Staying Healthy When Traveling (Even Last Minute!) on a Restricted Diet

traveling photo

[image source: Pixabay]

I recently took an impromptu trip to the US for a dear relative’s funeral. This wasn’t my typical kind of travel when I have my packing list out a week before departure, slowly purchasing all the ingredients so I can prepare dehydrated Alkalizing Kale and Seaweed Crackers or my favorite Breakfast Cookies (both Sweet Life Club recipes), or other homemade items to keep me nourished and healthy while I’m on the road.

This time, though, I had barely 24 hours to plan, pack, shop and cook up anything I needed to take in advance–so the cooking had to go.

Plus, while it would be lovely to spend hours poring over the Airbnb listings so I could find an eco-friendly place with organic sheets and towels, that wasn’t going to happen with the time or budget I had available.

I had to make the best of it and ensure that the essentials were covered so I didn’t come home and immediately come down with something or experience a symptom flare-up. 

What do you bring on a trip when you follow a restricted diet that’s sugar-free, gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free and mostly grain-free?

Given the reason for the trip and the fact I’d have to depend on others to drive me to and from the hotel, that also meant I might not make it to restaurants of my choice–and definitely NO chance I’d make it to Whole Foods.

I’m pleased to report that I managed just fine; nobody starved (least of all me); and I came home slightly tired but not really worse for wear. A couple hours extra sleep once I got home, and I felt the same as always.

So, what did I pack? Here’s my list of must-haves and how I navigated some otherwise sticky situations.

map and suitcase

First, some general guidelines: 


1. Single-serve packets are Queen!

If you can find single-serve packets of any of your non-perishable staples, these are great for travel; I make them a staple in my bag. Small enough to slip into suitcase pockets or even a pair of shoes (why not use that empty space?), they are the ideal grab-and-go additions to a purse or pocket when you know you’ll be out all day and not sure of what you’ll eat. See more below.

2. Always have something stocked in the freezer. 

I try to keep extras of packable foods like homemade burgers or “meat” loaves, crackers or grilled tofu in the freezer at all times so I don’t have to stress if I need to bring something to a friend’s for dinner, to a meeting, or on an impromptu trip. This time wasn’t quite as well-stocked as usual, but I did manage one homemade, prepared snack (see below).

3. Consider any health hazards.

Way back in 1936, endocrynologist Hans Selye coined the term “eustress” to designate stress on our bodies and minds that results from events that we consider normal or even positive. Even under the best circumstances (who’s coming on vacation to Hawaii with me?), travel causes stress to your system.

It’s always a good idea to ponder the possible stressors you might encounter, and try to counteract them. Whether it’s the potential health hazards associated with breathing recirculated airplane air or the germs and other critters that exist at your destination, consider how you’ll deactivate them or how you can boost your own immune reserves to deflect them efficiently. I always try to have something that fights germs and microorganisms, as well as some way to decrease stress.

4. Choose your “battles”; be realistic and don’t let it make you crazy

I know that the hotel I stayed at didn’t use organic, all-natural cleaning products, and their sheets aren’t organic cotton. I could stress about it (which would just make the chances of my coming down with something worse), or I could accept it and do what I was able to do without going nuts about it. I chose the latter.

Similarly, in order to pack some homemade things in small packages that could fit easily into my suitcase in a way that’s practical, I decided to forgo the glass containers and use Ziploc bags to transport my foods. Yes, plastic is bad for you. On the other hand, I didn’t want to open my checked bag once I got to the hotel and find a shattered container cutting into my funeral outfit, or thousands of grains of dehydrated buckwheat in my clothing. Ziploc bags it was.

For the airplane, I always try to pack 3 pieces of plastic cutlery: a spoon, a fork, a knife. That way, I’m covered for any kind of food on the plane or in the hotel room, even if utensils aren’t offered.

