May 22, 2012

Low-Sodium Travel Tips, Remix

Low-Sodium Road Trip


You might have noticed that I was missing in action last week. Apologies if you got worried. I was just on a whirlwind tour of Washington DC, NYC, and New Jersey for some fun projects that I’ll happily reveal in a little while.

While I was whirling through the east, though, I realized that it was time for an upgrade of my traveling advice. It’s not that the old tips and tricks don’t work. They’re great. And feel free to brush up on them here.

But I’m writing this travel remix today because every time I leave home, I learn more. I eat better. And I come across new ideas, products, or people that help me keep my diet while I explore the world.

So fasten your seat belts and add these low-sodium tips to your packing list.

Travel on.

1. PACK SMART

First and foremost, make sure that you have low-sodium nibbles with you at all times — I’m talking granola bars, tortillas, nuts, berries, nut butter packets, packets of low-sodium tuna, microwave granola, microwave rice, quinoa, and anything else not perishable that fits well (and lays flat) in a suitcase and requires only you and/or a microwave.

This will enable hanger management throughout your trip and will serve as an essential low-sodium S.O.S. for airplane rides, breakfasts, and lunches when low-sodium food is scarce.

But when I’m talking about packing, also think about things like Mrs. Dash Spices, no-salt added mustard, and even a plastic (non-leak) container filled with cooked quinoa and precooked beans — items that will make the most boring plate of salad or scrambled eggs perk up with protein and flavor.

And if you are willing to pack a separate small bag with an ice pack and perishable, low-sodium goodies (like low-sodium turkey meat) , then the options quickly become limitless. Just be sure to call your hotel and ask for your room to be equipped with a small refrigerator.

Which brings me to my next point…

2. SEND AHEAD

If you are staying somewhere for a while, don’t be bashful; SEND YOUR LOW-SODIUM KITCHEN ahead of you. I’m being serious. During my first few trips away from my stove, I sent my favorite, non-suitcase-friendly foods via the mail to my hotel. And when I arrived, I had cans of beans, chips, salsas, and other low-sodium accoutrements waiting for me in my room.

Sometimes you can even ask the concierge at your hotel to do a little pre-arrival grocery shopping for other staple items that will enable you to make fulfilling meals whenever you want.

3. FORGET THE VIEW, GET A KITCHEN!

When looking for hotels, see if you can find a space with a small kitchen. Many hotels have cottage options or rooms that come with kitchenettes. And these days, my man and I like renting through places like VRBO where we have access to simple tools (like microwaves) or even more complete stoves and ovens. This lets me take more low-sodium food with me and prepare meals when necessary. Or when I’m hungry. Or both.

And since I always travel with some sort of plastic container, if I know we will be out for the day adventuring and salt-free food might be scarce, I use my mini kitchenette to make a snack pack for the day. Just in case.

4. GO RAW

Whether you are a low-sodium eater or not, there are two things you generally miss after a long trip: your own bed and vegetables. But don’t think you can’t get your green when you aren’t near your crisper.

I’ve started taking a tip from the raw eaters out there and packing a small bag of sturdy greens — like collards and kale — as well as a lemon. And whether I mix them up in a bowl or add them to a plate of scrambled eggs, a little bit of acid or vinegar makes these leaves ready for eating. Leaving me feeling extra healthy and energized.

5. USE FRIENDS, REAL AND VIRTUAL

If you can stay with a friend, you’ve struck low-sodium traveling gold. Their kitchen, pantry, and stove is now yours, guaranteeing you safe low-sodium meals when you want.

But even when you travel without a friend to visit, that doesn’t mean a helpful hand is far. Use social media tools, like Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp! to search for others with similar dietary needs. Post questions to find the best diet-friendly restaurants or stores within the city or town. Pool together resources and discover places and eats that only locals know about.

6. RESEARCH

Before looking at the weather for the week, do some research about the food and culture of the city and our country you plan to visit.

