Traveling with Dietary Restrictions

ensalada de antipasti- Chris Ciolli

Finding vegetarian options in the Mediterranean isn’t impossible, but diners should be careful as food descriptions don’t always include elements like chunks of ham used to season beans, or chicken broth used in rice dishes.–Chris Ciolli

Traveling with dietary restrictions can be a real pain in the you-know-where. While I’m not allergic to anything, and eat pretty much whatever can be foraged, I have lots of friends and loved ones who are vegetarians,celiacs, diabetics, have religious restrictions on what they can or can’t eat or in some cases are just plain old picky eaters.

Fortunately, while traveling with these restrictions (no meat, no wheat, no sugar) can be inconvenient, it’s far from impossible. Here are a few suggestions to make sticking to your dietary restrictions (for whatever reason) more doable when you’re not at home.

  1. Bring your own food. I can’t stress this enough, especially for people spending a lot of time in airports and trains, and people traveling to isolated and less-developed countries, or even just smaller towns. It may seem like a waste to take up valuable packing space with edibles, but your stomach will thank you later. Besides, after you eat the food, you’ll have extra space for souvenirs and other items. Some of my favorites for ease of transport are dried fruits, raw nuts, beef jerky, and tuna pouches. For a great gluten-free portable try corn tortilla shells.
  2. Go for accommodations with a kitchen. Rental apartments are great if you’re traveling in a group, but even if you’re not, some hostels and bed and breakfasts allow guests to use a kitchen. Being able to cook your own food will make it easier to stick by your guns when it comes to what you will or won’t eat.
  3. Scope out grocery-shopping options before you go. Some chains are better than others when it comes to the selection of gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan and kosher items. In Barcelona for example, Mercadona has an acceptable selection of gluten-free items, but for vegan items, you may be better off searching out a small organic grocery in the area where you’re staying.
  4. Research restaurants ahead of time. If you have a hard time getting enough information about what’s available, call some restaurants, and ask if they do modified recipes for patrons with dietary restrictions, or can prepare items that aren’t on the menu.
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