For those of us with food allergies and intolerances, eating out at a new restaurant can be a little scary and nerve-racking, but doing that in a different city or country, and maybe you won’t even speak the same language as the waiters, can be terrifying. Like me, you don’t let your fear and dietary needs hold you back from traveling; these are the five things I do to ease my food fears while traveling
1. Make an Allergen Card
I use Google Translate or Papago to translate my allergies onto a business card which I laminate and stick in my wallet to show every place I go. I prefer to have someone fluent in that language to look over the translations before I laminate them, especially since some foods don’t translate like ‘Hops,’ but that’s not always an option
2. Research Local Cuisine
So much research. Before I travel to a new country or region in a country, I look up popular dishes and the common ingredients used in food there to better understand what I can and can’t eat. For example, in many countries, they don’t consider fish and seafood meat, so if you’re allergic to shellfish and a vegetarian, you may order a dish with Tofu and be surprised that it has shrimp in it, or they could use seafood stock for flavoring. Cultural differences can be a make or break between a fantastic meal and having an Epi-Pen dinner. By researching ahead of time, I can navigate menus and be prepared for hidden allergens in my meals.
3. Pin Pin Pin (Resturants on a Map)
Although wandering around and seeing which restaurant looks best or just eating street food for a meal is the traveler’s dream life, but for people like me, it’s pretty risky. After copious research, you may feel comfortable enough with the local cuisine to pick a place to eat on a whim. However, local cuisine and ingredients can drastically vary throughout the city or region you’re traveling, causing you to resort to convenience store food for dinner. To avoid this becoming a daily meal habit, I always look up a couple places ahead of time. I read or translate via an app the menu online and pin locations on my map that work with my allergies. When I am at a loss of where to eat, I have a few places on back up. I find this helps me from being hangry and spending 2 hours or more looking for food while I’m trying to enjoy exploring where I’m at.
4. Pack Extra Meds
I know this is a no-brainer, but you have no idea how many people I travel with don’t carry their Epi-Pen’s with them. You may not realize until you travel that every country’s allergy meds are different, and many countries sell weaker dosages of medications. Personally, I know Benadryl is a lifesaver for me, so I make sure I pack plenty when I travel, so I don’t have to worry about what I’m taking.
4. Purchase Snacks
I like to pack protein bars before I go that can be meal replacers if I need them. When I get to a place, I also go to a local market to pick up fruits and veggies that I can carry with me or leave at the hotel in case all my preparation fails me. I also enjoy seeing what markets and grocery stores are like in other countries. Plus, if you’re at a bigger market, they may have an international food section devoted to American/English speaking world food, and it is so strange to see what another culture thinks of the food you eat. (from what I’ve seen, many people think we have mayonnaise and ketchup on everything)
These tips have been lifesavers for me, even traveling around the US. (I’ve eaten so many lettuce wraps because every place uses soy oil in town) I hope you find them helpful too!
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Medical and Health Disclaimer
I am not a medical professional there for anything I say or do on health, mental health, fitness, or anything medical related. None of the information or advice should be seen as advice from a certified medical professional. Only a certified medical professional can advise you on what’s suitable for your Health. Anything you do or try after reading this site and blog, you do at your own risk, and I am not liable for it. Please seek the advice of a medical professional on everything medical, health, and fitness related.