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How To Eat Paleo On The Road
How do you eat paleo on the road?
Sure, paleo can be easy if you’re at home all the time, but what about when you’re traveling?
If you’re a road warrior, on vacation, or simply going on a cross-country road trip with friends, it can be tough to eat paleo on the road. You don’t always have easy access to a grill, and you can’t always plan your meals in advance. It can be tough to eat healthy and stay paleo.
But have no fear! You can still eat paleo on the road. Here’s how.
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The most important thing while trying to eat paleo on the road is to be prepared. Set yourself up for success from the beginning and plan ahead. Know when and where your major pitfalls will come, so that you can plan to avoid them.
Remember, paleo isn’t “normal” to most people. If you go for a “business as usual” approach, it won’t happen. You’ll get sucked into everyone else’s bad habits along the way. If you want to eat paleo on the road, you’re going to have to prepare yourself and make your diet a priority.
Aim for 80%
First of all, if you’re traveling, cut yourself some slack. You probably won’t be 100% perfect (you might be, but it will be hard). Being on the road is tough enough, so don’t worry about if you mess up when you try to eat paleo on the road. Aim to eat paleo 80% of the time. A missed meal or a poor snack choice here and there won’t kill you. Just don’t let it become a habit.
Instead of trying to be 110% paleo while dealing with continental breakfasts, client dinners, conference parties, and road trips, aim to eat paleo on the road 80% of the time.
Now, onto the strategies for hitting that 80%.
Find a dirty little diner, and grab some bacon and eggs. Yum yum yum. If you don’t want the typical bacon and eggs, grab your favorite ingredients, throw them all into an omelet, and you’re good.
If you’re offered pancakes, toast, or potatoes, sub them out for the fruit cup or a banana instead.
For your morning drink, skip the OJ, and have your coffee black. That will definitely wake you up. If you’re feeling dangerous, you can see if they’ll make it bulletproof for you.
Next Level Restaurants
If you’re eating out, it’s probably easiest to choose your approach according to the types of restaurants you’re going to. The best advice is to find the most paleo-friendly entree, and to either avoid the sides or to swap them out for vegetables (preferably) or fruit.
Mexican food is typically very paleo friendly if you can avoid the tortillas and the chips. The best paleo Mexican meal out there is fajitas because you can simply eat the vegetables and meat off the tray, and give the tortillas to your friends. Delicious.
Sushi is usually a pretty good choice too. While rice isn’t strictly paleo, there are definitely worse choices. Note that some sushi rice has trace amounts of sugar, so don’t stuff your face with it, but it’s acceptable in small amounts. As a side benefit, with sushi, you’re going to stock up on your Omega 3 with all that fresh seafood. If you want to go fully raw and avoid rice altogether, grab the sashimi.
Seafood is paleo and, as long as you’re not somewhere in Kansas, it’s probably fresh too. Eat it up.
If you’re entertaining clients, head to a steakhouse. Not only will you impress your clients, but you’ll also eat some pretty amazing food. Almost everything in steakhouses is paleo. That said, be careful with the mashed potatoes, gourmet mac and cheese, and the other sides they tend to bring out.
Skip those sides, focus on the entrees, and you’ll have more than enough to keep you full. Or, if you’re feeling extra fancy, check out an all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouse and chow down some meat.
You can do pretty well at these restaurants if you avoid the fries, chips, and buns. As well as typically serving higher quality meat sources than most places, these restaurants usually have decent vegetables as sides, and you can usually get a solid burger (with the bun on the side) or another solid meat choice with a side of veggies or fruit.
Stay away from Italian. If that’s not an option, get the chicken or the meatballs, and try to have a killer Caesar salad. Ignore the pasta porn. It’s not worth it.
Appetizers & Sides
You can almost always substitute fries for a fresh salad. Take advantage of this option.
Road Trip Ideas
If you’re going to be on the road or driving for hours, schedule in a little prep work, and bring a cooler – it’s about to get fresh up in here.
- Nuts – Almonds, walnuts, cashews, and more. Watch the fat content.
- Dark chocolate – Find stuff that’s 80% cacao or higher. Eat it in small amounts.
- Trail mix – Trail mix is a good pre-packaged option for a mostly-paleo snack. Watch out for the mixes which contain tons of sweets and/or peanuts (peanuts are not technically paleo).
