5 Tips for Traveling With Food Restrictions

I’m the girl who’s allergic to everything.

This isn’t an exaggeration, I often say that if I had been born in any other century I most certainly would be dead. My lungs are made of glass, my stomach can’t process milk protein and I have a combination of animal, seasonal and food allergies.

You may be asking why I would leave the house, if I’m constantly afflicted by such health conditions. But obviously I do. And obviously I go farther than the city I live in. The real key here is management. It’s not easy, but it’s easier once you’ve been coping with them for 26 years.

When I’m traveling, a big question I get is how on earth do I find things to eat?! Especially when I’m in a country where I don’t speak the language, it can be hard to navigate my food allergies, and keep out of hospitals.

Before we start, here’s a list of all the things my sickly self is allergic to.

  • Dairy
  • Soy (technically, but I’m growing out of this one)
  • Shellfish
  • Peanuts (I will actually die)
  • Cantaloupe (true story)
  • Spinach (growing out of this one)
  • Cats
  • Horses
  • Dust, hay, mold, mildew
  • Also. I don’t eat pork (unless it’s insensitive not to)

With all of these restrictions things can get pretty tricky. But here are my top rules for traveling without starving.

Bring Snacks from Home

I never ever ever travel somewhere without around 10 granola bars, a package of beef jerky, almonds and some fruit snacks. Why? Because those three things are packaged, pretty small (since I backpack) and can help me get through a part of the trip where either I don’t want to forage for food, or I literally cannot find anything. I’m also a huge fan of bringing fruit and vegetables on flights to a place. I have lots of other healthy eating tips on my blog post: 5 Ways to Eat Healthy When Traveling

Don’t Eat

You’re might be thinking, “Haha Emilee, you’re so funny.” Which I am (duh). But I’m actually not joking about this one. I really limit the number of meals that I have while I’m traveling because food is not the focus of my travels. That being said, I realize that this isn’t the same for everyone. Some people travel just for the food. But if I can score a hefty breakfast at my hostel then I’ll try to make it to an early dinner (with just light snacks), cutting down the number of meals I have to “figure out.”

Go for the Basics

Every country has bread. This might sound like a no-brainer, but every country has their genius in each country that put together some grain, water and yeast (or even without yeast) and baked it. You know what else each country has? Fruit. Vegetables. Meat (although be careful with marinades and seasonings).
The point of this smart-assery is that if you stick to the basics, you can avoid having problems with the food that you’re eating. For me, I know that dairy is a problem, but I also know that I’m not going to find dairy in a banana. Sticking to the basic food groups, with just a little bit of experimentation, can help to cut out the risk of problems.

Research

That being said, nobody wants to live off of bananas and bread for weeks on end, so research the country you’re visiting and see what food they are known for. If you can find an ingredient list (which you probably can #Google), then you’ll be that much closer to knowing it’s something that you can eat. DO NOT assume that people in other countries are going to know, or care, about your allergies. You might find someone, somewhere, but I spent an entire year living in France trying to convince anyone that dairy allergies are real, so good luck.

Be Prepared

I am deathly allergic to peanuts. Like I will die if I eat them. So it’s important for me to bring along medication or my EpiPen, if I’m traveling to somewhere where this might be a problem. Western Europe isn’t really as much of an issue. But let’s say that I wanted to go to Thailand. Or as I like to call it, the land where Emilee will never go because she doesn’t want to die. In that case, I would definitely have Benadryl with me, as well as my EpiPen, in case something went south. It never hurts to be over prepared, but can cost you big if you don’t take these things into consideration.

On the flip side, know what you CAN eat. Coming from the U.S. I have access to a ton of different food options, so when I travel I can have somewhat of an idea of what I can have. For instance, Indian food works great for me because most of it is non-dairy, and they don’t really use peanuts, and rarely use pork. If I can find an Indian restaurant I’m pretty good to go.

What about you? What are your tips for getting around food restrictions? Leave them in the comments, below! 

Review: Cafè Besalu

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Fact: Pretty much every food item tastes like dirt in comparison to its French alternative. And this fact has not escaped my notice. Because, the truth is, France has completely ruined my taste buds. And it wasn’t until someone suggested this little cafe to me that I realized that not all was lost, just because I’d moved back to the U.S.

Cafe Besalu is THE most authentic French food I’ve had since being back in U.S. without a doubt. Sure, I’ve tried out some other spots in Seattle but they’re either priced by the deranged or completely off the mark. I was so happy to not only find this spot, but to have it just down the street from my house. J’adore.

