Last week, I went home to Canada unexpectedly. My grandpa isn’t well and I felt I needed to be with my family, with him. I booked my ticket Sunday, flew out 6 am Monday morning. Everything was rushed and last minute. Traveling between Scotland and Winnipeg, Canada is a very long day (16 hours outbound, 14 hours inbound), and a girl needs to eat, but what does a primal eating girl do when she’s in transit? How do you make primal work when you’re travelling? Read about how I stayed primal while flying across the Atlantic, through several major airports. Twice.
*I’m also drawing upon my travel to Berlin this past NYE, as well as camping this past summer in Mull to help inform this post. This is mainly in the context of air travel, but these tips can be easily transferrable to other modes of transportation.
1. Choose a gluten-free meal for long haul flights.
It’s a luxury these days to get a full meal on a flight, so if you’re one of these lucky few, choose the gluten-free meal option when you’re booking your ticket. While gluten-free isn’t necessarily paleo or primal, it’s better than the regular meal option, especially if your choices are pasta or pasta, like on both my long haul flights.
*note: I was given one of the pasta meals and had a few bites just to remind myself of what pasta tasted like. Later, I got a headache… So not worth it.
2. Meal prep
It’s a natural habit for primal and paleo eaters to do on a weekly basis, so why not keep it going for travel? Make foods that aren’t watery or saucy – to be able to take them through airport security – and foods that are just as delicious and edible cold. And make only enough for your travel day, or freeze any left overs.
I still made my Whenever Quiche the day before my flight, and I took two slices with me. I also cut up some raw vegetables to take, and made a batch of paleo brownies. Another great paleo meal I’ve enjoyed in transit is The Domestic Man’s Paleo Scotch Eggs.
3.Pack some primal essentials in your luggage if need be.
Like coconut oil, protein powder, xylitol or any other paleo – primal specific food that you’re certain you won’t be able to buy at your destination.
You’re in transit – whether in the air, on the ground or on the water. Typically, I would be all over Starbucks coffee, Pepsi, all sorts of carb-y snacks airports had on offer; let’s face it, airports sell mostly junk for food. If you look around, they’re are FULL of sugary, grain-based carbs. You can’t escape them!
In the past, I would also eat the snacks or meals provided on the plane. Now that I’m primal, all of that is off-limits; not because I’m afraid the Primal and Paleo police are going to get me, but because I know that if I choose to eat something I haven’t eaten for a while, something not primal, I’m going to feel it in a bad way. And the last thing I want when travelling for 12+ hours is to feel like crap.
4. Carry on your own food.
No liquids, nothing saucy or stewy, no chia pudding, coconut cream, or any other substance that might get taken away when going through airport security.
Pack fresh fruit and vegetables. American and Canadian immigration officials are quite picky about produce being brought into those countries, so make sure you have the packaging or sticker that identifies the country of origin for these foods. Eat your fruit before you arrive at your destination, especially if flying into Canada, the USA, Australia or New Zealand (previous experience). Avocados are okay, as long as the pit has been taken out.
Take plenty of protein: hard-boiled eggs, cold meat, smoked fish, etc. If you’re buying tinned fish, make sure of the quantities you’re allowed through security. It could get taken away.
I also packed Larabars, nuts and Medjool dates for my trip home. And I’m that guy that takes their own tea everywhere. What can I say? I love Pukka Supreme Matcha Green Tea!
Pack all this food in your carry-on, and in disposable containers, plastic bags or plastic wrap – anything you can throw away. The last thing you want is to be carrying reusable containers half way across the world! Plastic cutlery is also allowed through security, and don’t forget to take a napkin!
Remember, no liquids through security, so you’ll have to pass on fancy drinks like kombucha.
5. Drink plenty of water
I think this one’s obvious. I drink at least 3L during a long travel day. Airplanes dehydrate you!
