Ιnteracting with different cultures is the most exciting thing in the world — but for all the fun and enrichment, it can also disrupt a healthy diet. Be honest: Have you ever returned from a trip and just wanted to stay home for a week, detoxing with green juice? Here's typically how it happens: You think, "Well, I'm on vacation. How bad can it be if I indulge for a week or two? I want to experience the culture, and that includes the food." But a couple of donuts and gelato scoops later, you end up feeling heavy and lethargic. And that pretty much kills your stamina and your desire to explore. Thankfully, eating well while traveling is easy — as long as you think ahead. Here's how to do it on the go.

Eating Clean on a Road Trip

 

Pack the right food

Eating well on a road trip is simple: Just plan and then pack wisely. Bring only the items that are absolutely necessary and don’t need to be refrigerated. Shelf-stable foods such as nuts, raw wraps and protein powders are the best. I also like to bring some superfood powders (like maca and acai) stored in zip-top plastic bags so that I can add flavor and nutrients to my shakes.

 

Bring a blender

Making your own smoothies and dips is the best way not to fall into temptation and cheat while on the road. Don’t forget to pack some basic kitchen tools, too: cutlery, a good knife and a small cutting board will make your life easier when you want to improvise a quick salad. Glass containers will be a great aid to store your food and eat it on the go.
 

 

Follow the farmers

Find out when the local farmers markets happen and stop there daily to load up on fresh, local, organic produce. This will allow you to always have access to the highest quality food, even when you don’t have a fridge to store it in.

Photo by Ambra Torelli

 

Create fun stops on the way

Part of taking a road trip includes enjoying the local cuisine, so locate the restaurants and stores along your route that suit your eating habits. While Googling is (almost) always an option, apps and websites like Happy Cow (if you are vegan) and Find Me Gluten Free can be even more useful. Or just tap keywords like "gluten free," "vegan" or "healthy food" into your maps app or Yelp app. Knowing where the healthy options are will prevent you from stopping at the first fast-food joint just because you were hungry and didn’t know where to go. 
 

 

Eating Clean on a Plane

 

Call ahead

Most airlines now give you the option to choose a meal that fits your dietary needs — just be sure to call at least 24 hours ahead of time so the kitchen can prepare it. For example, my favorite airline, Cathay Pacific, offers gluten-free and vegan meals on board and the food is excellent.

 

Ship it

When I'm flying internationally, I have a tendency to show up to the airport with a suitcase so full that I need to sit on top of it to close it. Given that space is really limited when traveling by plane, consider shipping any food and supplements you need to your final destination. When I'm flying out of the country, as soon as I know where I'm staying I place an Amazon or iHerb order to that destination. Having everything waiting for you when you arrive makes you feel at home and keeps you on track.

 

Pack smart snacks

If you're boarding a short flight, make sure you have access to quick, satisfying bites on the plane. Make your own trail mix, kale chips, dried apples and mixed nuts. Alternatively, you can buy clean energy bars with low sugar and no artificial ingredients. Once you're past security, buy a big bottle of water (or fill up your own at a fountain). 

 

Make sure you have no liquids

Yogurt, milk, soups or packaged smoothies won’t make it through security. Double-check what you packed and leave those items at home. If you prefer to bring your own food, make sure it doesn’t contain any liquid elements (salad dressing, for example, is a no-go).

 

Photo by Correen

Read up on the agriculture restrictions

If you're flying internationally, inform yourself about agriculture restrictions. Many countries don’t allow travelers coming from abroad to bring in fresh produce. If flying to the U.S., for example, even if you are flying from Hawaii, make sure you have no whole fruits or vegetables. I usually prepare salads (those are okay because the veggies are chopped) and dishes with cooked vegetables or rice for the plane ride, and I make sure there is no raw food left when it’s time to enter the country and go through customs. You don’t want to endure a massive inspection just because you had an apple in your purse. (Yes, I speak from experience.)

 

Prepare your own plane meal

Remember to make more than one meal if you'll be in the air for a particularly long time. And don’t use any ingredients that would make your meal smell pungent and annoy the passengers sitting next to you: no onions, no garlic, etc. If you need some inspiration, this video is for you.

 

Pack the right way

The night before your flight, store your homemade plane meal in plastic containers and take them with you in a bag that can easily fit on top of your carry-on. Passing through security will be a breeze.

 

 

Eating Clean When Renting an Apartment/House

Photo by Ambra Torelli

 

Scout out a nice kitchen

Make sure the kitchen of the apartment or house you're renting has the appliances and space you need for the meals you plan to make. If the pictures on the website aren’t clear enough, feel free to ask the owner things like: “Can you send more photos? Do you have a blender? Is there an oven?” Having access to a kitchen that you actually enjoy cooking in will make you happy to spend some time creating deliciously healthy meals.

