Eating healthy and maintaining your Paleo lifestyle while traveling can be a real challenge.
There are, however some simple yet effective strategies and tips that will support your efforts to maintain balance, reduce stress and retain your sanity whether you are traveling for work, vacation, or out of the country.
1. Eat Well
Maintaining your Paleo nutrition can be a real challenge when staying in hotels and there is little time and fewer facilities to cook.
A stainless steel or BPA free food container packed with Paleo friendly (and airplane friendly in necessary) snacks like beef jerky, macadamia nuts, berries, olives, and dark chocolate.
Eat a big meal before you travel
Prepare for a long travel day ahead by starting with a hearty breakfast and/or lunch before getting on your way. You can then use your snacks for the journey. This saves you from many of the terrible choices at airports and truckstops (although better options are becoming more available)
Fasting is okay
If it is part of your nutrition plan, using your travel time as a period of fasting takes all the stress out of finding and eating Paleo friendly foods. Occasional fasting was certainly built into our Paleo ancestors’ lives, and travel may be an opportunity for you to try it for yourself.
Search for hotels that offer at least a mini-fridge in the room. If you are able to find one with kitchenettes or full kitchens, even better. This will allow you to stock up on your own mini-supply health-promoting foods to keep in your room, giving you options in case you do not want to or cannot eat out.
When searching for hotels, do your research in advance. See how close they are to surrounding grocery stores and markets. Proximity will make it easier to make a stop or two throughout your trip.
Investigate what the hotel breakfast has to offer. Stocking up on hard-boiled eggs or fruit from the breakfast buffet can serve as breakfast or snacks during your trip.
If your hotel is in the United States, you can also pre-order Pete's Paleo meals to be delivered to you to warm up and enjoy.
Lastly, make full use of review sites like Yelp or Trip Advisor to search the city or area you are visiting, along with keywords like 'paleo', 'farm to table', or 'grass-fed'. This will also supply reviews people have made of restaurants and hotels in that city using those keywords.
Depending on the length of your trip and how much room you have to pack food you can take some perishable and non-perishable items with you. This can easily go with you when travelling by car, and you can pack plenty of food in your suitcase, or right in your carry on through security. When travelling internationally be sure to check for limits of bans on fresh produce and animal based products.
Perishable foods can be stored in a mini-cooler or cooler 'shoulder' bag along with gel ice packs to keep them cold during your travel time. When flying, if you are unsure about your ice source being security-friendly, take a large plastic bag and get ice from a drink shop once in the terminal. An electric cooler which plugs into the car or a wall socket to make it into a fridge on demand is a great option for car trips.
To keep foods fresh, store them in airtight (and spill-proof) stainless steel or BPA-free plastic containers that can pack tightly into the space you have available.
Options for travel-friendly perishable foods:
- Vegetables like carrots and broccoli tossed in olive oil or dipped in almond butter
- Hard boiled eggs (pre peeled!)
- Pre-cooked roasted sweet potatoes
- Meats like shrimp, chicken or beef pre-cut into strips
- Single serving packs of guacamole
- Pre-made salad (yes, you can get this through security when lightly dressed)
- Pete's Paleo meals (if your destination has the facilities to warm food)
- Cooked bacon
For long flights, prepare meals to-go. Dry foods are perfectly acceptable to pack in your carry-on. An example would a big salad with meat (pre-dressed olive oil) to eat on the plane during meal time.
Packaged foods or foods that do not require immediate refrigeration make great emergency meals and snacks, especially when spending time overseas or working long hours away from the hotel for work. You can pack these foods in your suitcase, and take some along with you in your carry-on for immediate use.
Options for travel-friendly non-perishable foods:
- Paleo friendly nut and seed bars or meat bars (store bought or home made)
- Nuts and seeds
- Dried or freeze-dried fruit (dried mango or apple chips)
- Individual packets of almond butter or coconut butter
- Individual packets of coconut oil
- Wild-caught salmon (in a pouch, not a can)
- Fresh fruits like apples, bananas, avocados or oranges
- Paleo friendly jerky or cure/dried meats and sausages
- Dark chocolate
Take along your own supply of unprocessed sea salt, olive oil for dressing, and desserts you enjoy like dark chocolate or cookies for the occasional treat. Restaurants typically offer processed table salt, dressings made from vegetable oils, and sugar and grain laden desserts that can cause bloating, headaches, and digestive distress during your trip (things you definitely want to avoid when travelling).
2. Move Well
Staying active can be difficult while on the road, since travel often involves long periods of sitting (whether in planes, trains, or automobiles). Exercise stimulates the immune system, releases endorphins (feel-good chemicals), and keeps your brain functioning well. To stay active during travel:
- Head to the hotel fitness center. When booking your hotel, do your best to ensure it has a good fitness center or at least a connection to a nearby fitness.
- Walk as much as possible. When in a walkable city or town, walk to appointments, restaurants and the like rather than taking a cab.
- Do chair squats. Doing some chair squats to give your muscles some stimulation before.
3. Clean Up Well
One of the biggest challenges of air travel during the winter is protecting against bacteria and viruses. Being on an airplane with people who may be coughing and sneezing is a great way to get sick. This is one of those times when frequent hand washing (or use of hand sanitizer) can make a real difference and help keep you well. Keep some hand sanitizer in your bag for those times when a faucet and soap are not available.
4. Rest well
Rest is as crucial as exercise to maintaining your Paleo lifestyle while on the road. Travel is inherently stressful, and it can be difficult to find some time to relax. Schedule periods of rest into your day, just as you would schedule any other appointment or commitment. This way, when things get busy, as they always do when travelling for work or play, you get a little reminder on your phone that tells you it may be time to make a few minutes to take a break.
Do your best to get a minimum of 7 to 8 hours of sleep on when away, just as you do when at home. This may not always be possible, but it will make a huge impact on maintaining your health.
Manage your stress. Things may fail to go as planned, like delayed or cancelled flights or hotel mix-ups and bad food experiences. Rather than struggle against things that are beyond your control use these unpredicted events as opportunities. These might be opportunities to catch up on phone calls or emails, move around a bit or explore the area you find yourself in.
You want to enjoy your travels and focusing on the minutia of your Paleo lifestyle can detract from that experience. Be okay with doing the best you can with what you have. If you find yourself starving and feel shaky and agitated because you have not eaten, and there is no 100% Paleo-friendly food available, make the best choice with what is available rather than feeling miserable for the next several hours on your flight. In most airports you can at least get a salad with some chicken on top or perhaps a burger with no bun and some lettuce and tomato. This may not be ideal, but it will make do. Similarly, while you may not have time for your full exercise routine, even doing 15–20 minutes of activity in the gym or going for a walk will often make a huge difference in how you feel that day.