My husband Matt and I were in Marfa, Texas last week. It's been a destination high on our travel list for a while now, and we spent our five days soaking up the city’s art scene (and tacos), and traversing to Big Bend National Park for adventures in hot springs and hiking. He’s on a quest to see every National Park in America, which means that, coincidentally, so am I.
Although he happily eats every meat and dairy-free dish I cook at home, Matt and I have different diets, and when we vacation together it’s vital that every meal we share is a robust celebration of the flavors, nutritional profiles, and cuisines that excite us both. Eating is a soulful, social experience, especially when traveling, and I don't believe one person’s special diet has to dictate the culinary tone of an entire trip. Traveling when you have a special diet does require some compromise, and perhaps a few shifts in habit. But if I’ve learned anything it’s that with a little preparation, you and your travel partners can enjoy a food-forward excursion where everyone leaves satisfied.
Tried and true, these are my favorite hacks for keeping hanger at bay while on the road.
1. Research, research, research
You’re not going to get out of this without some upfront planning. But it’s fun! I promise. Before every trip I scour the local area for restaurants with dairy-free vegetarian options. Sometimes this means calling ahead to see how flexible they are, other times if they’re particularly popular it means making reservations weeks in advance. Happy Cow is an excellent website and app that lets you search by zip code or city to find all the vegan, vegetarian, and vegetarian-friendly restaurants/grocers available in the area. Once I've done all my research, I pull together a list of nearby grocery stores and the best places for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, where they are, and any special hours. Tucking it into the "notes" app on my phone ensures it's always handy. I’ll often vet menus beforehand with my husband or traveling partners to make sure the offerings appeal to them as well. Being hangry is not a good vacation look. And I go white-hot blind when it’s feeding time.
2. Make sure to prep some snacks
Places that are not abundant with options for special diets: airports and small desert towns in the middle of nowhere. These are recurring themes in my life, so it’s helpful to make or shop for snacks before a trip so I’m not left wandering an airport’s food desert, or the literal desert, without something to tide me over until the next meal. Heidi Swanson has always inspired me with the gorgeous, flavorful, travel-friendly meals she shares on her blog. Homemade granola bars, a cold soba noodle salad, popcorn, cut fruit, a sandwich, granola, and giant bags of trail mix have each saved my life at one point. Toting my own water bottle helps too, reducing waste and saving tons of money on bottled water. That’s the other thing—eating healthy at the airport is expensive! I recently spotted a half-pound of raw nuts at LaGuardia boldly priced at $12.99. Nope.
3. Consider an Airbnb
In a big city, hotels are a great option, but in smaller, more remote towns Airbnb is the way to go. A. It’s often cheaper, and you get a taste of how the locals live. B. When you have total control of your space you can load up on your favorite staples, so you have a kitchen stocked with food that’s nourishing for the entire group. It’s also easier on the gut and far cheaper than eating out three times a day. Our Airbnb saved us in Marfa. Although there were abundant options for breakfast and lunch, the restaurants in our area didn't have a lot of vegetarian food on their dinner menus (why do so many restaurants think that pasta and portobello steaks are the only thing vegetarians want to eat? Newsflash: no.) So each night we stopped by our new favorite place, The Get Go, picked up ingredients to make tacos, and cooked a big feast at home. It was charming, and cheap, and intimate, and way better than another balsamic-drizzled portobello steak. (No offense if that's your jam).
4. Load up on stomach soothers
It’s a fact of life: traveling messes with your stomach. It’s dehydrating, your body is trying to adjust to habits outside your normal routine, and no matter how healthy your choices are, the excess oil and salt loaded into restaurant food is not a gut-friendly situation. I always travel with a satchel of my favorite teas: green, ginger, turmeric, and a detox or laxative tea like Smooth Move, to help ease my stomach through any rougher moments. Real talk: who hasn’t gotten constipated while traveling? Pair that with the bathing suit realities of a tropical vacay or an 8-hour hike in the mountains and you’re not sitting pretty. This is also a great time to load up on probiotics for all their gut-friendly magic, like boosting the immune system, easing digestion, fending off food-born illnesses, and increasing vitamin and mineral absorption. Friendly Force is my favorite, and it’s also available on Amazon Prime for those getting their act together at the last minute. Pro tip: double your traditional daily dose of hydration while traveling. It’s going to help flush out any toxins, decrease the noxious side effects of flying, reduce headaches and unnecessary bouts of hunger, and soothe the after-effects of that extra glass of wine you thought was a good idea last night.
5. Ship ahead!
Don't be afraid to ship a box of your favorite staples ahead to a hotel or Airbnb rental! Order them on Amazon or Thrive Market (I'm a huge fan), and feel comforted that you're going to arrive having everything you need on-site and ready to go.
Habit Shift is a new feature on the blog, where I'll share small changes you can make to encourage healthier, happier, more sustainable changes to your life and daily routines. What are some habit shifts you'd like to make? Let me know in the comments and we'll tackle them together! Or schedule a complimentary 60-minute consultation with me so we can talk more in-depth.