 

Make it feel like home
When you're staying in a place for more than a few days days, renting is the way to go. There’s nothing like a home-cooked meal after a few days of restaurant food, and eating at a real table beats a meal at a hotel desk any day. Make things easier and more comfortable by grabbing a few cheap kitchen tools like a decent knife, a vegetable peeler and a portable spiralizer. You'll start to feel right at home.

 

Photo by Ambra Torelli

 

Live the new culture

Renting a place allows you to really immerse yourself in the culture of the country you're visiting. Cooking with exotic-to-you food, experimenting with new seasonings and discovering previously unknown baking products are all great ways to feel connected to the culture while ensuring you stick to your healthy habits and principles.

 

Find your way around

Learn everything about the area surrounding your place. Where is the smoothie bar? Where is the health-food store? The internet is usually your best advisor, but don't be afraid to ask around — that smoothie-bar owner, for example, can probably point you to the best vegetarian spot or produce market. 

 

Eating Clean in a Hotel

Photo by Ambra Torelli

 

Research in advance

High-end chains are particularly good about catering to their clients' needs. The Fairmont, for example, has a special diet protocol you're asked you to fill out by email ahead of time; this way, staffers know any allergies before you even arrive. That being said, many hotels offer allergy programs. Call ahead to ask a manager if they can accommodate any food allergies, preferences (think: plant or nut milk at the coffee bar) or restrictions. 

 

Stock up on your own water

This might be the most important tip. In fact, staying properly hydrated is the key to staying healthy. When you're out of your routine, it's all too easy to forget to drink enough water. Before I even check in, I've made it a habit to stop at the closest grocery store and buy a six-pack of water. I always want to be sure to have water available in my room and not be tempted to reach for one of those tiny bottles that cost $8. Coconut water is another great way to stay hydrated, especially when it’s really hot outside. Get a few bottles and store them in your minibar (see below).
 

 

Refill your minibar

From the moment I check in, I inform the concierge about my special diet needs and ask them if I can take my own food to the room. They are usually really understanding and send somebody from the room-service department to remove all the sodas and junk food from my minibar so that I can use it as a refrigerator. Don’t forget to ask, though. In many cases, minibars have sensors that automatically charge you when you move one of the items from its place.

 

Find the nearest health-food store

Use Google or Yelp to locate a health-food store. If you come up empty, most basic groceries will do. Nowadays, even generic markets offer an organic produce section — and if you need ideas about what to buy, watch this video where I show how I always eat well in a hotel room and share ideas for preparing healthy food on the go.

 

Eating Clean in Restaurants

 

Be picky with your selection

I make it a point to find restaurants that have separate gluten-free kitchens (again, Google is your best friend) so that there's no risk of cross-contamination. In case I can’t find any, I check the online menu of the restaurant I want to go to and see if they have any items that can be safe. When I get there, I make sure to inform the waiter about my food intolerances. I ask them to boil my gluten-free pasta in a separate pot and to make sure none of the foods they serve are seasoned with butter any other ingredients containing lactose. Don’t be afraid to ask about specific ingredient lists! It's your right to know what they put on your plate and it's the server's job to be aware of allergens and contamination issues. If you're vegan or vegetarian, don't hesitate to speak up and ask which menu items are plant based or what can be modified to remove animal-based ingredients. (It helps to know these words in other languages, too.) Also, consider bringing a card with a list of foods you're allergic to and ask the waiter to give it to the chef.

Coconut Milk Curry at Vida Rica Mandarin Oriental Macau. Photo by Ambra Torelli

 

 

Reserve your table during off-peak hours

Busy restaurants are less likely to slow down and address your personal needs. Either show up during off-peak hours or try to speak directly with the head chef or a manager. A good habit is to never show up starving. You don’t always know in advance whether the kitchen will be able to accommodate your needs, and when your stomach is empty you’ll be more likely to make mistakes when ordering. Always keeping a healthy energy bar in your purse, pocket or travel bag is a good habit should you run into this kind of situation. 

 

Avoid buffets and salad bars

This tip is particularly valuable for people with food allergies. In places like buffets and salad bars, cross-contamination is highly likely because of spills and shared serving spoons. And since the food served wasn’t prepared specifically for you, it might have been contaminated in the kitchen. A hot food and salad bar at a place like Whole Foods, for example, can be ideal when you need a fast, healthy stop, but it can also be dangerous if you have bad allergies.



Ask them to cook your own food

Many times restaurants don’t have the special foods you need in order to avoid allergens. When I'm in Asia, for example, I always bring a small jar of coconut oil and ask the chef if they can use that instead of the default vegetable oil. You can do the same by bringing your own gluten-free pasta or vegan bread. But remember, you get what you pay for. If you're looking for this personalized care, it’s way more likely that higher-end restaurants will be able to accommodate you. The restaurants at Mandarin Oriental hotels, for example, are particularly fantastic in this regard.


By Ambra Torelli

Ambra Torelli is a healthy food, travel & lifestyle blogger who shares allergy free recipes, tips to live an organic and natural lifestyle and the awesome places she gets to visit on her blog.