Travel Food, by UPC
Travel food can be a serious challenge for us Paleo eaters. As opposed to what a Jewish friend of mine recently said: “I can eat salad anywhere.” we Paleo eaters can’t, actually, dive into a salad just anywhere. There are the major concerns of food on the road that most of us think about regularly, like “Is there wheat or soy in there?” But if you’ve turned to Paleo for other concerns, like serious GI distress or food-related illnesses, then there are other questions that you may need to be asking as well. In fact, most people may want to consider these issues as a matter of course.
- Obviously: is the food going to be free of Grains or Beans?
Generally I limit my immediate concerns to “gluten” and soy, since they’re so prevalent. It is unlikely (though not impossible) that the food I order will contain “non-gluten” oatmeal flour as a replacement for wheat flour. That’s especially true because that substitution would be a feature item on the menu (and maybe even a lunch-special sign on the door), and I simply wouldn’t order it. By the way: calling oatmeal a “non-gluten grain” is kind of like calling low-quality bacon acceptable because it doesn’t have gluten or soy. Would you prefer a side of concentrated arsenic compounds instead of gluten or soy? Oatmeal, and other “non-gluten grains” simply don’t make the cut.
- Is the food I’m going to be buying from this unknown restaurant cleaned and prepped properly?
This may seem trivial on the surface, but the vast majority of food-related illnesses come from vegetables. And that is despite all of the absurd things that conventional food is subjected too: pesticides, fungicides, massive levels of irradiation. Despite all that, cases of food poisoning are far more often related to improper vegetable processing. Asking yourself if the food is properly handled may be as important as wondering if it’s been cross-contaminated with wheat or soy.
- If I’m going to have to settle for a simple salad, will they have plain olive oil?
I kid you not: I have walked into restaurants which would not serve me plain olive oil. I ate my salad dry in that restaurant. So, not only was there nothing there for me to eat, but I was also in the unsavory position of needing to eat the unappetizing salad without any olives, olive oil, or even avocado. Once I went to a Chinese restaurant, again hoping that “I can eat salad anywhere” – long story short, I ended up eating steamed chicken and broccoli with salt.
- If the worst happens, and I end up eating food that I shouldn’t have: will my trip survive?
Don’t laugh. Have you ever had a serious stomach bug while on a 5+ hour road trip? Let’s be honest here, getting antibiotic resistance ETAC Ecoli, which has managed to survive an astonishing level of deadly poisons, followed by an x-ray radiation course that is so powerful it might induce instantaneous cancer in a human is NOT something that should be taken lightly. Will you personally survive the encounter? Yeah, that’s a pretty good bet. Our bodies are REALLY strong, and amazingly resilient. They can fight off that invader. But the trip? That’s another question entirely…
With all of the above to consider (and whether you’re Paleo or not, the question of food cleanliness is an important one!) it is often far less stressful to make and pack your own road food. That way, you know what you’re getting. You know that the food is the same quality home-made deliciousness that your body craves, and is used to.
Here are my 4 tips and tricks for packing road-food:
1. Choose foods that pack easily.
For most situations, this could encompass almost any food. So take this piece of advice with a bit of creativity in mind, and read on!
2. Choose foods that can be eaten with your fingers.
This is important. Unless you’re going to be sitting in the back seat of an SUV, with a pull-down tray for your meal, there’s a good chance that you’ll be picking at your meal in between dodging crazy people talking on their cellphones. So, make sure that it’s a simple matter to pop the lid off, reach down, grab a bite, and start munching.
This tip is just as appropriate to a picnic as a road trip.
3. Choose foods that taste good cold.
Remember, chances are you’re not going to be starting your meal within 20 minutes of the beginning of the road trip. You need to plan for foods that will still be appetizing when they’ve come down to room-temperature (or colder, since it’s now winter!). Pick foods that will taste good cold. That way, they’ll still be delicious when you get to them 3 hours after the trip has started!
Pro-tip: Make and pack these a day ahead of time!
4. Choose at least 4 different foods.
Variety is the spice of life, right? Well, your tongue and stomach thinks so too. Make sure that you accommodate them, if possible.
My top UPC Recipe choices for road food:
And in a pinch, I might make up some slow-cooked ribs with Roast Carrots on top!