Tips for Surviving an Elimination Diet on Vacation

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Hi, I'm Tina!

I’m the owner of Carrots ‘N’ Cake as well as a Certified Nutrition Coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P). I use macros and functional nutrition to help women find balance within their diets while achieving their body composition goals.

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tips for surviving an elimination diet while on vacation, debating eating a donut

We’re off to Florida this morning, so I figured it would be the perfect time to share this blog post with tips for surviving an elimination diet on vacation. Not that I’m doing any sort of elimination diet right now, BUT I know them all too well. I have taken many trips away when I had a restricted diet, and it’s not all that enjoyable. Of course, the thought of having to give up some of your favorite foods, especially while on vacation, is definitely a scary one for most people! However, as hard as an elimination diet may be, it certainly has the potential to be very beneficial in the long run. If you choose to embark on an elimination diet (removing processed foods, ones you have allergies or sensitivities to, and other harmful substances like chemicals) with a vacation on the horizon, you know how important compliance is in order to start the process of healing from the inside out. If you happen to be one of these people, you know it’s not always easy, especially if you’re trying to live a “normal” life. That’s why I put together these tips for surviving an elimination diet on vacation.

Personally, I haven’t had too many issues making changes to my diet when I’m cooking and eating in the comfort of my own home. But when I’m dining out or socializing with family and friends at events and parties, it’s not always easy to stick to a restrictive diet. Then, taking it one step further and adding a vacation or extended period of time where you don’t have complete control over your food choices is even tougher, but not impossible. If there’s a will, there’s a way! While I’m not doing a “traditional” elimination diet anymore, my diet is still somewhat restricted with regard to what I eat on a regular basis (i.e. wheat, eggs). That said, here are some tips for surviving an elimination diet on vacation!

tips for surviving an elimination diet on vacation

There’s no doubt that making the decision to start and stick to an elimination diet is hard, which is why I hope these tips for surviving an elimination diet on vacation are really helpful to you. As someone who’s struggled with finding the root cause of several health issues such as ulcerative colitis, eczema, acne, and hormonal imbalances, I’ve tried my fair share of elimination diet protocols, such as the LEAP Diet and AIP. I’ve also experimented with removing standalone foods such as eggs, dairy, and gluten in an effort to pinpoint the culprit. 

While some elimination diets are more strict than others, all have some level of restriction that needs to be adhered to for a specified period of time in order to really reap the rewards and insights into the way your body reacts to certain foods. Once you’ve abstained from eating these potentially aggravating foods for the prescribed length of time, you then slowly reintroduce them to see if one or any of the foods trigger a negative reaction. The reason you reintroduce slowly is that if you were to begin eating ALL the foods at once, it would be difficult to pinpoint which one caused a reaction. In this way, an elimination diet can actually run a bit longer than the specified time period, making planning exactly the best time to start one a little difficult. I mean, you need to live your life too! 

While we can do our best to begin an elimination diet during a month where we don’t have any pre-planned events or travel, there is always the potential for last-minute birthday parties, weekends away, and other random get-togethers. I don’t know about you, but I have no interest in turning down fun plans in the name of a diet, even if it’s health-related. Elimination diets can be tough, yes, but isolating yourself from all the people and activities you love would only make it that much harder. The mind and body are highly interconnected, so I really believe your overall happiness surrounding a diet is super important too. Plus, sometimes you just can’t wait for the “right time,” if such a thing even exists!

With summer in full swing now, many of you are probably gearing up for a vacation. While adhering to any diet (elimination or not) can be difficult while traveling, it’s definitely not impossible. I have plenty of firsthand experience with what goes into successfully sticking to a diet while traveling, which is why I want to share these tips for surviving an elimination diet on vacation. This is definitely one of those situations where the saying “fail to plan, plan to fail” rings true. But with a little preparation, you can successfully stick to your guns and enjoy your time away without feeling deprived or worrying that you won’t be able to adhere to your protocol. Below are a few tips for surviving an elimination diet on vacation to help you plan. And remember – when it’s all said and done, vacation is way less about the food you eat than it as about the experiences you have, the people you spend it with, and the memories you make! I hope you find these tips for surviving an elimination diet on vacation helpful!

