When I first started my healing journey on first the GAPS diet and then Paleo, I avoided traveling because I was worried about how I was going to maintain the diet. For those who follow this lifestyle but don't have actual food sensitivities, it may be a bit easier. A little indulgence now and then or a meal that isn't 100% Paleo probably isn't going to matter all that much. But for those of us with autoimmune disease, it is more of a pressing concern. Just a small amount of the wrong type of ingredient can make us extremely ill or cause the autoimmune disease to flare. I've been doing some traveling recently and I have some great tips to share. The first travel experience that I'm going to share was an overseas trip to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. One of the most difficult places to find Paleo-friendly food is the airport. The remedy for that is pretty simple--bring your own food to eat while in the airport and on the plane. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) does not allow any fluids greater than 4oz. past the checkpoints, but non-liquid food is permitted. I packed my lunch bag full of goodies that included salmon cakes, meatballs, green beans, cucumber salad, dates, almonds, apples, and oranges. My trip included about 18 hours of travel (including the layover and airport waiting times), so I wanted to make sure I would have enough to eat.
Brazil is a country that is known for its love of meat. However, I wasn't quite sure what to expect about the quality of meat, so I decided to bring my own. I put some frozen beef, chicken, and pork into an insulated bag and packed it into my suitcase. I wasn't quite sure if it would make it through customs without being questioned, but I decided it was worth the risk. Fortunately, no one stopped me to confiscate the meat! The meat had partially thawed by the time that I made it to the hotel, but it was still cold.
The room that I stayed in had a half fridge (with a small freezer on top), a portable electric burner, a microwave, and a George Foreman grill. Although I would have loved an oven, it was more than suitable for creating Paleo meals.
After taking a shower and a nap, the first place that I went was to the grocery store, of which there are plenty in Rio de Janeiro. I stocked up on some local fruit that is fresher than any that you could buy in the US, including mangos, papayas, guavas, and bananas. I also got some frozen vegetables and honey and that is when I realized that Brazil has something that the US does not: Gluten labeling laws! Any packaged product has to be labeled if it contains gluten or not.
This was a bag of frozen vegetables. If you look closely, you will see under "Ingredientes" (Ingredient), "Noa Contem Gluten" (Does Not Contain Gluten). Isn't that wonderful?!
And here it is again on a bottle of honey.
I was very excited to learn of the Brazilian gluten labeling laws, but I realized pretty quickly that it doesn't translate to the restaurants. In the restaurants of Rio, there is no such thing as a "gluten-free" menu. There are a lot of traditional meals that include rice and meat, but the meat is usually heavily marinated and it's difficult to determine if it is truely Paleo-friendly. I'm still not far enough in my own healing journey to attempt rice, so I decided to opt out of eating out and cook my own meals instead.
I will be including more blog posts on my travel experiences in the next few weeks. I would love to hear about how others manage to eat Paleo while traveling, so be sure to leave your comments!
Bon voyage! (Boas Viagens in Portuguese).