Ordered: Hot chocolate (w/ rice milk), pain au raisin

Where:  5909 24th Ave NW Seattle, WA 98107

Went: Too many Saturday mornings to count

Wifi: No

Reservation Needed: No

Tip: On the weekends, get there before the 10:30AM rush!

Website: http://cafebesalu.com/

Review: Merci Cafe

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This cafe is one of the most hipster cool experience you’ll find (Paris or otherwise) while begin a great cafe, it’s also filled wall to wall with used books. In addition to the antlers hanging on the walls, there are also vintage chandeliers that are just lovely. There is also a lovely store adjoining that has everything for your hipster needs ( no really, you’ll understand when you walk in).

It took us a couple of times to get into this cafe because the first time we tried to go it was a Saturday – which was a mistake in the first place. In fact, I would advise staying away from such establishments on Saturdays in general. Saturdays are the French “go out-hang out” days, so you’ll probably find yourself packed in a place if you do. Sundays, in contrast are a great day to go out (especially early) because most French people stay in with their families on Sundays, or do things that don’t involve going out (unless it’s to a park or something).

Overall the experience was great and our servers were just the nicest.

Ordered: Banana, Apple and Kiwi smoothy (so good!)

Where: 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais 73003 Paris, France

Went: Friday, March 6th, 2015 around 1pm

Wifi: Unknown. I was enjoying myself so much that I forgot to check.

5star1

 

 

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The First Of Many Days

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Ok, let’s talk food. Because I live in France now – what else would we be talking about. Since I have arrived there are several things I’ve eaten that I had no idea what they were. In fact, I would say I don’t know what most of my diet is right now. What I do know, is that everything is so good, and smells so good. I can’t even believe how fast the mom for the family whips out these amazing dishes for just a random Wednesday afternoon. But, it’s France – maybe that’s normal. 

A lot has happened since I arrived here yesterday, and I’m sure a lot more will be happening, but since I want to make sure I cover everything I’m going to talk about things individually in separate posts throughout the week. 

So, let’s talk French food: 

Things I’ve eaten since getting here: 

1. Tomates Farcies

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Sweet Jesus take the wheel, this picture does nothing justice, but last night I ate a variation of Tomates Farcies which is basically tomatoes (and also onions) stuffed with ground hamburger/pork and spices and baked. It was absolutely amazing. I couldn’t believe I’d never eaten it before! Here’s a link to a French recipe (feel free to translate the website by copy and pasting the URL into google translate) more similar to the one I ate, and heres the link to an American variation. Try it out for dinner – you won’t regret it!! 

2. Pork Pate

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Oh, yes oh yes, the ground up canned rumors are true. Today I ate Pork Pate and it was so good. If you’re looking for an indicator for what it’s like, think canned tuna meets canned cat foot. Delicious, and completely disgusting looking, it’s a must have item for this French family and I love it. 

3. Fish Cake

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Looks like a banana or zucchini bread, tastes like a grilled tuna sandwich and all around amazing. This is what is known as a Fish Cake (ou Un gâteau au poisson et petits legumes) and yes, it has actual fish in it. Not going to lie, at first I was more than a little unsure about whether or not eating this would be a good life decision. It SO was. 

4. Bread: 

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Have you ever had bread that was fresh baked from the French bakery three doors down from your house? If yes, then you know that even thinking about it is enough to make your mouth water. Something I love about the family I’m living with is that they eat bread, bread and more bread. They eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And even when the main course is bread, there’s still bread on the side. It’s incredible. And an absolutely necessary staple to every meal. 

5. Cured Ham: 

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I don’t actually eat pork, normally. But, since others are cooking, and I’m in France, I’ve decided to make an exception. It was the right decision. This morning we went to the shop across the street and bought some fresh cut ham from a shop that was absolutely darling (like every shop here). One thing that’s nice about this town (but will probably, at some point, also become frustrating) is that there’s not really any such thing as a chain store. This city is a Seattleite’s dream because everything is run by a small business owner. C’est parfait. 

6. Croque-monsieur

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My first question when this was put on a plate in front of me was: Do I eat it with my hands, or with a fork? The answer, of course, was: Only Americans eat this with their hands. Okay. I’m very lucky I ask more than the average amount of questions, because I feel like there are so many problems that could have already happened without them. But, back to food. This sandwich was out of this world and even though I had it without cheese (because I’m allergic) it was amazing.

Fun Story: When I told my host family that I couldn’t eat cheese, they were stunned. It was as though I told them I was actually missing the right half of my body. All they could say was: Well…we eat a lot of cheese. 

C’est la vie.

Stay tuned for more yummy updates!

*All food photos are gratefully borrowed from the Google gods – all rights belong to their original owners.