Food and Snacks:


[Cinnamon Roasted Chickpeas]

I. Protein

I know from experience that, when it comes to the three essential macronutrients (protein, healthy fats, healthy carbohydrates), the one I’m least likely to encounter with ease is protein. Most standard restaurants don’t have tempeh on offer, and even hummus, a plant-based staple, can be hard to come by.

So, I made sure I was covered with some pre-packaged snack foods that could double as my main protein if need be.

Roasted Chickpeas. These are a great snack, of course, but they also double as a protein boost to any salad or plate of roasted vegetables. I added chickpeas to my dinner on the final evening (see below), and all was well.

Single serve nut butters. I always grab a few Artisana nut butter packets for the road. You can use them atop bread, crackers, waffles, pancakes, veggies or fruits–or even just straight from the package as a snack if need be!

Homemade trail mix. When I have time, I mix up a selection of different toasted nuts and seeds with some goji berries or golden berries and bring it along with me. This makes a great snack, of course, but all the nuts and seeds also offer a protein kick when I need it during the day.

candida diet salted caramel protein bars from The Sweet Life Club

[Sugarfree, nutfree, dairyfree, grainfree Salted Caramel Protein Bars]

Homemade Protein Bars. I recently developed these Salted Caramel Protein Bars, above, for The Sweet Life Club, so I had a bunch in the freezer and just grabbed a few for the trip. They held up beautifully (though a bit softer by day 2). I modeled them on these bars by SunWarrior, so of course you could simply buy the originals.

Single Serve Protein Shake Powders. You’ll find loads of protein powders on sale in individual packets these days. I happen to like this one and  this one best. (Tip: always buy vanilla flavor, so it can double as “milk” in a pinch–in cereal, tea, etc!).

Other options include packages of single-serve hummus (I pass on the chips), chia seeds (can be made into pudding on location) or kale chips (many flavors are coated in a nut/seed mix coating–so you’ve got protein AND greens covered!).

II. Alkalizing Boost.

Travel, as I said, is stressful, and I knew I’d be going into a stressful situation as well. All stress–whether negative or positive–causes the body to become more acidic. Plus, the foods I eat during travel aren’t the same quality as the kinds I might eat at home, where 99% of what I consume is homemade; processed ingredients and higher levels of starchy foods also increase acidity (and if you eat fast food or increase alcohol consumption while traveling, your acidity will skyrocket).

For anyone who eats sugar and/or animal products, keep in mind that both of those are at the top of the scale when it comes to foods that acidify the body. And when traveling. . . of course, most people tend to eat more of that kind of food.

So, I try to counteract the excess acidity by adding more alkaline-producing foods to my body. Here’s what I did:

Greens powder. Normally, a pack of my homemade kale-and-seaweed crackers is a perfect food for this purpose, but this time I didn’t have any available, so I grabbed several single-serve packs of greens powder to bring with me.

A good rule of thumb is to have 2-3 of these per day; I managed two. First, on the plane, I requested water as my beverage, then added the powder to it (on Porter, the airline I used, they give you bottles instead of glasses of water, which made it even easier; I poured the powder into the bottle, replaced the cap and shook for an easy-to-sip greens drink).

Lemon water. When in a restaurant, I normally drink green tea, but sometimes they don’t have any. In that case, I simply ask for boiling water in a cup with a slice of lemon. The lemon adds a huge dollop of alkalinity to your cup, and is actually quite lovely to sip. You can also use lemon in cold water. One to two glasses per day really helps (and can support digestion and liver function as well).

Green tea. While black tea is considered acidic, green tea is actually alkaline. Most restaurants and cafes (and even hotel rooms) these days do have green tea on offer, but I always bring a few tea bags in my purse, just in case.

Other options include spirulina (green-blue algae powder; I like the powder, but some people find the tablets easier for travel), eating as many leafy greens as you can find (and upping all veggie intake, wherever you eat) and baking soda. Yes, plain ole baking soda!

When I first started the candida diet and my body was incredibly acidic, my naturopath instructed me to drink a glass of water with 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) baking soda dissolved in it each day (drink away from food or medication). It’s a quick and efficient way to alkalize the body over the short term.

typical unhealthy breakfast

[Your typical buffet breakfast–no, thank you! Image source: Pixabay.]

III. Breakfasts.

Again, for me, breakfast on the road can be challenging. Eating gluten-free AND plant-based isn’t easy to do in public restos! If a dish is sugar-free, it’s usually not gluten-free or plant-based. Or, if it’s plant-based, it likely contains gluten and/or sugar. . . . you get the idea.

Here’s what I brought along so I didn’t have to worry about whether or not there was anything I could eat at the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet.

raw sugar-free, gluten-free, candida friendly breakfast cereal

Grain-free cereal. I happened to have a huge container of my grain-free granola (pictured, above) on hand (you could easily use this recipe instead), so I just scooped some of the dry cereal out into a Ziploc bag and took it with me. In the morning, I used one of the mugs that were provided with the coffee machine in the room (or you could use whatever glass is available there) instead of a bowl (and I had already packed a plastic spoon–see above). Since I didn’t have any dairy-free milk on hand, I simply sprinkled a little of my protein powder into the mug, added water, and voila–milk and cereal for breakfast!

Once I knew my basic nutrition was covered, I was able to head to the buffet and have some of the fruit and a cup of green tea while my relatives chowed down on the waffles, pancakes, bacon and eggs.

Honestly, I didn’t feel like I was missing out; these all looked like they’d been based on a prepared mix (even the eggs!) and not all that appetizing to my current used-to-homemade, all-real-and-fresh-food, candida-friendly-foods palate.

Alternately, I could just as easily have used my protein bars or single serve protein powder for a shake for breakfast.

Sometimes you can also find healthy packets of instant oatmeal (look for those without added sugars, but perhaps with added seeds–great in a pinch, and you can add regular water or nondairy milk and allow to sit for a bit longer if you can’t get boiling water, since the instant is technically already cooked).

vegan, glutenfree Quinoa Breakfast Muffin by Ricki Heller

[Apple Quinoa Breakfast Muffins travel well!]

Other options include anything you’ve got prepped in your freezer that would travel well, such as breakfast cookies (here’s a similar recipe that would work); homemade granola bars; pre-made waffles or pancakes (just spread with some of the nut butter in your single-serve packets! These are great to use instead of bread for sandwiches, too); homemade muffins; slices of homemade bread; or simple fruit (apple, pear) topped with nut butter.

Lunches and dinners were much easier, I found, since every restaurant has vegetables and/or salad. I ordered veggies and supplemented with my own proteins that I’d brought along with me.

Non-food Items:


herbal remedies on

[image source: Pixabay.]

Along with some special foods, I also always bring certain supplements and holistic health products with me. As I said, travel is stressful, and it puts a strain on the immune system. To avoid falling ill or having a flare-up of candida symptoms, I always bring a few supplements or herbals with me.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I am not a doctor or medical professional. I am sharing here what works for me, but please do not take this as any kind of medical advice, recommendation or suggestion; always check with your own physician or health care provider first before trying any of these products.

Here’s what I took this time:

1. Colloidal Silver Spray. For years, I avoided using colloidal silver because it scared the heck out of me (I mean, it’s silver! In filtered water! And it might make your skin grey!). But then I spent three weeks at the Hippocrates Institute, and both of the institute’s directors recommended and used it freely. I noted that neither of them looked ill (in fact, they both looked about 30 years younger than they actually were), so I decided to take a chance. Since then, it’s been a staple in my own medicine cabinet.

I use colloidal silver as an all-purpose anti-microbial for whatever I might encounter. I bring the spray when traveling because it can be used in the eye, ear and/or nose if necessary, but can also be poured into a spoon and measured if you need to take it orally (for a general infection like a flu or a UTI).

