Since my Lyme Disease diagnosis and finishing 3 months of strict detoxification, I’ve been extremely careful about what I should and shouldn’t eat. So far I’ve made a lot of progress healing my gut and reversing damage done to my body from years of medication. However, I believe it will still take years to recover the health I’ve lost. My knees continue to swell, but the effusions now come and go. The left and right knee tend to flare up independently now as well. It’s discouraging but I still consider this progress after years of nothing but constant swelling on both sides.
It’s been 6 months since starting the detox protocol. Most of my meals now consist of local pastured eggs, whole sprouted or soaked grains, wild salmon or sardines, local grass-fed beef and pasture-raised chicken. I try to keep 70-80% of my diet to vegetables or fruit, all organic, local if I can find it, or chemical free. The downtown farmers’ market and our summer vegetable CSA have helped immensely with that goal. Some days I find it strange to look back and notice that my wife and I prepare only 2-3 meals a week that actually contain meat. I’m now gaining weight (the good kind—lean muscle) and eating more vegetables than ever! I also avoid processed sugar like the plague, allowing only small doses of sucanat, local wild honey, or other natural sweeteners like dates or fruits. The same goes for any processed or packaged foods actually. If it comes in a box or plastic wrapper I proceed slowly with great caution, then peer skeptically at the ingredients list to make sure it has less than 6 and all of those are recognizable as real, whole foods.
While my routine may sound obsessive, it’s helped guide me further to my goals, slowly but surely. The biggest problem for me about living this highly nutritious counter-culture lifestyle is traveling. I love to see family. I love to visit friends. And I take great pleasure in seeing new parts of this world, whether driving or flying. But I confess I get a little stressed out when it comes to deciding what to eat on the next trip. At first I dreaded eating while away from home, but this summer forced me to figure out ways to continue to eat healthy while out of my comfort zone. In just the past few months we’ve driven to Wisconsin several times, visited family and friends in St. Louis, Nashville, Branson, Colorado Springs twice, and even Montana! Sometimes we stayed in hotels. Other times we crashed with family in an extra bedroom. And other times we shared a condo. This meant each trip we needed to decide how to prepare meals, whether it was in a hotel with just an ice-filled cooler, a mini fridge, and microwave; a condo with full kitchen appliances; or a family’s house where we could cook together.
Here are some ways to make life easier while traveling, especially when you have health concerns or trying to heal your body with a food detox program.
If possible, bring the Vitamix (or any blender). This is mostly if you want to keep a detoxing meal plan and blend most of your meals. It is helpful, but only if you aren’t flying to your destination where luggage space is limited. I learned early in my detox protocol from the guys at Life Fitness Academy how valuable a good blender can be. And it helps when you’re not the only one who travels with a giant kitchen appliance.
Map grocery and health food stores at your travel destination. I got a few laughs when we traveled this summer from Des Moines to Kansas City to Branson to Nashville to St. Louis and back. We had a nice connect-the-dots map of each Whole Foods location along our journey. If visiting smaller cities or remote locations, do a quick google search for the name of the town and terms like local, sustainable, grass-fed, pastured, organic restaurants or stores. Surprisingly we found a few gems while in Bozeman, Montana, like the local Bozeman COOP and Blue Planet Natural Grill in Omaha, Nebraska while driving across I-80 to Colorado. Happycow.net sometimes has a few decent listings for health stores and restaurants too.
In a pinch, bring emergency foods. Packing pulled meat (courtesy of Wallace Farms grass-fed beef ribs) sandwiches on easily-digested sourdough with chopped vegetables and fruit saved us a few times while trekking 18 hours on our trips to Colorado and back. Most of the time we would bring a large glass jar of milk kefir, tea, kombucha and a few jars full of freshly-blended green smoothies. (When I knew we wouldn’t have time to blend or it just wasn’t feasible in the hotel, I’d bring a few pre-made smoothies made the night before our trip.) Normally I wouldn’t recommend blending too far in advance because the longer the blended vegetables and fruit are exposed to air the faster they oxidize and lose their nutritional value. But as long as you keep them cool and fill your containers so there’s no air inside you should be ok for a couple days. Most of my green smoothies still tasted good after 2 days, but I wouldn’t go longer.
