For a long time, I thought a special diet and medical needs meant staying at home. Travelling felt like too difficult of a task to attempt. And hotel rooms, unfamiliar cities, and museum-filled itineraries felt more like frightening obstacles than alluring opportunities. I wondered, without my kitchen, could I ever keep up my diet? Without my gym, could I keep my body moving? And without my safe place (i.e. my home), could I explore the great world outside my door, enjoy every minute of it, and return home just as healthy if not healthier than before?
The good news is, I figured it out. And since being diagnosed with Lupus, kidney disease, and a very strict salt-free diet, I learned how to travel well and stay well. The key was to put health first and seek out hotels, restaurants, experiences, and locals who could provide me with the tools and food I needed to enjoy my stay. And most surprisingly, by focusing on health, my travels quickly transformed from typical humdrum tourist affairs to more adventurous and unforgettable trips. (For my favorite tips, check out this article on Huffington Post; the National Kidney Foundation Blog here; and a round-up of all Sodium Girl travel-related posts, check out these links here. You’ll find everything you need in terms of filling your luggage to finding the perfect lodgings)
And speaking of lodging, here’s the best news: with the launch of EVEN Hotels — an oasis away from home dedicated to keeping a wellness routine beyond the home — traveling with health needs is about to get even easier.
As for my favorite part? Their hotels accommodate special diets. Double awesome. They actually welcome guests to call ahead with their food do’s and dont’s so that they can prepare special menus accordingly. Which means snacks packed for a day of sightseeing or the plane ride home; no meals missed; and room service (hallelujah!) that you can actually enjoy and eat. And that makes me happy. Really happy. As for those times when you’re not tucked in bed eating a plate of yummy so-and-so while watching a Top Chef marathon , EVEN Hotels also provides access to fitness, fun, and zen beyond your room.
Which is why I’m honored to be a part of their influencer program and provide a list of my favorite places in San Francisco that will keep travelers full, happy, and healthy. Not to mention, in the fold the the city’s greatest sites and bites. And all my favorite places to work out, fill up, explore, unwind, and fly a kite while in the sparkling city by the Bay. So without further ado, if you plan on visiting the city by the Bay, be sure to check out theses healthy hot spots. Stay adventurous. And stay well.
After booking plane tickets and the rental car, the most important thing I do before I take off on a trip is figure out where I am going to eat. This includes searching for grocery stores, quick lunch stops, and of course, restaurants where I know I can fill up. So if you plan on heading to San Francisco, here are my top three picks for a hearty, healthy, and hassle-free dinner (meaning they totally get and accommodate special diets). Just remember, it is always best to call ahead and let them know about your dietary needs. That way they’ll be able to cook something special for you.
For a quick bite that’s super filling, try shabu shabu. In the heart of Japan Town, this restaurant invites you to cook your own meal in your own pot of boiling broth or water. Perfect for people on special diets. Or those who love taking control.
Pick your own adventure from a menu of meat, vegetables, and extras nibbles (noodles, dumplings, extra squash, you name it). And for those on special diets, simply skip the broth, order hot water instead, and spice things up with chili oil and sliced green onions (also provided). Clean food, quick service, and easy on the wallet, this place appeals to all eaters.
Literally built in an old San Franciscan home, every inch of this restaurant oozes comfort and warmth. The staff goes out of their way to accommodate dietary needs — just be sure to give them a heads up. And they even make gluten-free fried chicken, if that’s your sort of thing.
Get adventurous at this Japanese yakitori and izakaya house. In the center of San Francisco’s cultural corridor, Nojo is the perfect pick for diners with guts who crave neck, gizzards, and other nibbly bits. Of course the menu also offers chicken thigh, fried rice balls, and other familiar items. So really, this place caters to every palate — adventurous or not. But if you go to Nojo (Japanese for “farm”), try something on the wild side.
Exercise has always been a huge part of my “stay healthy” equation. But I always prefer an outdoor experience to a sweaty gym. Especially when I’m in a new location. So if you want to workout while taking in the sights, check out these two outdoor options which offer great exercise as well as good eats for the end of your sweat session.
Whether you head to Ocean Beach or Crissy Field in the Marina, waterside workouts provide gorgeous views, light breezes, and flat roads (hard to find in SF). Not to mention plenty of cafes and brunch spots nearby for a post-run pick-me-up (try The Plant in the Marina for a green juice boost). Walk, jog, or run at your own pace. And take in the beautiful views.