Tips for surviving an elimination diet on vacation

Always be prepared

The week leading up to a vacation can be stressful in and of itself with all the packing, picking up last-minute items, coordinating plans, and wrapping up work. But dedicating a grocery trip or an hour or two of prep for your travel days can make a world of difference. Whether traveling by train, plane, or car, I often find the days that I have the least predictability and control over my diet during vacation are the days I am on the road or in the air. Travel is stressful and unpredictable no matter which way you slice it, and when we’re tired and stressed, snacks and meals often happen solely based on what’s available and convenient. So do yourself a favor and plan specifically for your travel days. If your driving, invest in a cooler that will keep cold items fresh so you’re not just living off of snacks, or plan a route that will have diet-friendly options along the way. If you’re flying, especially if it’s a longer flight, pack a substantial, TSA-friendly meal (you’d be surprised what you can get through!) in addition to snacks. Trust me, in the event of traffic or a delayed flight, you will be glad that you did. Focus on nutrient density, and keeping a balance of protein, carbs, and fat even if you’re not tracking macros. Hearty nut butter packets paired with a dense fruit like a banana and a protein like Greek yogurt will keep you fuller a lot longer than just the banana alone. The last thing you need is a blood sugar crash or being hangry while traveling! 

Once you’re in the full swing of your trip, don’t let staying prepared fall to the wayside. Vacations usually mean long days out and about, and the only thing worse than being struck with a case of the hangries is realizing that you don’t have any available options that will work with your diet.  The more hungry (and grumpy) you get, the more likely it is that you will cave into whatever is available to you. Keep one (even two) diet-friendly, non-perishable snacks on you at all times. Better yet, if you know you will be away from home-base or access to fresh food for a while, it’s best to preemptively eat a little something before leaving even if you’re not super hungry. Pro tip: Schedule a grocery delivery to arrive at your destination as soon as you do to save yourself a trip to the grocery store. Then, you’ll have plenty of healthy foods at your finger tips! 

Focus on what you CAN have, not what you can’t

It’s so easy to feel down or discouraged by the list of off-limit foods, especially if it’s your first time trying an elimination diet. That’s why it’s important to remind yourself that it’s only temporary and to focus on the awesome list of flavorful foods that you CAN eat! Nowadays you can find tasty ideas for pretty much any type of elimination diet – everything from recipes online that will keep the list of foods feeling fresh and keep you from tastebud burnout. And who knows? Maybe you will even keep these recipe ideas in rotation long after the elimination period has ended! You can likely find tons of diet-friendly substitutions for whatever your craving – all it takes is an open mind and a little creativity. When I’m really struggling with what I “can’t have,” changing my mindset to what I “can have” always puts things into perspective. It’s definitely one of my go-tos when it comes to my favorite tips for surviving an elimination diet on vacation that’s most helpful! 

Most elimination diets will have a strict no alcohol rule… and for good reason! But the drinks can definitely flow while on vacation, and it’s easy to feel like your missing out on the fun. Just remember that no vacation was ever made better by a hangover! As much as I love my wine, I also love starting the day feeling fresh and energized – and that doesn’t really go hand in hand after several days of boozing. It’s hard at first, but once the good times start rolling, you will realize you don’t need alcohol to enjoy yourself. In fact, you might even find yourself enjoying your trip even more without it. You will be more excited and energized to really enjoy your vacation activities (sunrise hike, anyone?). And if you’re worried about people being pushy and offering you drinks, I find that keeping good sparkling water with a lime wedge in hand fends off any questions! Here are some additional tips for staying on track and still having fun this summer

tips for surviving an elimination diet on vacation or on the beach

Stay in a place with a kitchen, and go grocery shopping when you arrive

When selecting accommodations, seek out an Airbnb or house rental that will give you access to a fridge and kitchen if it works with your plans. (Be sure to schedule a grocery delivery!) If that’s not possible (and no sweat if it isn’t), there are several hotels that have small kitchen units with a stove, fridge, and microwave. And if all else fails, almost all hotels will be able to provide you with a mini-fridge! This is often the key to success when it comes to my top tips for surviving an elimination diet on vacation! 

