Traveling With Food Allergies
My husband and I just returned from a 12 day cruise to the Caribbean with a day and a half in New Orleans before the cruise and a day and a half in Puerto Rico after the cruise. We had an absolute blast and loved every single second of our trip. It was our first time in the Caribbean and we can't wait to go back! If you have ever been on a cruise, you know that there is endless amounts of food everywhere. There is a 24-hour pizza bar with fresh, cooked-to-order pizza ready and waiting for you. You also have all-access buffet that never closes and 24-hour room service at the touch of a button.
With that said, it is inevitable that you gain weight on a cruise... unless you are me or my husband! When we got home and check the scale, we had both lost about 3 pounds over the course of the 15 days! We didn't plan on losing weight and we definitely didn't want to gain weight, but we decided not to focus on or let food stress us out on vacation. Here are some of the things that we did on vacation and some tips that I hope will help you when you travel!
We decided a few things ahead of time:
1) We would stay away from the desserts. In all honestly it wasn't that hard to stay away from the sweets cause they really didn't look that good to begin with. I like gourmet desserts made with good quality ingredients and that are free of white sugar (I'm allergic to sugar cane), flour, wheat, dairy, etc. While we did splurge a few times by getting a dessert to share, we would take a bite or two and then we'd be done. It wasn't worth the calories. It wasn't worth me getting sick, feeling sick or breaking out because we normally don't eat those types of foods. Every night I ordered a fruit plate for dessert and was totally satisfied. I occasionally took a bit of what my husband, mom or aunt ordered, but I was never satisfied by the taste.
2) We would primarily eat vegetables and proteins. We did just that. Every night for dinner we would order some kind of protein and veggies. If there was a baked potato, that would be our little carb splurge. The night our whole table went crazy was lobster night. Between the 8 of us, we ordered 13 or 14 lobster dinners. My husband and I each ate one and then shared one... no butter, of course!
3) We would bring our own food to enjoy. People probably thought I was crazy. I paid all this money to go on a cruise where there is free food, and I brought a whole second suitcase filled with snacks, protein bars, and even protein powder. On the day of the cruise, my husband and I took a cab from our hotel in New Orleans to Whole Foods to stock up on some of the things that I couldn't pack in California and fly with. I bought 2 cartons of Good Karma Foods Flax Milk and a 6 pack of Zevia ginger ale along with some protein powder, chips, and other goodies so that I could be super happy with my food choices on board.
I am allergic to sugar cane, so I wanted to make sure I had some sweets to enjoy on the cruise. I did speak with my doctor about having a little bit of sugar since I don't eat it ever at home, and she said a little is okay while on vacation. So, I also brought some of my favorite cookies from Enjoy Life Foods! YUM! When you go on a cruise, you cannot bring homemade goods onboard, otherwise I would have probably brought 2 suitcases worth of food!
Here is a photo of my goods:
4) We decided that we wouldn't let food stress us out on vacation. This was our 3rd cruise. We had previously taken a cruise to Alaska and another to Mexico. We knew what to expect with cruise food and knew that as someone with food allergies and food restrictions, it isn't as easy to eat on the ship. I knew that if I ate things that I shouldn't I wouldn't feel all that great. Oddly enough, I avoided eggs because, even though I do eat eggs, the ones on the ship always make me have a stomach ache. Jeff and I think it has to do with all the PAM and oil they use to cook them.
I came to a dilemma. During the first 3 days at sea, it was hard for me to eat lunch. I am very sensitive when it comes to food. If something is too greasy, heavily processed or fake, I can tell and will not feel good immediately after. I did bring snacks and did eat crackers and chips. I nibbled when I got hungry around lunchtime, but it was hard to eat at the buffet when the only thing I could stand to eat was a few pieces of cheese (with my healthy Jilz Gluten Free Crackerz) or pizza. Pizza seemed to be the only thing I could eat that didn't make me feel sick because it was so bland.
Here are the problems that I faced with eating pizza:
I am allergic to yeast. STRIKE ONE It is very high in carbs. STRIKE TWO It didn't taste THAT good. STRIKE THREE
BUT... if it meant me feeling okay on the trip then of course I ate it when it was a last resort.
Here is what a typical meal looked like on our cruise.
Anything in Italics I brought with me on the cruise.
Breakfast: Good Karma Foods Flax Milk with Manitoba Harvest Chocolate Hemp Protein Powder 1/4 cup oatmeal with Wholesome Sweet Palm Coconut Sugar sometimes a few berries coffee with Good Karma Foods Flax Milk & Wholesome Sweet Palm Coconut Sugar
Lunch: - Days at sea: a piece or two of plain cheese pizza with black olives, a few cubes of cheddar cheese or jack cheese with Jilz Gluten Free Crackerz and a handful of cucumbers.
- Days on land: typically we would try to eat something local like conch or even skip lunch cause we were on a tour or in the ocean.
