Mindful Traveling with Food Sensitivities & Allergies

Eating at a picnic. Unsplash - Evangelina Silina

Traveling and spontaneity go hand in hand, but when you want to maintain your great nutritional intentions and if you have food sensitivities and allergies, planning and foresight are essential ingredients.

Road trips, picnics, hiking, day trips, concerts, barbecues and patios are a huge part of our travel and summer experience but they can pose challenges, stress, and anxiety when you wonder if there will be foods you can enjoy.

The key is to take the time before you go anywhere to be prepared. The effort and time it takes to plan, pack snacks and meals that you know will make you feel your best is so worth it because ultimately at the end of the day, you just want to feel your best while away!

The following are some important considerations as you plan your next adventure.

Communicate

Recently I had a client ask me how to navigate telling her friends she wasn’t able to eat dairy, gluten, or drink alcohol. As the warmer weather had arrived she was spending more time outdoors going canoeing, hiking, and having shared picnics. She didn’t want to feel like a burden telling her friends she couldn’t eat certain foods.

I replied to her, “A burden? Wouldn’t your friends want to know if they were packing food that wasn’t making you feel well? Don’t they deserve to know if they were compromising your health? They would want to know that they were helping to make you feel amazing vs. sick while together, wouldn’t they?”

Friends don’t let friends feel sick! Your friends and family want you to feel amazing and not suffer in silence. Wouldn’t they rather know you were feeling comfortable vs bloated, energized vs fatigued, and having a great time vs being in pain and needing to go home early? You should never feel like having food sensitivities and allergies are a problem for others. In fact, your family and friends may just benefit from avoiding common food allergies like gluten, dairy, soy, corn, and peanuts, and notice that they feel better when they eat the foods that you can. Not to mention, talking about food and its impact on health often makes for a great conversation!

Friends enjoying a picnic and drinks

My client realized that when she did pack her own food that made her feel her best or that when her friends brought foods she could eat, and that drinking Kombucha in place of wine did not deter from any fun, it was a huge relief for her. Most importantly, when she explained WHY she was avoiding certain foods, all her friends wanted to do was support her.

Bottom line, speak your truth and communicate your needs around food when traveling or eating together with others. It makes for a much more pleasurable experience for everyone.

Bring Your Food with You

Just as you pack your clothes, take the time and effort to pack your food too!

Growing up one of my best friends had lots of food allergies and when we went away she always brought a cooler full of food with her, which sometimes seemed larger than her suitcase! Together we would empty the minibar and load it up with her food. What she brought looked so good and healthy compared to what we were having! She would pack chicken, salads, cut-up vegetables, fresh fruit, pre-measured fruit and powders in baggies, and a mini blender for her protein shakes. She never felt embarrassed about this or like she was a nuisance. It was a learning opportunity for me and I was just so glad to know that I could support her in feeling really good while we were away.

It takes time and an extra bag but having foods that make you feel your best at your fingertips is much easier to do than grabbing foods while away that will negatively impact your health. Don’t let that ruin your vacation.

Do your Research and Plan Ahead

Before you travel, look up different health food stores that are on your way or near your hotel. Health food stores and local markets are always great places to stop to stock up on allergen-free snacks and easy-to-go meals to have in your bag or room.

Many years ago, I spent 7 days in a hotel for a seminar and I knew I wanted to eat really well to keep my energy high and I really didn’t want to rely on restaurant food or spend a lot of money eating out every meal. I made an effort to look up the nearest Whole Foods, and I grabbed a cab, went grocery shopping, and loaded up my hotel minibar with healthy foods that I knew would make me feel my best. It was fun, a way to see a different part of the city and it was really easy to do it. Definitely worth the trip!

Pick your Restaurants

Just like you would pre-plan your hike or excursion or places you want to visit while traveling, do some research and look for allergy-friendly restaurants. You will likely find some amazing new places to eat that will not only taste fantastic but will leave you feeling really good.

Enjoying a meal at a restaurant.

Food allergies and sensitivities are much more “mainstream” than they used to be. It is very rare to not see written on a restaurant menu, “let us know if you have any food allergies.” Many menus now usually have gluten and dairy-free options or even Keto and Paleo options so it becomes easier to order and avoid some of the most common food allergens. Servers and chefs are very used to people making substitutions, so don’t feel like you are being annoying or a problem when asking for a meal that you know is safe for you to eat. After all, you are paying for the meal, so it might as well make you feel good vs ill!

Pack your Digestive Armor

You wouldn’t leave home without your toothbrush, so don’t forget to pack your digestive enzymes, probiotics and any other digestive supports if you use them. These are great arsenal for those moments that you can’t always control. Taking these with each meal while away will make a big difference in your ability to digest what you are eating.

Veering Off Path

When you have a true food allergy, veering off path is never ideal as it will trigger a negative response in your body, like severe stomach pain and urgency to go to the bathroom, or an autoimmune flare-up, such as pain and inflammation. You always want to feel your best, especially when traveling so it’s just not worth it to take a chance.

When considering food sensitivities, however, sometimes veering off path will let you know what works for you and what doesn’t. For example, if you have been avoiding wheat for a while because you know you are intolerant to it and it doesn’t make you feel great, you may experiment with it from time to time to see how it is affecting you. It is possible to overcome food sensitivities, especially if you are working with a Nutrition or Health Expert that is helping you to restore and strengthen your gut function. When you do have an occasional Off Path moment, you may find that you may be able to tolerate that food from time to time, in small amounts, or you may just learn that it really doesn’t work well for you. These moments offer you an opportunity to learn more about your body and food. Thank your body for the feedback and get right back On Path.

Be Mindful of Your Thoughts

Stress is often a big player in creating a reaction to food. If you do have food sensitivities and allergies, the power of your thoughts and the state of calm that you bring to your meal is essential. If you have fear and anxiety about what you are eating, your body goes into sympathetic dominance and your digestive system works inefficiently, meaning your ability to digest, break down protein and assimilate food is weakened. When you eat in this state, you will likely be more reactive to food. The most important nutrient to bring to the table is calm. When you are relaxed, trusting that your body will tolerate what you are eating and you eat with joy, you awaken the parasympathetic state, where digestion is working at its best — efficiently and effectively.

Eating brunch at a restaurant during vacation

I have had many clients tell me over the years that they can often tolerate certain foods while on vacation that they normally wouldn’t be able to at home, and that is because they are much more relaxed while away. Your state of stress plays a huge role in how your body receives food, so the more relaxed and at ease you can be while eating, the better. Be mindful of this and your thoughts while traveling.

So my friends don’t let your allergies and food intolerances get you down! There are always options and new foods and places to try and experience. There is no doubt, it adds another element that you have to think about, plan for and be conscious of but it can open the door to new exciting foods, improved health, growth, learning, and joy.


Amy Bondar is a leading Nutrition expert and Certified Eating Psychology Coach who is passionate about helping her clients achieve maximum health and vitality through personalized nutrition and lifestyle coaching.

Amy Bondar’s comprehensive skill-set, two decades of experience and compassionate approach have allowed hundreds of people to achieve the vitality we all desire, and deserve.

The days of generic meal plans, fad diets, yo-yo dieting and simple advice about calories and carbs are long gone. When you work with Amy you will have strategies and learn nutrition principles that are nourishing, doable, sustainable, personalized and that yield results.

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