Hi there! Welcome to Flawed yet Functional, where I like to encourage you to take control of your health by changing your diet. My family and I recently took a trip to St Louis and stayed in a hotel. Amazingly, I was able to stick to my “Paleo minus eggs” diet with very little problem, and it was budget-friendly! Check out these easy tips for how to eat healthy in a hotel.
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How to Eat Healthy at a Hotel
As many of you know, there are many challenges to sticking to a healthy diet when traveling. When you eat a primarily fresh food diet, how do you continue eating whole foods without a kitchen? Today I’d like to offer a solution that is partially home-cooked food, partially restaurants, and completely within the Paleo diet.
On our recent trip to St. Louis, not only was I able to stick to my diet, but I did it with minimal investment. If you are planning a trip that includes a hotel stay, I would love to show you a few tricks to maintaining your diet (and your vacation budget!) while you’re away from home.
So how do you eat healthy food when traveling and staying in a hotel? Bottom line: take advantage of all free food offered by the hotel that fits within your diet. Next, plan out how to bring food to fill in the gaps. Finally, use restaurants sparingly.
Let’s pick this apart, one meal at a time. First up, breakfast!
Paleo Breakfast at a Hotel
In your planning, make sure to select a hotel that offers a free hot breakfast. Don’t settle for a continental breakfast as those are usually completely filled with donuts and cold cereal. However, a hot breakfast will usually have eggs, potatoes, one or two types of meat, and fresh fruit.
Caution: Always ask the staff what ingredients are in the processed food. I found gluten and dairy in places I never would have suspected. The breakfast potatoes were one food item that shocked me. There was wheat in the seasoning blend! So don’t take it for granted that eggs are fine, always check before you eat!
Depending on your sensitivities, fill your plate up with eggs, breakfast meat, and as much fruit as your diet allows. Lather, rinse, repeat every day. Of course, this is not the height of a well-balanced nutritional breakfast, but all of these menu items are within the parameters of the Paleo diet and won’t harm your gut. Bonus: it is no added expense to your budget!
My breakfast plate every morning looked rather meager even though I left fully satisfied. I would load up one side of the plate with honeydew melon and cantaloupe with a couple of pieces of pineapple. The other side of the plate had four to six sausage patties. I was liberal in my consumption of sausage patties, which I’m sure is not good for me long-term, but again, this is only one week!
Pack Paleo Friendly Food for Easy Hotel Lunches
Also when selecting your hotel, make sure to pick one that has a mini-fridge and microwave in the room. Fill the fridge with fresh veggies, fresh fruit, and deli meat that meets your diet restrictions. Lunch can quickly be assembled in your room, or bring a lunch box to pack a lunch to take with you as you explore.
While we were in St Louis, our lunches were on the go every single day. I brought our small lunch cooler with reusable ice packs to pack a sack lunch for the boys and me as we went about the city.
Note: Not every mini fridge will have a freezer. Ours didn’t, making our reusable ice packs useless. Never fear! Every hotel has an ice machine on each floor. Use these and the bags provided in the room to make your own ice packs to keep your lunch cold. We did this everyday in HOT St Louis, and yet our lunch stayed nice and cool in the cooler with our makeshift little baggies of ice.
As far as the specifics of the food we packed, we went very simple. Every day’s lunch was exactly the same. This saved money, packing space in the car, and space in the fridge once at the hotel. We ate hard salami, baby carrots, apples, and almond crackers every day. This style of “Lunchable” lunch was easy, cost-effective, and very quick to put together every morning or afternoon in the hotel. I packed other things like trail mix, meat sticks, and pork rinds for snacking throughout the morning and afternoon too.
Creating an Allergy-Friendly Dinner On the Go
At the Hotel
Dinner while traveling can get tricky and very expensive very quickly. We were fortunate enough to stay in a Drury Inn which provides a 5:30 “Kickback” which is basically a free dinner. (Woot! More free food!) It was buffet-style, very similar to breakfast, but I was always able to find gluten-free, dairy-free, and egg-free food every night we ventured down there.