Ride to Paradise
Step one: rent a bike. Step two: ride this bike over the Golden Gate Bridge, through Sausalito, to Tiburon, and into a seat at Sam’s Anchor Cafe (a local favorite). Step three: enjoy the sun, great people watching, and a cool drink to rehydrate. Step four: pedal back home or take the ferry for a more relaxing return. Fair warning though: this option is for those who want to seriously sweat. The complete Paradise Loop runs about 35 miles long. But you can always cut it short by starting after the bridge or by stopping in Sausalito.
Busy schedules, tight turnarounds, and endless to-do lists…it is so easy to forget to breath. Thank goodness our body does it for us. But when you’re on vacation, make a point to treat yourself to some long inhales and exhales. Let your pace slow down. Let your mind and feet wander. And while I wouldn’t pass up an afternoon at a spa, I find these two outdoor retreats to be just as relaxing and refreshing as an hour-long massage. Nothing beats a good dose of greens and oxygen.
Japanese Tea Garden
Wander through the wonders of pagodas, native Japanese flora, and cherry blossom trees. Located in Golden Gate Park (and next door to the Academy of Sciences and De Young Museum), the Garden is open daily. Check for free walking tours and special tea ceremonies. Or complete your tea experience by heading to Samovar Tea Lounge, with three locations to choose from including one in the middle of the city at the YBCA gardens. It’s a true oasis in the center of the urban jungle.
Hike the Headlands
Escape the city in minutes and explore the ocean bluffs and purple mountains majesty (or you know, rolling hills) that lie just on the northern side of the Golden Gate Bridge. Even when covered in fog (better known as Karl the Fog), these trails are always worth the trip. For those looking for an easy mosey, try Tennessee Valley Trail. And check out this list for some other favorite walkabouts.
While tour guides and museums provide a sense of history, I think food tells the story of a city. In one bite (or several) you’ll taste the cultures of the neighborhoods. You’ll experience the seasons. You’ll get folded into the gossip of locals. And with each meal, you’ll add a little more color to your city snapshot. And the easiest way to eat your way through a city is to take cooking classes. So if you want to splurge on special experiences, check out these two culinary hot spots. Mingle, mix, sip, and savour.
From basic knife skills to wine tasting, chocolate making and dinner with farmers, this beautiful community center offers a wide range of classes for eaters, DIYers, and drinkers. Whatever experience you pick, you’ll leave full of new knowledge, new friendships, and good food. Oh, and did I mention that it is smack in the center of the hottest food district in San Francisco (18th and Valencia Street)? And is connected to the famous BiRite market (across the street)? So even though you’ll most likely eat at your chosen event, there’s plenty of other food stops nearby. Check the calendar here for upcoming classes, events, and pricing.
SF Cooking School
Of course there are classes for soup making, sauce mastering, and steak perfecting. But the best part of SF Cooking School (beside the gorgeous architecture and street facing glass windows) are the events led by San Francisco’s favorite tastemakers like Delfina, Tacolicious, and A16. Meaning you don’t have to fight for reservations at the hottest spots and you’ll get a front row seat for some of the tastiest cooking in the city. Not to mention recipes for an unforgettable souvenir. Check the calendar here for upcoming classes, events, and pricing.
You could spend the day locked up at Alcatraz or within the walls of one of San Francisco’s many museums. Or you could wander through rows of food stands and fields of fresh produce, tasting juicy fruit and crisp veggies as you go. It’s your choice.
Ferry Building Farmers Market
Set on the waterfront, the Ferry Building (yes, the one with the gorgeous clock tower) houses some of the Bays most delicious bites. Inside, you’ll find butcheries and oyster companies, sausage makers and ceramics, ice cream shops and tea lounges. A perfect stop for a quick lunch or a quick shop. But wait, there’s more. On Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, the outer area fills up with vendors that include street food carts, smoked fish sandwiches, bakers, jam makers, and of course, a bounty of fresh produce. Come wander, taste, shop, and taste. And check out the website for hours and FAQs.
If you love farmers markets, then go one step further and take a trip to the farm. The same organization that operates the Ferry Building Farmers Market also organizes tours where you can meet and learn from the producers on their own soil (literally). And while the tours are finished for 2013, check back in 2014 for the new tour schedule. Or create a tour of your own by checking out this website with information on local farms and orchards open to visits and picking your own fruit and vegetables.
So be sure to check out the Well Well Well blog for more insider tips on devouring San Francisco. Or any city, state, country you find yourself visiting. And remember that with a little forethought, your special diet has no boundaries and no borders.
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by wellwellwell.com, “a new site bringing wellness and travel together fueled by EVEN® Hotels.” Meaning it is a product that I believe in and makes for an easier and more enjoyable low-sodium life. For more information about locations and openings of EVEN Hotels, follow this link.