6. Make good choices at the airport.
If you’re lucky, you may find some hidden gems in the airport. When enroute through Paris CDG, I found a bottle of Vita Coco coconut water with pineapple puree, which came in handy once I was on flight #3 of the day to Winnipeg. It’s a very hydrating drink and a natural electrolyte.
When in Minneapolis, I found Synergy Kombucha and more Vita Coco coconut water with pineapple – I passed on the kombucha because it gives me headaches, but was all over the coconut water! MSP also sells a variety of organic and natural ingredient bars, even Epic Bars, and has a fresh food market (called CIBO???) in Concourse G. It all looked delicious, but was probably expensive. Still, this allowed travellers to continue to make fresh food choices when in transit.
7. Make good choices on the plane.
I flew Delta between MSP and Amsterdam, and they serve La Croix natural sparkling water. I only know about La Croix through Instagram because some paleo peeps I follow post photos of it. I enjoyed a can of bubbly water with lime wedges, and a glass of red wine.
It also happened that I got a paleo meal on the plane through chance alone: a flight attendant came up to me early on in the flight and asked if I had ordered a special meal. I said yes, a gluten-free one. She asked for my surname, and we discovered I hadn’t been given my special meal. I told her this wouldn’t be a problem because I’d brought my own food just in case. As meals were being served, this same flight attendant brought me a meal of a salad loaded with vegetables and four large, grilled prawns, along with fruit for dessert. She asked me if I wanted it because the hot choices were pasta or pasta. I gladly accepted it, putting the accompanying roll and brownie off to the side.
Later, another flight attendant informed me that they always have salad on board, you just have to ask and ye shall receive. Moral of the story: it doesn’t hurt to ask for a different meal. You may be surprised.
8. Intermittent Fasting
You could also just fast during the course of a travel day, but this will only work if you’re a through and through fat-burner. Make sure to still drink plenty of water though.
I actually fasted from when I arrived in Amsterdam at 6:35 am local time for about 12 hours: this was partly due to being awake when my body was used to being asleep at this time, and because I had already eaten enough for a day. I didn’t need to eat two days, back to back, without sleep in between.
9. Inform the authorities.
If you’re carrying food through immigration in any country, it’s always a good idea to declare it. Just in case.
10. Choose self-catering accommodation if you can.
That way you can make your own meals and be 100% in charge of what you eat. Also a great way to enjoy local produce, cheeses and cured meats.
Which leads me to my next point…
11. Go food shopping!
And see what treats you can find! Whether it be local delicacies or foods you can’t find at home, going grocery shopping in another country is always a treat.
When I was in Winnipeg, I found Larabars and plantains, two paleo treats I have yet to locate in Scotland. I bought and enjoyed both.
12. If eating out, stick to meat and veg.
The easiest way to stick to primal and paleo eating really.
You still want to feel you best when away, and a holiday from real life doesn’t have to equal a holiday from paleo and primal. It’s understandable you may want to enjoy pasta and pizza in Italy, a croissant in France, poutine in Canada, or in my case, your 88 year old grandmother’s homemade bread and tortiere (French Canadian meat pie), just don’t go overboard! Have some here and there, but not every meal. Or, be prepared to feel horrible – physically, not emotionally. Your choice.
I confess, apart from my grandma’s meal, I had a few bites of pasta at a restaurant in Winnipeg, and a slice of cake made with sugar, baked by my mom. I also had a glass of champagne on my flight from Paris to Montreal, because when Air France offers complimentary champagne in coach, you take it!
14. Get right back into things
Pick up where you left off. Start real life again and get back into your routine.
And if you’ve over indulged in sugar and gluten, there’s no need for a cleanse because #1 you have a liver (therefore you’re cleansing constantly), and #2 primal eating is – I hate to say it because I find this phrase SO clichéd – clean eating anyway.
What are your travel tips for eating on the road?
What’s your favourite treat when you’re away?
What airport would you recommend for good food options?