FAQ: How Can I Stay Paleo While Traveling?

Nothing will put a damper on a beautiful vacation quicker than getting ‘glutened’ and missing out on an adventure or much needed leisure. Here are a few tips on how to navigate eating well out on the open road.

Define Your Line
My hard line is gluten and soy. While I don’t have Celiac disease, I am pretty intolerant to gluten and I avoid it strictly. Same for soy. However, I can tolerate dairy (especially hard cheese & goat milk products), corn and rice without too much trouble. These are not a part of my regular intake at home, but if I’m on the road and there’s goat cheese on a salad, I’m not going to make a big deal about it. If, however I am ordering eggs benedict (no muffin, extra potatoes), I will ask if there is flour in the hollandaise. There shouldn’t be, but one time I didn’t ask and I lost a morning in Kauai to the porcelain gods.

Set your boundaries and order, shop, and ask questions accordingly. Is it ok to ‘relax’ your restrictions a little while traveling? That’s up for you to decide. Just realize when you’re dining out at restaurants, it’s almost impossible to avoid seed oils. You have to be ok with that for a short period of time – or find a way to make all of your own food. Which sort of defeats the purpose of vacation (IMO).

There’s An App For That
When I travel (which is a lot lately), I use Urban Spoon, Yelp or Google to find restaurants, grocers and markets that fit my lifestyle. I plan ahead, call ahead and make reservations if needed. I look at menus online beforehand. Use the following search terms to narrow the results: Grass fed (burger), Paleo friendly, Organic, Farm to Table, Gluten Free Friendly. Have fun with it! I have discovered some of the best food and awesome people doing this. Recently, Diane and I ended up at a new farm-to-table restaurant in Connecticut on our

Photo Credits - Primal Palate

Photo Credits – Primal Palate

way back from a book signing. The waitress said something like “All of our ingredients are local, organic, and we don’t have a freezer.” The chef/owner came out after and we chatted food for a while and left a copy of Practical Paleo. Yeah, it was awesome! There are new places popping up all over to meet the demand for cleaner food. Don’t discount food trucks either! There are Paleo food trucks in a lot of areas like Cultured Caveman in Portland, or Caveman Food Truck in Indianapolis, for example.

Crowd Source For the Win
Ask your peeps or a page you trust. “Hey, I’m going to be in Austin, Tx – where can I grab a clean bite / grass-fed burger?” My friends Bill & Hayley of Primal Palate have a huge crowd-sourced resource started on their page for this purpose. It’s a city-by-city tour de yum. When you find a great place, be a Paleo pal and add it to their list! Also, make sure to review great places you find on social media using those keywords I gave you above. That way, when someone searches “Paleo Friendly”, your review of that place will come up. Recently on my way through San Francisco airport, a recommendation sent me to Napa Farms Market in terminal 2 where I filled up on pork shoulder, roasted carrots and fingerling potatoes for just $12.50.

Snack Packer
Preparing some healthy snacks ahead of time is key. Getting stuck on a plane or in the middle of nowhere with nothing to eat leads to being hangry and that leads to buying Slim Jims and pork rinds (could be worse). I always pack a few Epic Bars or Nick’s Sticks when I travel. There’s no substitute for clean protein. I also usually pack some nuts, fruit or grain-free granola. Having a small bottle of olive oil & Redmond Real Salt on hand can save you seed oil exposure when ordering salads sans dressing. If you’re trying Asian cuisine, bringing a bottle of coconut aminos is also a smart option. Please use the awesome reference on page 55 of Practical Paleo for tons of great travel friendly foods.

Be Ok With Being ‘That’ Person
Look, if you want to eat healthy you need to ask questions. At restaurants, you’re going to be the one asking about ingredients and special ordering off the menu. It’s fine. People really don’t care as much as you think they do. Unless you’re being a jerk. Be comfortable and confident, but not pushy or snotty. Keep it really simple. When the staff asks if I have any questions about the menu I say, “I’m trying to avoid gluten, so if you can help me out, I’d really appreciate it!” 99% of the time, if you’ve done step #1 right (choosing a good place), they’ll be happy to help. Look for easy substitutes and swaps. Recently, a friend I was dining with wanted the lamb, but not the gnocchi it came with. We noticed another dish on the menu had scalloped potatoes. Boom! Easy G-free swap.

