I’ve found that helps me is to try and think of restaurant categories and try and make a meal in my head. Then I can help to narrow down types of foods that might be easier for me to eat. Let me explain. Let’s say we went out to a Chinese restaurant, ideally, I could have steamed rice with steamed shrimp and avocado. If I bring my own coconut aminos and salt I could have a pretty decent meal on my hands. If we went to an Italian restaurant, I literally couldn’t think of anything else besides grilled chicken and steak. That lets me know maybe Italian isn’t such a great choice.
We’re on to the last step! Now that we’ve come up with our ideas. All that’s left to do is execute. I start out by making a few lists (are you seeing a pattern with the planning here, all about lists). One will be what I make before I leave. Another will be the snacks I plan to bring with me, finally there’s a list for what I have to buy when I arrive. By creating these lists it gives my brain a little comfort in saying I’ve prepared as well as I can. Hopefully now it can busy itself with thinking about having fun and not about food. Here’s a summary of my lists:
- Granola bars (2 batches yield 24 bars)
- Cookies (2 flavors, almond chocolate, and oatmeal cranberry)
- Fruit Bars from Trader Joes
- Seaweed Snacks
- Coconut Chips
- Chocolate Chips
- Dried Fruit/Nuts
- Silverware/Plates (disposable)
- Lunch Box/Sandwich bags
- Buy There
- Fresh Fruit
- Fresh Vegetables
- Canned Fish (tuna, salmon)
- Hard Boiled Eggs
- Oil/Coconut aminos/Herbs
- Handy wipes, to clean out the hotel fridge/be able to clean my hands before eating on the road
Lastly, I wanted to approach the topic of temptation around food and vacation. For me, temptation sits on a different plane that it probably does for others. The repercussions of eating something that doesn’t align to my diet are more debilitating than the waistband on my jeans. It means either I feel great and have less anxiety or I feel awful and have to deal with possibly missing out on vacation fun. This basically trumps the idea of temptation in my mind. Nothing is worth that to me, not cake, not cheese, not bread. For those of you who do deal with temptation and find yourself struggling. Remember, you’re only human. It’s okay to make a mistake and it’s okay to indulge (especially on vacation). If you find you eat a meal that doesn’t align properly to your diet. Shake it off and start fresh and do your best the next time. There is always a way, you just have to find it.
There you have it folks. That’s my way of planning for vacation. While this may seem like a time consuming process it really helps me to stay calm and feel like I’m in control. For those of you with anxiety that have a hard time traveling I definitely recommend trying to be prepared as best as you can. Whether that revolves around what you’re going to do, how you’re going to get around, or the food you’re going to eat. Every little bit helps so that you can truly enjoy you’re vacation. If that anxiety just becomes too much. Remember it’s your vacation. If you need to take some time for yourself and try some stress reducing techniques like meditation, yoga, going for a walk, reading a book, taking a nap, or maybe just watching some TV. Do it! You are in control of your own body. You can do what it takes to calm down. Use the tools that you have at your disposal.
How do you prepare to stick to your diet on vacation? What steps help you? I’d love to hear from you, please comment below. Don’t forget to follow my social channels and subscribe below to get more tips/tricks and recipes directly to your inbox!