As you read this, I am off gallivanting around Europe with my darling husband and no kids. Yes, really. We are sailing down the Danube and exploring cities like Budapest, Vienna, and Nuremburg from the luxurious comfort of a Viking Longship. Yes, really! This experience of a lifetime has been a long time in the making, and something my husband and I have been promising to ourselves for ages. We finally decided to stop putting off “someday”, to stop saying “when the kids are older”, or “when we’re retired” and just go for it. We booked our trip nearly a year and a half ago, coerced some family members into looking after the kids, and now we are On. Our. Way. And I hope you don’t mind if I share the experience with you. I intend to tell you all about it when we return, in all its glorious detail. And if you happen to follow me on Instagram, you may see some of it as it happens. You know I won’t be able to keep from posting pics along the way.
But as I actually write this, I haven’t even left yet. Our trip is a week away and I am nearly overwrought with anticipation. Mind you, I am also crazed from trying to get things ready to leave my kids for a week. And the blog, which also needs a little loving care when being left unattended. In addition, I am prepping some low carb travel snacks and foods for my adventure. I’ve become a pretty good low carb traveler lately, packing things to help stay the course while away from home. It’s perhaps one of the toughest parts of a special diet, being outside your comfort zone where your familiar foods and ingredients aren’t as readily available. So I thought I might share a few of my thoughts on the subject, to help you when you travel. And some great homemade travel snacks from the best low carb food bloggers!
Be Prepared: This should almost go without saying, right? This applies to just about everything when it comes to a low carb diet. Even when staying at home, you need to think ahead and make sure you have all you need for success. But it’s even more critical when venturing out into the big wide world, full of carbs and sugars. If you carry some of your own low carb treats to ward off temptation, it will be that much easier to stick to the plan.
Snack It Up: You can’t carry full low carb meals with you everywhere you go, so a wide selection of low carb snackage is critical. Air travel is particularly tricky in this regard because you are a captive audience, both at the airport and in the air. Depending on the size of the airport(s) and the length of the flight(s), you may have to rely solely on your snack items. Consider packing a selection of things like:
- Nuts – I highly recommend hitting Trader Joe’s if you can…I love the truffled almonds!
- Pumpkin Seeds – I’ve totally fallen for these Super Seedz, which have very few carbs. I love the Curious Curry, as do my kids. Stick with the savoury varieties, as the sweet ones contain a little sugar.
- Jerky and Pepperoni Sticks – some choices are better than others. New Primal has some good low carb jerky, and Grass Run Farms has beef sticks that are grassfed and gluten-free.
- Nut butters – I always fill up a small container of peanut butter to carry on the plane, along with a small plastic knife. To make things even easier, you can get the squeeze packs of Justin’s Peanut Butter or Almond Butter. Or if you’re allergic to nuts, Sun Butter has squeeze packs too (they do contain a little sugar, just FYI).
- Sugar-Free Chocolate – What else are you going to spread your nut butter on? Carrying a little chocolate and peanut butter with me on trips helps me not feel deprived. While other people are eating dessert, I know I can go back to my room and have a little sweet treat too. I often carry Lily’s Milk Chocolate with Salted Almonds but Chocoperfection has some great options as well.
- Swerve packets or other packets of your favourite sweeteners – I keep a few on hand at all times to sweeten teas and coffees while on the go. Although I usually drink my coffee unsweetened, a cappuccino after dinner with a little sweetener is a great low carb dessert.
- Cheese Snacks – there are plenty of cheese-only snacks to choose from these days and they’re great when you need some crunch. Try Moon Cheese for a really unique little snack.
- Pork Rinds – serious crunch for your salty cravings. I love the little packs that come from Bacon’s Heir as they are the perfect size for traveling.
- Coconut oil packets – Kelapo has little tablespoon sized servings of coconut oil, to keep you fuelled on the go.
Cool It! For the plane ride itself, I always take a little insulated cooler bag, one that fits inside my carry-on, along with me. That way, I can carry a few more perishable items for the day. Cut up veggies and dip, cheese sticks, or even a small salad and dressing. I’ve also been known to take along leftovers from dinner the night before I leave, like cooked sausage or steak. Make sure you pack some napkins and plastic utensils. And try to avoid stinkier items like tuna salad or egg salad, so as not to offend the olfactory senses of your fellow travellers.