Eating well on the road certainly takes some planning ahead. Just like life at home. But this is your health we’re talking about. Try to find a happy balance between analysis paralysis and a spontaneous junk food fest.

Hope that helps! Feel free to add your ideas in the comments – I’d love to hear what has worked for you.

Yours in Health,

Dr. Scott

10 thoughts on “FAQ: How Can I Stay Paleo While Traveling?

  1. Suzanne

    Great tips! Thanks for this! This will come in handy as I an planning several trips over the next few months!

    That epic bar sounds so bizarre but I’m intrigued! Might have to order a few and try!

    I wish one of those paleo companies would make travel size olive oil and coconut aminos in carry-on TSA approved 3oz size!

    • scottamillsdc Post author

      I’d say order a sampler pack and see what you think 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and for the feedback!

  2. Lara

    Hi. Good links. If I may ask. . . Celiac disease causes great discomfort and diarrhea but you don’t have that, yet still have episodes that lead you to stays on the john. That sounds like a serious problem. So many folks claim gluten sensitivity yet can’t really give a solid (no pun:-) effect or symptoms vary so much in self-reporting, can we really believe that wheat or gluten is the cause? I have a friend who claims he gets cramps when consuming gluten/wheat and of course avoids it, but I’m even doubtful his experience is cause and effect. He gets cramps anyway, perhaps to a lesser degree, I do not know. So, if you ate a small amount of a sauce that had a negligible amount of bleached processed flour, and had THAT trouble, wouldn’t you suspect something more serious? That would mean ANY amount of ‘flour’ would derail you.


    • scottamillsdc Post author

      I’m not sure exactly I’m clear on your question.
      1. Celiac Dz is an autoimmune response to gluten that causes villus atrophy in the small intestine. The great discomfort and diarrhea you refer to are also symptoms.
      2. The effects of gluten exposure to those who have non-celiac gluten intolerance or sensitivity vary greatly. Some people have an intolerance and have mild symptoms they may not even realize, while others (like myself) have fairly clear post-prandial effects. In my case a strong urge to eliminate and my elbows break out into a sort eczema.

      There’s a myth here that goes hand in hand with “everything in moderation” which is that the amount of exposure matters. I’m not aware of any studies regarding does response of gluten for individuals with non-celiac gluten intolerance. Though I’ll take a look…
      I think your question is, for those significant symptoms – is it more than ‘just’ gluten intolerance? The answer is – maybe. Or maybe not. Are there other factors involved like dysbiosis, SIBO, additional concomitant food intolerances? Again, maybe, maybe not. It depends on the individual and for me I know myself pretty well.
      Thanks for the feedback.
      -Dr. Scott

  3. Katherine

    Great ideas! Thanks! When I travel for work, I don’t see beyond the walls of the hotel for days. We haven’t stayed in a hotel that I would trust to prepare my food safely with multiple allergies and intolerances; and I can’t afford to be sick when we’re on the road. I take full meals with me by packing Tanka bars (buffalo jerky), canned sardines, pouches of tuna, veggies that are tough and don’t mind a little beating and lack of refrigeration (romaine lettuce, summer squash, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, sun-dried tomatoes), coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, coconut cream (must have for my coffee), vinegar, and salt. If I want a warmish meal, I send water through the coffeemaker, pour it over my broccoli, let it sit, drain, repeat once or twice more, and stir in my meat of choice. Sometimes I eat better than my coworkers. I use the travel size bottles you can find in the trial size area or health and beauty section of stores to carry my coconut milk, oils, and vinegar. To reduce the chance of food not making it to my destination, I carry most of it in my carry-on bag — lettuce is good cushioning for the laptop. Canned sardines must be checked due to water in the cans.

    • scottamillsdc Post author

      As Robb W would say “Holy Cats!” Great stuff Katherine! Thanks for the coffee maker tip…never thought of that!
      Thanks again for the feedback.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *