I’m a busy single mom who does a lot of traveling, with and without my kids. Besides the crazy that comes with sports practices and attending home and away games for four competitive athletes, I travel all over the country teaching several classes a month.
In addition to those times away from home, I’ve gone on vacations and humanitarian service missions where I’ve taken my entire family to foreign countries for several days or even weeks at a time.
How do I feed myself and my family well when I’m on the go and away from home so often? I’ve been asked this question countless times, and I’m happy to share with you my strategies.
Car trips are the easier than plane trips to plan for, because they are conducive to bringing coolers and food equipment and quarts of frozen green smoothie. You can eat well even on long car trips, like one we took to Disneyland. We brought enough food and snacks for two meals per day (make sure your hotel has at least a mini-fridge!), and then planned dinners at places like Sweet Tomatoes and Subway (more on restaurants later). Our Disneyland food packing, for a family of 6, looked like this:
- Bags of baby carrots, sliced cucumbers, raw sweet potatoes
- ½ gal. homemade yogurt
- 2 bags Costco spinach
- 1 bag Costco frozen mixed berries
- pint of soaked/drained sunflower seeds (to add to granola for breakfast)
- quart of alfalfa/radish/clover sprouts (to add to granola for breakfast)
- Plastic cups, straws, bowls, spoons, and baggies
- Knife and cutting board for smoothies (I use it even on hotel room tables or vanities)
- Lexan mugs for smoothies
- Backpack for taking food to the parks
- 3 loaves whole-wheat bread
- organic peanut butter-honey mix
- gallon bag of homemade granola
- 3 boxes Rice Dream
- gallon bag of soaked/dehydrated teriyaki almonds
- Tonya’s “For Cryin’ Out Loud Dehydrator Onion Bread”
- bananas (for green smoothies and to add to yogurt for breakfast)
- bags of washed apples, pears, plums
- 5-gallon jug of filtered water
Not only did bringing our own food save us a lot of money, but we also didn’t feel horrible and sleep 10 hours a night to recover from a day of trans fats, chemicals, food dyes, and sugar from eating Disneyland food. Our digestive function didn’t shut down, we didn’t struggle with blood sugar lows and resulting crabbiness. All in all, we may have enjoyed our vacation much more, in addition to saving a boatload of money compared to what we saw others doing.
Traveling by plane for an extended trip (especially with children) takes a little different planning. For example, Europe was a tricky trip and I want share how we went and ate well (5-10 raw vegs/fruits daily) without hassle or excessive expense. We had NO green smoothies because you don’t go to little European hotels with an appliance, nor will an appliance company cover your warranty if you blow it out with the weird plugs in various countries. Plus, we had flights from Venice to Barcelona, and Barcelona to Paris, with strict weight requirements. A turbo blender is just too much weight.
We packed these things in our suitcases to take with us.
- A good powdered greens product, like Ormus Greens. This saved us, nutritionally, in the absence of green smoothies! I’d stir a spoonful into a glass of water for everyone, morning and night.
- Grape Nuts, Shredded Wheat, Costco Granola, and Rice Dream. Double bag the rice milk in gallon Ziploc bags–two fit perfectly in one bag. Remove the Grape Nuts from their boxes (we bought the big Costco ones) and add another layer of protection with a gallon freezer bag. You don’t want these things exploding in your suitcases. Taking these whole-grain packaged cereals lets you avoid being at the mercy of “continental breakfast,” which is never, in any country, an option that will give you sustained energy for the day. Even restaurant breakfasts (which take time from your touring and are expensive) are pretty much never nutritious. We bought bananas in the market, upon arrival, to add to our cereal.
- Paper bowls and plastic spoons (for breakfasts).
- Snacks like sprouted Teryaki Almonds, Costco Bora Bora bars and Trio Bars
For lunch, we’d stop at a market and buy something like this every day:
- 6 nectarines
- 6 large carrots (I never saw baby carrots in Europe)
- A loaf of whole grain bread (a comedy of communication errors in a bread shop in Paris taught me that “complet” is the word in France to describe whole grains!)