Pack for your family and friends too. If it’s hard to decide where to stop and eat when you have traveling companions, pack along some sandwiches and snacks for them too. It helps if you bring some foods that appear normal and not just kombucha or sardines. While you’re prepping for the trip, make a few extra meals that you can share. Maybe you can convince them to start eating healthy too. My wife and I found that this works when staying with family and friends too. We offer to prepare the meal and shop for food. Or ask to make a salad to share with a home-cooked meal if eating at someone’s home. On a recent trip we had dinner at a friend’s home, made a quick homemade spelt pizza dough, and quickly threw together a meal. I enjoyed an organic, all vegetable pizza with goat mozzerella, while everyone else added more traditional pepperoni and sausage. It was fun, not too stressful, and easy for everybody.
If driving, bring your own easy-to-digest foods. Bubbies pickles or sauerkraut are tasty and easy to eat (if you’re too busy to make your own lacto-fermented veggies like me). Sardines also work well if you need a little meat with all those blended vegetables. They’re quick to eat and rich in good fats and protein. Warning! If you take sardines, be careful to eat them as far away from people as possible. I love them, but quickly realized most people don’t love the smell. GT’s Kombucha is also usually available at most healthy grocery stores and even a lot of supermarkets that have health sections. The probiotics in raw kombucha can help greatly in digesting other not-so-good foods along your trip and they taste so good.
If flying, pack a small, carry-on size cooler or lunch bag. This might sound intimidating due to the TSA guidelines and ban on bringing liquids or ice. But there’s still hope. Freeze some fruit like grapes the night before and throw them in instead of ice while on the plane. I successfully made it through security with frozen fruit, a few sandwiches, some chopped vegetables, and a small container of probiotics while on our plane trip to Montana. If the fruit thaws quickly, you can always pack an empty ziploc bag and ask for some ice from an attendant while on the plane too.
Bring fresh vegetables and fruit first, with nuts, raw granola, and dried fruit as a backup. The advantage of nuts, granola or dried fruit is their portability and lack of spoilage. But they can be harder to digest vs. fresh whole foods like fresh cucumbers, celery, or carrots. Plus the extra water from the fresh food is an added bonus especially when flying and everything seems to dry you out. On our last flights I consciously tried to eat more fresh vegetables while only eating a little granola or dried fruit and it was the first time I can remember in years that I had no indigestion once we arrived at our destination.
Take digestive enzymes and probiotics during days of travel or days when you need to eat less than healthy food. Sometimes when you’re with family or friends there just isn’t an option for eating well. Luckily I haven’t had many while on my detox, but for the few I respectfully take a probiotic and a few digestive enzymes along with or between my meals. They should help the digestive process and get some of those foods to move more quickly through you.
If you’re at a restaurant and they don’t exactly follow the strictest standards when it comes to eating easily digestible foods, you can usually order a salad. I know it sounds boring, but your gut will thank you for it later. Some restaurants will even bring you olive oil and vinegar instead of heavily processed salad dressings if you ask nicely.
Continue to drink water during the entire trip. Even if it makes you stop at a rest stop every half hour or it costs $10 in the airport because you can’t bring your own, it’s worth it. The worst parts of my trips have been when I couldn’t get enough water. And when food isn’t moving through you efficiently and digesting properly, you feel awful. Granted there are circumstances you just can’t help, but water is at least pretty good for hydration and easily obtainable.
These are just some of my high priorities while traveling and eating healthy. If you want to delve further check out a great post from GNOWFGLINS about eating real food on the road.
Do you have any tips on traveling while detoxing or just eating healthy while away from home? If so, I’d love to hear them.