- Beef jerky – Jerky can be a good snack as well, though it can get expensive if you choose it as you main snack item. Some brands also contain trace amounts of wheat and soy, so, if there’s any chance you have any allergies, be careful about overindulging in jerky. Store-bought jerky tends to have a high sugar content as well. A good alternative here is to make your own beef jerky.
Fruits are your desserts on the road. Make sure you stock up on them when you can. These ones are good options:
- Oranges (watch out for the high sugar content)
- Banana (A self-contained food!)
If you want something even easier to eat, check out the dried fruits in the grocery store. They’re delicious and easy to eat with no mess or juice. Be careful of their high fructose content though! Treat these as desserts rather than as main dishes.
Vegetables are basically portable snacks. Simply wash them and they’re usually ready to eat. You can easily eat most of these while you’re in the car or on the move. Here are our favorites (most of which you can try raw):
- Avocado is a personal favorite as it’s easy, portable, and tastes delicious.
- Broccoli (yes, you can eat this raw)
Go Grocery Shopping
It’s sort of strange that we discount it, but you can go grocery shopping while on vacation. It’s true! It significantly improves your ability to eat paleo on the road.
While it might be hard to prepare a meal if you don’t have a full kitchen in your hotel room, you’ll probably be able to find some fresh or prepared food at a nearby grocery store. Some stores will even prepare a cut of meat for you in store.
If you’re driving, you can grab a cooler, and stock up on food. The cooler will enable you to have a fresh and portable “produce section” in your car to dip into when other healthy food isn’t available.
You can also get a whole chicken or a precooked chicken sausage, and chow down at that. Or you can stop by the lunch buffet at a quality grocery store, and eat from there.
Whole Foods lunch buffet is a great example of this if you’re near one around lunchtime.
If you do find yourself in a grocery store on your trip, here’s a great shopping list, as well as our full guide to eating paleo on a budget.
Paleo Hacking Fast Food
While fast food is sort of a “last resort”, believe it or not, it’s possible to hack fast food to make it more paleo. Here’s how you can do just that.
If you start off with a base salad, it’s really hard to go wrong. The best part about this option is that most places offer salads these days. Even McDonald’s has them (although we don’t recommend McDonald’s as your first choice).
Of course, salads don’t contain tons of calories, so feel free to toss on some chicken, avocado, steak, or any other paleo toppings before you dig in.
It’s worth noting that a salad doesn’t have to be a pansy meal that leaves you starving for hours. In fact, it can be the exact opposite. See the recipe for our Kick Ass Monster Salad.
If you do choose a salad, watch out for salad dressings that are full of HFCS and sugar. Ask for your salad without the dressing, or with the dressing on the side at the very least, and don’t drown your salad in the stuff.
One of my favorite things to do is to take leftovers from the previous night’s meal, and to toss them into a salad. Couldn’t finish a great steak dinner? Toss it in a salad and voila – you’ve got a steak strip salad fit for a king. Yum.
Burgers without The Bun
One of the easiest go-to paleo meals is simply choosing to eat a burger without the bun. Chik-fil-A, Five Guys, and other “nicer” fast food restaurants that tend to have better quality meat, and are the best choices here to eat paleo on the road. Some (like Five Guys) will even have this as an option on the menu. For example, if you’re in California at In-N-Out, ask for a “Flying Dutchman” from the secret menu.
Additional Fast Food Paleo Hacks
- Panera has a “secret” paleo menu. See our full post on that here.
- You can “hack” Subway to make it paleo-friendly. We have a post on that in the forums here.
- Ask to sub out a normal wheat wrap for a spinach wrap. You can also occasionally swap out a bun for a lettuce wrap, although sometimes it’s easier to simply eat your the wrap bun-less
- If you’re California, you’ll sometimes come across restaurants which mark food as “paleo-friendly.” If you’re lucky enough to find one, take advantage of it.
- You can grab a burrito bowl at Chipotle, and be almost completely paleo. If you need your protein fix, check out our friend Rog Law’s advice on getting a super boss double meat bowl, and get your eat on!
Whether you’re a road warrior, chronic traveler, or you’re just going on a trip, hopefully these strategies will help you stay paleo the next time you’re on the road.
How do you stay paleo while you’re on the road?
Photo credit: Nadine Schaeffer, Alan Light, Nicholas Eckhart
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