Visit travel blogs to explore the cuisine, what’s typically on a menu, and how it is traditionally prepared. Because the more you know, the more easily you’ll be able to order. Or ask the concierge at your hotel to call ahead to ask for special preparations. And get Googling. Map out the nearest grocery stores to figure out where you can stock up on treats as soon as you land.

Be sure to also check out other allergy sites (like this ones: http://allergicgirl.blogspot.com/2008/06/food-allergy-travel-tips.html) for travel tips and feel free to contact bloggers in case they have already been to the city you are visiting. They might know some great restaurants or grocery stores for you to check out. So get emailing! And start amassing a list of recommendations for all the cities, towns, and countries you plan to visit.

7. POINT PEOPLE TO YOUR RESOURCES

Sharing is caring. And when you give people links to your favorite blogs, recipes, or even that low-sodium diner card, suddenly they have all the tools they need to make amazing salt-free foods for you. So remember, even if you are taking a solo trip, don’t be afraid to let people (your friends, the concierge, the kitchen staff) in on your low-sodium lifestyle. The more information you can give them, the better you will eat.

8. NO ENGLISH, NO PROBLEM

Are you going abroad, beyond the boarder, where the language sounds a lot different than it does in your home town? Don’t fret. Just use all the same tips suggested here. Do the research. Understand the food. Get to know your hotel(s) concierge and staff. Find people abroad (whether friends, tour guides, or trusty companions you meet on tour) that can help you navigate restaurants and foreign menus. Find restaurants and grocery stores before you go that will have the treats you can eat. Or send food ahead of time.

And don’t forget about that laminated dietary card. That can be translated too. So that you don’t have to spend the whole trip trying to perfect a French, Italian, or New Guinean accent.

Susan May 22, 2012 at 11:47 am

Thanks for this post. I will be traveling this summer and food is a big concern. I am bringing my snacks and stuff. Generally when I eat out, I get a salad with no olives, no cheese, etc and use lemon. I guess I can do a small bag with my bread, no salt peanut butter, and so on. Yay, you have saved the day, AGAIN!

By the way, LOVE this blog.

RM May 22, 2012 at 11:56 am

Enjoy your site and posts! You must have jetlag 😉 …you forgot to add what goes in the bags in tip 1.

R

Karen May 22, 2012 at 12:10 pm

How timely this post is for me. I will definitely use these suggestions as I plan to travel overseas to Portugal this summer. Luckily I will be with my husband, who speaks fluent Portuguese and can help me order food, but I am seriously considering shipping some of my non-perishable low sodium faves before I go.

I must admit, I’m nervous about the variety I’ll have over there. I dread getting vertigo (from too much salt) which will put me out of commission for hours and hours. So, I’m practicing all sorts of phrases: “Nao posso ter o sal” – I can’t have salt – “Sem o sal, por favor” – without salt, please – and I’ll have to avoid some of the local favorites like bachalau (salt cod). Wish me luck!!! Do you have any suggestions for overseas travel?

Viv Jackson May 22, 2012 at 12:39 pm

your blog continually recharges my determination to go more low sodium with my family: as one of us needs to cut it out, so we all shall follow! This is a brilliant set of recommendations. The UK needs you….

Susan Tweeton May 25, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Really good hints and just in time for summer vacations.

Lindsay May 29, 2012 at 6:25 am

I just got back from London, and I used as many of your tips as I could! It made traveling so much easier and I didn’t have to worry so much!

Kimberly April 18, 2013 at 10:44 am

thanks for the tips! I wish I had found your blog before I went away on a vacay. I just got back from Asia, and although I had spent a lot of time swimming and doing outdoorsy stuff, I have been feeling so puffy since i got back. Must’ve been the soy and fish source they use in the food.

David Wyllie August 21, 2013 at 8:38 am

I like to travel and eat in the west of Scotland. As you likely know, western Scotland is either a cardiologist’s dream come true or his worst nightmare depending on which matters more to him/her, making a lot of money or stamping out heart disease. Salt and sugar are a way of life there. So — do you have any suggestions of restaurants, in hotels or other, in western Scotland where the chef will be helpful to saltphobes with enlarged hearts and CHD?

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