Home Away from Home: Going somewhere with a kitchen? Perfect! Set aside some room in your luggage for your favourite low carb ingredients. I go up to Canada every year with my family, where we rent a large cottage. I always pack some almond flour and sweetener in my suitcase, as well as some Lily’s Chocolate Chips, as these things are hard to find and/or extremely expensive up there. Then I purchase other ingredients like eggs, cocoa powder, butter and cream, and I am all set to make my own muffins and quick breads. And since rental kitchens may not have a great selection of baking pans, I also bring along muffin cups that can stand by themselves and don’t need a muffin pan. You can use silicone or stiff paper baking cups.
Maria of Keto Adapted says ” We always get a place with a kitchen. The extra cost usually works out by the time you save on eating out. Plan plan plan. We even find services that fill the fridge before you show up. Last winter when we stayed in Maui they called to double check we wanted so many eggs and butter!”.
Even if your rental or room only has a mini fridge and a microwave, it can really help the cause. Find the nearest grocery store and grab some fresh items to keep on hand.
Mix Your Own: You can even go a step further here and mix up some of your own easy-to-make items, like low carb hot cereal (make it into little single-serving packets in snack bags). These days most hotels have a coffee and hot water station so you can add hot water that way. Or you could always run water through the in-room coffee maker right into the cup! If your room has a fridge and a microwave, you could even whip up some low carb mug cakes for breakfast or dessert.
Greens, Eggs, and Ham: Be prepared to eat a lot of salad and a lot of bacon and eggs, especially if you get stuck in an airport. Airport restaurants can be pretty limited in scope but I can usually find something that works if I have to eat there. With salads, make sure you check the label on the dressing, as that’s often where many unnecessary carbs come in. And in a pinch, grab a breakfast sandwich at the Starbucks or other coffee shop and toss the bread. I often grab an extra pat of butter to spread on the eggs to help fill me up. Strange looks be damned!
Eating Out: This might just be the toughest part of a low carb diet, whether traveling or just going out to eat with friends. I won’t lie, sometimes this makes me feel the sting of a restricted diet more than anything else. But I find that if I am mentally prepared for the challenge, it stings that much less. I go into it eyes wide open, so to speak. And I try to seek out restaurants that offer a good selection of meaty entrees. I never hesitate now to ask for a second serving of veggies in place of the starch. If I am dining with others and can’t avoid the local pizzeria, I eat the toppings off several pieces and order a salad to help round it out. It is what it is!
Homemade Happiness: Now let’s discuss those homemade goodies that travel well, even if you have no access to refrigeration. Many low carb, gluten-free goodies are on the moister side and should be kept chilled. But there are some that are drier, hold up well to traveling and can keep for a week or so. I almost always have a few homemade items with me, to keep me satisfied on my journeys…
1.Biscotti: Most of my biscotti recipes hold up really well. They are baked to the point of being crisp and dry, and can be stored unrefrigerated for a week or even a little beyond. If you’re going somewhere warm, leave off any chocolate glazes that might melt in the heat.
Try: Mocha Chip Biscotti, Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti, Cinnamon Roll Biscotti, Maple Walnut Biscotti.
2. Cereal & Granola: Low carb, grain-free cereals are also baked to the point of being dry. Maria recommends making them with coconut oil so they are less likely to spoil.
Try: Nutella Cereal, Coconut Cacao Nib Granola, Pumpkin Spice Granola, Maple Pecan Granola
3. Crackers: Although homemade low carb crackers can be a little on the fragile side, I find they travel well if kept in a hard-sided container.
Try: Rosemary Parmesan Chia Seed Crackers, Homemade Graham Crackers, Chive & Sour Cream Crackers, Rosemary Walnut Crackers
4. Cookies: As with the crackers, choose cookies that are on the drier, crisper side. I’ve successfully traveled with cookies on several occasions and it helps to have a homemade sweet treat.
Try: Sunbutter Chocolate Chip Cookies, Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies, Lemon Shortbread Cookies, Homemade Biscoff Cookies
5. Homemade Beef Jerky: Yes, you can make your own!
Try: Ground Beef Jerky
6. Nut & Coconut Snacks: Save a little money and this way you can flavour them whatever way you want!
Try: Maple Rosemary Cocktail Nuts, Buffalo Spiced Cocktail Nuts, Spiced Coconut Chips,Candied Pecans
7. Muffins: I wouldn’t say most low carb muffins travel very well. However, I had taken these with me several times and they hold up well for shorter trips (3 or 4 days at most). If you are going for longer, you would need access to refrigeration. They are divine with a big smear of peanut butter for breakfast!