As we hear constantly, if one person on a flight has a cold and is sneezing into the air, we all breathe it. A few sprays of colloidal silver in each nostril right after takeoff and then once or twice more during the flight is my “insurance” to prevent any of those airborne bugs from gaining access to my respiratory system.

I’ve also used colloidal silver to treat eye irritations that occur while I travel. It’s saved me from pink eye on a couple of occasions.

2. St. Francis EchinaSeal. St. Francis is a Canadian herb farm that makes some of the very best herbal tinctures out there. For flu bugs or bad colds, I’ve used EchinaSeal in the past, so I brought some with me just in case.

3. Shelf stable probiotics. Probiotics not only help us digest food and keep us regular, they also boost immunity and reduce inflammation, all functions you want to optimize while traveling.

At home, I take lacto-fermented sauerkraut pretty much daily, along with probiotic capsules that require refrigeration. For travel, I have a box of the shelf-stable types to bring with me in my bag. My favorites are Pure Encapsulations and Genuine Health.

4. Homeopathics. For me, two must-haves are my homeopathic arnica and gelsemium. I have the arnica in case of physical injury (it helps speed healing from things like bruises or breaks), and also in case my back decides to have one of its intermittent hissy fits (like it did this time). Gelsemium is great to calm one’s nerves when taking off, in the air, when landing. . . whenever.

Of course, I also take along all my usual daily supplements like digestive enzymes, vitamins and minerals, and so on–but that’s a list that’s too long to mention! Plus, those types of daily supplements really should be customized to your own needs.

Other options include essential oils like oil of oregano (which can be taken orally or used topically when diluted) or tea tree oil (which can only be used topically), which can both be used as germ fighters or antiseptics.

Yes, travel can be rushed and stressful, so the last thing you want is to compromise your health by eating poorly or not supporting your immune system. I’ve found these tips have helped me to travel well over the years, even when the situation wasn’t optimal.

Please let me know: Have I missed any of your favorite travel ideas? What do you do when you travel, especially last minute? Share in the comments below! 



  1. Hi Ricki,
    I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your loved one. I’m glad you survived the trip well even though you didn’t get to do your usual planning. Sometimes I’ve found quick trips to be a blessing because I don’t have time to prepare too much.


  2. Tricia L Roderick says

    Hello Ricki,
    Sending you peace in your time of sadness. I give you so much credit for being so organized, I know how difficult it is to keep up your health in the outside world under the most favorable of circumstances, let alone when you don’t have much time for preparation and little control over so many other aspects of travel. Happy to hear your health and well-being, which you have worked so hard to attain, was not compromised, as that is the very last thing you need right now. Thank you for taking the time to think of us, your readers and friends, which is exactly the person you are. I can only imagine how wonderful of a man your cousin was based on how wonderful you are. All the best to you and your family. The people we love live on in our hearts and our memories forever.

    • Tricia, thank you so much for this heartfelt comment. I so appreciate it! I was lucky that I already had so many of these things on hand (as I said, I would normally have cooked/baked a few other things, but no time to do that this time!). And you’re so right: my cousin was, indeed, a wonderful, amazing man, one who left his impression on so many people over the years. He will be sorely missed. I love your last comment, though–and I know that he will definitely live on for all of us who loved him. <3

  3. Hi there, can I ask what digestive enzymes, vitamins and minerals you bring with you when you travel.

    I will be going overseas on a pilgrimage to Greece and Dubai and i am actually scared lol
    Breakfast will be an issue, but I worry more about lunch and dinner and getting sick.
    Thanks – Joanne

    • Joanne, those really should be customized to the individual, as I said in the article. But it’s my personal opinion that almost everyone over 35 (maybe younger) could use a daily digestive enzyme. It should contain amylase, protease and lipase at the very least. This is a brand I like.

  4. Hi Ricki,
    So sorry to hear of your loss. It sounds like you made sure you could stay healthy in a stressful time.
    Thank you for all of your tips and info here. I’ll be using many of these when I head to FL to visit my mom. It seems to be the land of nothing healthy for me.

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