Scope out diet-friendly grocery stores ahead of time and plan to make a pit-stop shortly after you arrive. A local Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, or smaller natural grocer is a great option that will likely have food you can stock up on – and not just for yourself, but for the whole family. Pro tip: Eating some of your meals at home will actually make your vacation more budget-friendly! I like to pick one or two breakfasts that I can eat on repeat throughout the trip. I often go with rice cakes or gluten-free bread with nut butter and sliced banana or fresh berries on top. It’s easy, delicious, and nutritious! I also stock up on items such as pre-cut veggies, whole fruit, snack bars, nut butter packets, and a plant-based protein powder or collagen to add to my morning iced coffee. 

If we have a full kitchen, we often eat a few lunches and dinners at home as well. If you’re staying with other family or friends, offer to make a diet-friendly side-dish (or even a main) that everyone will love. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy – often the simplest meals (meat, non-starchy veggies, cooking fat, and herbs and spices) are the most delicious and flavorful. No one will even know that they are part of a diet plan! And when you do cook, make sure that you make enough for leftovers. These will come in super handy when you need something in a pinch!

If someone else is cooking, don’t feel bad about making special requests. When we were in Arizona last year, each family was responsible for making dinner one night of the week. I felt bad about asking for substitutions, like zucchini noodles instead of pasta, but everyone was more than willing to accommodate – no big deal! Plus, everyone ended up loving many of my ingredient swaps! 

Scope out restaurants ahead of time

One of the most common tips for surviving an elimination diet on vacation is to peruse the menu of a restaurant ahead of time. Take it one step further by checking out restaurants at your location ahead of time, leaving making a last-minute decision out of the equation. Scope out their menus to see if they offer anything diet-friendly or close enough to it that you can make an easy swap. Don’t be shy about calling restaurants ahead of time to discuss your needs and the substitutions they can offer. Most restaurants are more than happy to accommodate. A good rule of thumb is to look for an entree that offers meat and a non-starchy or starchy veggie side. (I’m always a fan of big salads!) From there, it’s easy to make substitutions like forgoing the bread or asking for the food to be cooked in certain oils. If all else fails, order a simple garden salad with a choice of grilled or steamed protein and dressing on the side. You can also simply ask if they can prepare a meat and a veggie for you, rather than modifying existing menu items.

And lastly…

No one cares!

And I mean this in the nicest way possible! 🙂 Talk yourself out of any self-consciousness you have regarding your elimination diet in the same way you’d handle self-consciousness at the gym. You’re too busy focusing on yourself to pay attention to anyone else, right? It’s the same situation, even more so on vacation when friends and family are just excited to have a blast together. Of course, they will support you, but it won’t be a huge deal. If you do get questions, but don’t feel like jumping into an explanation, simply say that you are eating a specific diet for medical reasons. It’s usually reason enough to shut down any (however well-meaning) prying down! Your choices are for YOU, and you shouldn’t feel the need to explain yourself to anyone. Keep these tips for surviving an elimination diet on vacation top of mind and you do YOU!

When it comes down to it, elimination diets are more a mental challenge than anything else. Just like with other challenges, if you believe in yourself and do what you can to prepare, you will be successful. Diets are difficult to stick to in any situation, more so during travel, but it’s not totally impossible by any means. Do the best you can, and don’t let anything stop you from enjoying your well-deserved time off with family and friends. There’s no room for stress – it’s a vacation, after all! I hope these tips for surviving an elimination diet on vacation helpful to you, your lifestyle, and goals. If you try any of them or have any to add, please share below in the comment section! 

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