Ways to eat super healthy while traveling
Home Metabolic Dietary Therapy: Fasting, Keto and Functional Foods How to keep your super healthy diet while traveling

How to keep your super healthy diet while traveling

by Maggie Jones

The year and a half following our move from LA to Hong Kong and my terminal cancer diagnosis, I traveled by plane, train or boat 30 times to 22 different cities in 10 countries across three continents.

  • Manilla, Philippines, October 2018 – plane
  • Singapore, November 2018– plane
  • Macau, China SAR, December 2018- boat
  • Bangkok, Thailand, December 2018– plane
  • Phuket, Thailand, December 2018– plane
  • Seattle, Washington, USA, January 2019- plane
  • Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA, January 2019– plane
  • Austin, Texas, USA, January 2019- plane
  • Rochester, Minnesota, USA, January 2019– plane
  • Baltimore, Maryland, USA, February 2019– plane
  • New York, New York, USA, February 2019– train
  • Austin, Texas, USA, February 2019– plane
  • Tokyo, Japan, March 2019– plane
  • Kyoto, Japan, April 2019– train
  • Los Angeles, California, USA, April 2019– plane
  • Austin, Texas, USA, April 2019– plane
  • Guilin, China, May 2019 – plane
  • Yangshuo, China, May 2019 – boat
  • Hanoi, Vietnam, June 2019 – plane
  • Beijing, China, June 2019 – plane
  • Rochester, Minnesota, USA, July 2019 – plane
  • Bali, Indonesia, September 2019– plane
  • Los Angeles, California, USA, October 2019 – plane
  • Seattle, Washington, USA, December 2019 – plane
  • Austin, Texas, USA, December 2019 – plane
  • Pattaya, Thailand, January 2020 – plane
  • Los Angeles, California, USA, February 2020 – plane
  • Seattle, Washington, USA, February 2020 – plane
  • London, England, UK, March-July 2020 – plane
  • Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, July 2020 – train

Some of these trips were short weekend getaways or overnight runs to pick up my meds from the US. Some of these were stays that extended weeks or, in the case of London, months.

The amazing thing is, Brad and I never got sick once despite all that travel. I credit our good health to our ultra-clean, ultra-healing plant-based, ketogenic diet. So it was especially important that I maintained that way of eating no matter the city or circumstances.

Here are some tips I picked up along the way.

Bring your own food

Have on hand travel-sized portions of foods that fit your way of eating. My emergency travel stash includes:

  • Organic green tea (I actually bring my own tea to China so I can ensure it’s organic..)
  • Packets of raw, organic almond butter
  • Flaxseed crackers
  • 100% cacao chocolate bars
  • Organic coconut butter
  • Nuts: bags of raw pecans and almonds are my favorite
  • Organic miso soup packets
  • What I like to call my “Purse olives
  • Packets of raw, organic coconut oil (for bulletproof coffee) 
  • Seaweed snacks (excellent for a plane flight when the attendant is handing out pretzels)
  • Organic vegan bouillon cubes

Don’t make food your primary entertainment

I used to associate travel with food. I thought that eating like the locals was the only way to experience a different culture. While food is certainly important to a culture, you can still soak it up through the smells, sounds and atmosphere by simply walking through a city or the countryside.

Our favorite non-food-and-drink travel experiences include:

  • Visiting the markets, possibly picking up trinkets for our loved ones back home
  • Hunting the best views for photo ops
  • Taking long walks through the city or countryside
  • An arranged driving or walking tour
  • Just riding the public bus or ferry to get a local taste and often surprising views
  • Enjoying a massage or treatment at the local spa
  • Taking in a theater or cabaret show
  • Enjoying a local healing session: sauna, yoga, meditation, salt bath, sound gong, whatever it is where you’re visiting.
  • Museums, temples, national parks, and all the usual cultural sites, of course.

Looking back on the past year and a half, it was easy to have peak travel experiences without food, alcohol, often even money.

Brad trying the local fish manicure – an hour of air-conditioned entertainment for a couple of dollars in Yangshuo.

Identify restaurants in advance

I always do a google search of the area in advance to have a couple of plant-based, keto friendly options, when possible. Searches for “raw vegan restaurant [city]” or “organic cafe [city]]” are usually my best bet.

My workflow is to review menus in advance and use Google Maps to mark a few restaurants where I know I can eat. Setting out in hunt of an obscure raw vegan restaurant in an off-the-beaten-track neighborhood has led to some of our best travel experiences.

At the same time, having a lot of restaurants already marked throughout the area is super helpful when your sightseeing involves lots of spontaneous wandering.

Order simply and manage expectations

It is absurdly difficult to find a salad in much of Asia. In China, just about the only food I can find that fits my diet is steamed broccoli. Anything stir-fried almost always contains fish sauce, soy or MSG. I accept this with gratitude that there’s anything I can eat at all.

During our three days in Yangshuo, I was incredibly fortunate that the hotel had not only steamed broccoli with carrots (win!), but a second side I could eat. I enjoyed them with deep gratitude for every meal there.

Steamed broccoli with carrots with bonus stir-fried peppers.

Don’t forget the sides menu

The best meal I had in Singapore was cobbled together from the sides menu of the hotel bar. Their side salad, side of avocado, side of roasted veggies, side of roasted mushrooms and sunflower seeds that were the bar snack.

Counter intuitively, steak houses are one of my go-to restaurants options as they usually offer a few vegetable side options like broccoli and asparagus.

Order the raw vegan option on the plane

This isn’t a usually listed option but most airlines offer it if you call 2 weeks to 2 days before your flight. It’s usually a glorious, colorful array of raw fruits and vegetables. The people seated next to you will be wildly jealous as they dive into their invariably grey and brown sludge.

Better yet, embrace fasting

If you’re a fan of intermittent or extended fasting, like me, travel is one of the best times to fast. In my case, fasting:

  • helps with bloating and edema I’d otherwise experience on the plane
  • eases any jet lag
  • reduces the temptation of unhealthy local fare 

Just be sure to keep your electrolytes up so you have tons of energy for exploring your destination. Read about how to fast here.

Volunteer to organize

If you’re obligated to attend a party or work event organized around food, offer to make the arrangements. Then you can make sure that there’s a salad or another healthy option available.

This is easily done in the US and other western countries. I’ve gone so far as to host gatherings at Whole Foods so everyone can get something they like and I have organic vegetable options. Even in countries where salads aren’t as common, western hotels are great choice as they often a wider set of options.

A surprisingly excellent whole food, vegan, keto-friendly meal at a work conference at the St. Regis in Macau.

Enjoy yourself

At the same time that you’re not letting travel derail your diet plans, don’t let food derail your travel.

Make your best effort to plan ahead to make things easy on yourself and don’t feel like you need to indulge in the local specialty just to enjoy the culture. You should be able to find something to eat most places you go even if it’s not your first choice. If there’s absolutely nothing on the menu (and I’ve been there plenty of times), skipping a meal doesn’t hurt most of us and you can always indulge later in food you brought from home.

Most importantly, however, is that if you do end up eating something that isn’t as healing as you’d like, you don’t let that cause any bad feelings. Continue to love yourself and your body without any judgement. That love is far more healing than the most perfect diet.

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