Dinner: *If I didn't eat a big lunch or if I wanted something bland, I had a dinner roll at dinner with a little butter. Water with orange slices and a few drops of berry stevia from Sweet Leaf - Appetizer: soup if it was dairy free and corn free, spring rolls or steamed broccoli - Entree: any type of protein (chicken, steak, lobster etc), side of green veggies and occasionally a baked potato with salt, pepper and a teaspoon of sour cream. - Dessert: tropical fruit plate
Snacks: I typically ate something in my stash (see photo of my goods above)
CHEAT MEALS (underlined) I feel the need to be honest with you!
On the last 3 days for dinner on the ship I had the most amazing lasagna I have ever had in my life. It was filled with veggies, spinach and a flavorful meat sauce, and there wasn't much pasta at all. You could say I "cheated" because I had pasta, even though I don't normally eat pasta (unless it's made from lentils, brown rice or quinoa), but once again.... I didn't want to stress about food on vacation and after tasting it, seeing that it didn't make me feel sick and that it was one of the only things, if not the only thing, on the menu that I could eat or looked good... I ordered it with a smile! It was so good the first night, my husband, mom and aunt and I all made requests to have it the last 3 nights on the ship.
In Grenada, we went on an amazing tour of the island. One of the stops was at Jouvay Chocolate. We went to their "factory" (if that is what you can call it) where you see the entire process from the cocoa pod to roasting of the cocoa beans in the sun for 7 days and all the way to where we eat the chocolate bars. At the end of our chocolate tour we had some "hot chocolate/tea" that was made with milk and sugar. It was phenomenal! I am so glad I had that small glass of it because I bought some to bring home and have been having a cup of it every morning... of course, I make it with Good Karma Foods Flax Milk, xylitol, and sweeten it with a dash of coconut sugar.
In Curacao, we ate on the water at this cute little restaurant that faced a moving bridge (to let ships/boats in and out of the harbor) and the only thing that sounded good was a spaghetti bolognese, so that's what I ordered. It ended up being one of the best I have ever had!
In Antigua, my husband and I shared an iced latte at a little cafe on the water together. No harm in that... except that it was with soy milk. To be honest, he drank most of it, and I was glad to have some coffee that was better than the stuff they serve on the ship.
On the ship, I had various bites of foods that my family ordered. Sometimes, my mom would say "Taste this! I know you can't really eat it, but maybe you can recreate it at home with ingredient that you CAN have!" Of course I won't turn down a bite of food when my mom says that!
In New Orleans and in Puerto Rico, I had a Starbucks coconut milk latte because I needed some caffeine. I don't get them anymore because of the sugar in the coconut milk and the coconut milk isn't organic. Now, their coconut milk lattes are a last resort or if we take a red eye somewhere and I just need some caffeine.
What I would do differently? I would most definitely bring more food with me! We ate almost everything I brought. We brought home a few protein bars, and some of the bags of snacks came home half eaten. I would bring more sweets (cookies for dessert) and maybe another case of Zevia soda.
You CAN eat healthy on vacation. You have a choice. What is your health worth to you? Is it worth paying extra money to check an extra suitcase filled with goodies? Is it worth carrying all that extra food so you can feel satisfied on your trip? Is it worth spending money to go on a cruise that includes food but, instead, bringing your own? We say YES! Don't stop doing what you do on a normal, everyday basis just because you are on vacation. Don't take a vacation from your health!
Advice: If you want to enjoy or splurge a little on vacation, do what you think you and your body can handle. If you know you will get a stomach ache after eating dairy or wheat - don't do it unless you think that stomach ache is worth it. You know your own body and if you have ANY concern, talk to your doctor.
On another note: don't skimp out on taking your vitamins and supplements while on vacation. Take the time to organize them ahead of time in little bags with the date written on it and have them ready and handy to take in your pocket or purse during the day.
If you know you won't be eating many green vegetables on your trip - or if you don't eat enough green veggies on a day to day basis, make sure you pack Wheat Grass Green Superfood Tablets from Pines - The Wheat Grass People. Taking a serving of tablets is equivalent to taking a serving of deep green leafy vegetables. I definitely make sure to keep these on me when I travel to ensure I am getting enough greens each day!
Lastly, if you go on a cruise, talk to your cruise line about your dietary restrictions. They will do their best to work with you. They will alert the dining staff of your allergies and make sure that you will not eat what you aren't supposed to. I know this because on my first cruise, I told the cruise that I didn't eat gluten. I am not allergic to gluten, I just avoid it. The waiters would WITHHOLD anything that could possibly have gluten. I wound up fighting with the waiter one morning over serving me an english muffin. He wanted to serve me the gluten free english muffing - the problem that I had with that is their GF english muffin was made of corn and I don't eat corn. So it was difficult, because I was trying to choose the lesser of two evils. Know this - they want to protect you so that you don't get sick with food allergies. BUT when you choose not to eat certain foods vs when you have food allergies and they handle both the same way, it can be rough at times.
I really hope I have given someone some insight to traveling with food allergies or restrictions. Know that you CAN do this and don't let your food allergies stop you from seeing the world. If I said "no" to going on this Caribbean cruise because of food, I would have missed out on seeing some of the most beautiful islands and beaches ever! Figure out what works for you and go out and see the world!