- Some local cheeses and mustard and tomatoes for the bread (read John Robbins’ Food Revolution on how European meat/cheese is highly government regulated and not full of antibiotics, steroids, infected pus and other lovelies, like the U.S. products contain)
We’d wash the fruit and carrots, toss all the stuff in a backpack, and stop in a park somewhere to eat each day, like on the steps of the chateau at Versailles in the photo below. Part of the fun was going in the little local grocery markets to see what they have. In Barcelona we bought loaves of the most amazing fresh-baked 6-grain bread just across from our hotel, every morning. Finds like this make you feel at home in a strange city and add to the sense of discovery and accomplishment in your travels.
And dinner we would eat in a restaurant. I’m certainly not going to take my kids to Italy without letting them try gelato, and pizza! (Of course, the pizza bears no resemblance to what is offered here in the U.S., is much better for you, and you can get many lovely vegetarian pizzas, one of the most popular being topped with mounds of raw greens.) Ditto Barcelona, where we enjoyed the paella (vegetarian, of course) and gazpacho. And France? I did not, myself, try the white bread (I’ll tell you why tomorrow) but let the kids do it once because my husband thought it was somehow important in their “experiencing” France. And of course they did fall madly in love with crepes (I’ve never tried that hazelnut/chocolate spread, Nutella, in my life before–I’m going to have to make a mental to note to stay away from it, because it was yummy on crepes). So, we did indulge, but always with a big green salad (never forget Step 2 of 12 Steps!). The Europeans have lots of watercress and other lovely greens that we consider exotic here.
Amazingly, even without my green smoothies, and despite a few servings of gelato and crepes, I came home the same weight and had lots of energy each day for our adventures.
Stateside, Subway is our standby as “fast food” on trips. Here’s what you do: get the “wheat” bread and order a Veggie Delite. Tell the teenaged employee to put on LOTS of cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts, and shredded carrots, and spinach if they have it. Skip the iceberg lettuce and load up on spinach if they have it, and the nutrient-dense veggies. For a sauce, we just do brown mustard.
Then, your sandwich lies there, open, looking a little skimpy. The “sandwich artist” awaits further orders. Do not, in the interest of being polite, leave with that skimpy sandwich. You say, can I have a bunch more tomatoes? Thanks! And how about a lot more cucumbers? (Go through the whole vegetable lineup again if necessary. Smile and use ALL your chatty charisma so as to not completely annoy the sandwich maker.)
When your sandwich is piled high with veggies, they manage to squeeze it shut and package it up for you, and you get a rather nutritious meal—though I recommend the 12-inch to make it filling enough!
Lately I’ve been freezing plastic pint and quart containers of green smoothies, double bagging them, and rolling them into pairs of jeans in my suitcase. This works when the hotel we’ll be arriving at has a fridge. If it doesn’t, you can get some ice and put green smoothies in the sink, with ice, to last till morning, which is a bit of a hassle.
Other restaurants we GPS or Google or MapQuest for our trips are Cafe Rio or Bajio’s for the salad with whole wheat tortilla, no meat, lots of black beans and extra romaine. Salad bar or yellow-squash noodles with veggie toppings at Pizza Factory. If you get a salad at Chili’s/Applebee’s/TGIF/Zupas, I ask for extra romaine on the side and dressing on the side (so you can use a very minimal amount).
We also love it when we can find a Souplantation/Sweet Tomatoes that fits into our driving schedule–their salad bar is the main attraction with tons of excellent options. Avoid Mexican and Chinese restaurants, because they rarely have anything raw on their menu.
And watch for farmer’s markets and fruit stands where you can pick up nature’s original fast foods. Try varieties of fruits and vegetables you may not have seen before, while also supporting the local economy.