If you are fortunate enough to stay in a Drury Inn, take advantage of this nice offer! Do check with the wait staff, who I found very accommodating, to see what allergens are included in each dish. Use caution. Don’t make any assumptions as I found gluten in barbecue sauce and other places where I never would have thought it would be.
At our hotel, there was always a meat option that was gluten, dairy, and egg-free. There was always a salad bar too. So when I could not eat the rest of the offerings say, flour tortillas and refried beans on taco night, I just made a big salad with lettuce and all the veggies they had available and topped it with taco meat. I got my fill of veggies and my protein quota. Such a simple and filling meal!
At A Restaurant
If you aren’t staying at a Drury Inn, hope is not lost! There are more options! Go out to eat! Check out the local restaurants to see what they have available within the constraints of the Paleo diet. Most restaurants have online menus so check them out before heading out the door or give them a quick call. Make sure to do your due diligence so you don’t find yourself in a position with no clean food for a meal…or screaming, hungry kids while you hunt for another restaurant!
If your budget allows this, by all means, take advantage of someone else cooking for you!
In Your Hotel Room
However, if you do budget vacations as I do, take full advantage of the mini-fridge in your room. Pre-cook a large batch of a dinner that your family likes and serve it each night from your room. I made a large batch of a low-carb Mexican meatball soup before we left home. I reheated it in the hotel room for the nights we did not go down to participate in the free dinner at the hotel.
Packing your own food is always more healthy and cost-effective than anything you could find as you travel. Make it easy on yourself by not planning a lot of variety. One meal for lunch and another for dinner. That’s it.
Why should I plan food when vacation is for a break?
Can I tell you honestly, that I’ve had a very bad attitude about vacations many times when my kids were very young? Vacation is for relaxing! Why should I also make a detailed food plan when I really just want a break?
Planning Ahead Still Makes for a Relaxing Vacation
The beautiful thing about this trip was our lunches and dinners were so simple that I was able to feed the whole family within minutes of deciding we were hungry. The food was available and ready just sitting in the fridge, so I had very stress-free meals anyway! It still felt like a break, because I didn’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen slaving away at any meal. All meals were quick, easy, disposable, portable, healthy…need I go on?
Exposure to Food Sensitivities Lasts Longer Than Vacation
Plain and simple restaurant kitchens are busy places. While most do their utmost to prevent cross-contamination, it is still possible. Is it worth the risk for a couple of meals? For me, yes, but I would not gamble on eating every meal in a restaurant.
If you do eat one of your food sensitivities, the health ramifications stretch for weeks and sometimes months, much longer than the actual vacation. While I’m not trying to scare you, make sure you are counting all the costs when deciding how to eat on vacation. A little planning and pre-cooking could mean better health during and after your stay.
Eating Out Strains A Vacation Budget
I don’t know about you, but there have been many times when I thought our vacation budget was more than adequate before we left on the trip. We did not pay attention to what we spent throughout the week and came home to find we spent double the amount we budgeted for the vacation.
Yes, I typed that right. Double. Without even noticing! There’s something about vacation that just makes us loosen our purse strings. Help keep that budget in check by planning and packing food ahead of time. For us, eating in makes a world of difference to our budget!
It is far more stressful for me to deal with the overspending and gut health problems when I get home, then to plan a couple of meals and cook them to take along with us as we travel.
Choosing to live a healthy lifestyle and eat healthy food will require you to learn how to eat healthy in a hotel room. Let’s face it, you are going to have to travel sometimes and likely without great cooking appliances close by. Healthy eating in a hotel room is possible with a little planning, good choices at the hotel breakfast, a mini-fridge, and a microwave!
Always double-check with the staff for Paleo compliance, but usually, you can take advantage of the eggs, fruit, and breakfast meat provided at your hotel.
Choose a simple, cold lunch that can be stored in your room’s mini-fridge and quickly assembled in the room or put in a sack for on-the-go eating as you site see. Select the same set of fresh vegetables, fruits, and cold cuts to keep lunch simple and quick.
If your hotel offers free dinner, take advantage of it! Make sure to check the ingredients in every dish, but enjoy the free food! If not, then completely cook one large batch of a dinner recipe at home then store the meal in the mini-fridge of your room. Warm it up in the room’s microwave, and dinners will be easy and painless every day of the week.