Traveling can wreck havoc on your diet. Take it from me, who just completed the last few days of a Whole30 while on a New England college tour.
We spent a few days last week, visiting a colleges with my 17 year old daughter. Having reached the final lap of my 30 day elimination diet; one which I have previously done twice before, I was pretty confident that I could get through this. This round was the easiest. I knew the ropes, and I didn’t have any cravings. I had settled into the boredom of it all, and since I was feeling pretty good, I just kept trudging through it.
The diet is extremely restrictive, yet when you are in charge of your own eating destiny, it’s not so bad. Lean protiens ( I don’t eat red meat but it is allowed) such as fish, chicken and eggs, vegetables and fruit are the mainstay of the program. No dairy, no grains, no legumes, no alcohol or sugar seem like foods easy to avoid, right? Well, that all depends on where you are.
We set the itinerary so that we never needed to drive more than 2 hours at a time, and scheduled one or two visits per day. We usually tried to get to the next destination early so that wouldn’t be in a panic looking for the admissions office, or finding parking, and then planned to get something to eat nearby. Since most of the schools were on spring break, there were few dining options open on campus. What was open was pretty sad. Grab and go options included tired sandwiches, (no bread, and no to many of the fillings and condiments) yogurt (dairy) and sometimes, if we were lucky, a wilted salad, or some fruit. That salad often had cheese, and croutons. Not so appetizing, or compliant.
I often ended up running to the meeting with just a cup of tea and toughing it out til the next break. One morning, we were evacuated from the hotel due to a fire alarm, and drove to the nearest cafe to wait it out. It was a charming place, filled with beautiful baked goods and not much else to choose from. Breakfast was a pass once again.
Timing between info sessions and tours always ended up being tighter than planned. A one hour tour could stretch to 75 minutes, and an info session could be followed by questions, leaving no time at all for lunch before getting to the next destination. A big problem, when you didn’t get breakfast either!
Determined to stay compliant for these last few days (did I really want to blow it on day 29 with something I didn’t even enjoy?) I made the concession of eating just a banana, or a tiny little side salad without the requistite balance of protein and fat, just to survive. When we did have a little time, the choices in many of these towns were not easy to maneuver on Whole30. Lots of pasta, pizza, a little Chinese food ( no soy!) and a lot of fried, cheesy and meaty options. No wonder why the “freshman 15” is a real phenomenon. I have to admit, that even when not on Whole30, many of the food options were not for me.
At dinner, I combed local menus trying to find one in which I could come close to finding something I could eat, and more importantly wanted to eat. One night was a salad without cheese, croutons or bacon with a vinaigrette dressing instead of the creamy blue cheese offered. On other nights, there was a simple chicken option that I requested without the risotto, pasta or mashed potatoes it came with, and they graciously added vegetables instead. They were slathered in butter, but at that point, beggars can’t be choosers!
The moral of this story is an obvious one: be prepared! When visiting new places, especially those in small towns, you don’t know what you are going to find. If grabbing a slice of pizza or a quick sandwich works for you, that’s great. Enjoy it! Even when not on Whole30, I tend to want to be more selective about my food. Some might call it fussy, or downright obsessive, but if you take care of your body, it will take care of you. Next time, I will plan ahead and bring portable snacks to tide me over when a fresh and healthy meal isn’t available. (Or splurge on something worthwhile…stale pizza is NOT ever worthwhile in my book! ) Here are a few suggestions that are easily portable, and don’t require refrigeration, which will be in my bag on the next loop:
Fruit: Apples, bananas etc. You can pre-wash a few pieces of fruit and wrap them in plastic wrap, so they are ready to eat regardless of where you might be. If you can find squeeze pouches of unsweetened applesauce, those are also a great choice.
Packets of nut butters: Whole30 doesn’t allow peanut butter (which I HATE anyways),but they do allow almond and cashew butters. While an opened jar of nut butter should get refrigerated, Justin’s makes single serve packets that can be tossed into your bag and are easy to eat. Just don’t get tempted by the white chocolate or maple versions, which are against the rules.
Nuts: It’s amazing the protein jolt that a handful or two of nuts can provide. Bring your favorites along for a great snack, or to add to that sad little cup of fruit or lettuce to up the nutritional ante. Word of caution: nut calories add up fast.
Jerky: I don’t eat meat, but there are some high end jerkies around that people swear by. Krave is thought to be one of the best, as it is all natural and free of additives, both of the chemical and the sugary variety.
Bars: Most protien bars are sugar bombs, and aren’t too dissimilar to a candy bar. Kind bars are good for you, but not Whole 30 compliant. If you are just being health conscious, they open up a world of great options. Some Larabars are sort of Whole 30 compliant, although they fall into the area of pretending to be something you shouldn’t have, made of ingredients you can have; a no-no on a regime that is trying to change your relationship with food. The plan stresses eliminating those things for the 30 day period, so that you aren’t sustaining cravings for foods that aren’t good for you. So, although that bar doesn’t contain any banned ingredients, if it is pretending to be a cherry pie, and that defeats the purpose of the program. However, if you aren’t on Whole30 and just want a healthy snack, these can be a great alternative, and viable Whole30 emergency food (if you can find them! )
Anyone who has done Whole30 will tell you that it’s all about meal planning and food prep. Having the right ingredients and the right whole, fresh foods at the ready makes the process so much easier. The same holds true if you are travelling, especially if you are not in a large metropolitan area that has row after row of food shops and restaurants.
I have finished the official plan, but hope to stay compliant with pre-meditated “cheats” that are well worth calories, and potential food hangover that follows. I’m thinking there is a glass of red wine in my not too distant future, and I hope to savor every drop!