Eating Properly Outside of Your Home
Eating On The Road And On The Run
By Gwenith Whitford, Bmus., MLS
UPdate Fall 1996

     Are you in a pickle when faced with the prospect of eating in unfamiliar environments?  Here are some hints that may help you get out of a jam when away from your safe haven.  Advance preparation can save a lot of “headaches” and other adverse reactions if forethought is given to a meal plan.  Study your rotation diet (and take a copy with you) to determine what foods may be transportable, what may have to be purchased upon arrival and what may have to be obtained from a restaurant.  Whenever I travel anywhere, I have generally taken non-perishable food with me that is not likely available at my destination.
     On my particular rotation diet, I have packed tolerated breads, noodles, and chips to make up the starch component.  Glass bottles of nut butters and fruit spreads are wrapped in clothing or towels to absorb impact.  In old vitamin bottles, I may put some honey and olive oil or other oils which are covered in plastic and “bubble” wrap and stored upright in my on-board luggage.  Cartons of soy milk and rice milk have been a nutrition bonus.  For quick energizers, I bring along home-made cookies such as oatmeal/almond, cashew butter, peanut butter balls, as well as rice bars and sesame bars from the health food store.  Dried unsulphured fruits and various nuts also go a long way when unable to prepare a meal or eat in a particular location.  Obviously, this suitcase starts out on the heavy side, but its safe, edible contents has always made the extra effort most worthwhile.
     Drinking water can certainly present its own challenges, depending upon your location.  However, there are a number of options available.  I take along a portable hiker’s filter.  In most countries, bottled spring water is plentiful, although it is usually contained in plastic.  Perrier or other carbonated waters can often be obtained in glass, and have helped to neutralize various discomforts when I have needed a quick fix.  Amazingly, I have tolerated water from the tap in a number of Caribbean countries where its source is high in the mountains and bacteria has been killed by an ultra-violet light system.  That water has tasted so soft and pure.  A real delight! However, different waters may not suitable be for everyone.  Sample with caution!
     For more information about eating in other countries, please refer to my article Trouble-Free Take-Offs in the Spring 1996 issue of UPdate.

     Trips closer-to-home can also present food-related challenges for those whose work may take them away occasionally or every day.  If a purchased lunch is not ideal because of your food sensitivities, then advance meal preparation can save a lot of aggravation.  This is the case with my husband Brian, who is gluten intolerant (celiac) and has a number of other food sensitivities.  His job requires that he travel by car to a different town every day.  Therefore, a packed lunch is essential in order to maintain his energy levels and productivity while he is “on-the-road”.  Because we always refer to our food rotation schedule, it is rarely a problem to plan the next day’s noon repast.  Sandwiches are out-of-the question because “safe” grains are limited.  Therefore, we tend to make simple meals which may consist of only a few foods.  My husband’s sensitivities are now relatively mild (other than the glutenous grains), so he does not have to be as rigid with his daily food rotations.  As a result, he may eat the same food more than once within a 24 hour period.  (Before attempting such a plan, be sure to discuss the nature of your illness with your health counsellor, as individual tolerances do vary greatly).  For example, he might take chicken with him from the previous night’s meal in an insulated lunch box which keeps it cold, even when the car is hot.  He might eat a cold rice salad, or rice crackers with goat’s cheese or peanut butter of hummus with organic potato chips or corn chips.  Baked rice or corn muffins and home-made cookies can provide additional sustenance.  Some raw vegetables such as carrots or broccoli add fibre and other nutrients.  For a snack, he might nibble on a sesame bar or a rice bar, (depending on the rotation day), and would take along some fruit such as apples or bananas.  Nuts and dried unsulphured fruits have been helpful in situations where he feels that his blood sugar is beginning to drop.  Of course, a large bottle of spring water goes with him everywhere.
     In cold weather, two thermoses frequently accompany him on his journey.  One will contain hot soup, such as prepackaged lentil and rice or a home-made variety such as pea, chicken, or pumpkin.  The other thermos will contain an herbal tea with honey, or hot rice milk and cocoa for moments when he is feeling chilled or needs a warm pick-me-up.
     If he is stuck without a home-made lunch (it has happened a few times!), he may go to a grocery store and order a broiled chicken breast, possibly french fries (if “fresh cut”) or a salad without bacon bits and croutons which is dressed with olive oil and lemon.
     In restaurants, he has previously ordered a hamburger without the bun and a baked potato or the contents of a sandwich without the bread and extra vegetables.  Soup is sometimes an option if it is completely made from scratch (beware – many soups are prepared with a base which may contain sulfites of MSG).  He does tend to ask a lot of questions about the foods he might like to order, and finds that many restaurants are willing to make changes or substitutions.  If they do not wish to oblige, they simply don’t get his business! He always keeps some nuts or seeds in the car so that he is never stuck without something to eat.
     When summer arrives and the pollution levels soar (at least here in southern Ontario), we escape to provincial parks in the northern part of this province. In these areas, the air is incredibly fresh and clear, and human-generated contamination is at a minimum.  Before the outings, we arrange to bring a large amount of sustenance with us on our back country canoeing/camping expeditions.  Along with all of the other camping paraphernalia that we heave into the canoe and then haul for short distances inland is a very substantial cooler.  It is loaded with nourishing goodies to last for five days.  We are willing to make this effort because of the tremendous pay-off of improved health and energy that occurs a day or so after the initial trek.
     Although I have spent the week before these wilderness excursions camped out in the kitchen, it has been convenient to have prepared most of the suppers in advance.  I freeze them in larger-sized yoghurt containers.  They can be quickly reheated in a pot or a frying pan over our one-burner camping stove (Brian does this part – I stay upwind from the smell of the gas.  We do not make campfires for ecological/health reasons). 
     We try to adhere to a four day rotation as much as possible, although it may sometimes be necessary to eat the same type of food more than once in a 24 hour period.  I write out the menu and pack a copy for quick reference.  I don’t seem to have a problem with a looser rotation when I am away from sources of pollution because my total load is dramatically reduced.  However, individual tolerances will vary, so make meals that are best for you.
     We eat the most perishable items first.  Because the larger meals are frozen, we do not take along extra freezer packs.  Generally, we do not bring any meat, except for a can of preservative-free tuna.  Fresh fruit includes apples and kiwis.  Dried fruit and a carton of Tropicana orange juice seem to last quite well.  Rolled oat flakes for porridge, rice cereal, precooked hard broiled eggs (left in the shell until eaten), goat’s yoghurt, home-made and health food store cookies, rice milk and soy milk may make up the breakfasts for your sojourns.
     We do carry two 1.5 litre bottles of tolerated drinking water from home.  When they run out, we use the hiker’s filter and/or boil the lake water.  My tolerance for this substance varies with the location.  Occasionally, I do experience mild discomfort from unfamiliar waters.  However, I put up with the inconvenience in exchange for my restored vitality.
     Lunches such as Greek salad with tomatoes, feta cheese, sweet onions, oregano, lemon juice and olive oil, or home-made pea soup, or packaged lentil soup with rice cracker, or pre-made hummus with pre-cut carrots and broccoli spears, or fried potatoes and onions require minimal effort.  Peanuts and soy nuts are quick energizers, as are potato or corn chips.  Rice or sesame bars, and even organic chocolate help to keep us going during more rigorous activities.
     Simple suppers, such as fish cakes taste incredibly good in the out-of-doors.  I precook and freeze the mashed potatoes with onions, garlic and spices, then quickly add the tuna before Brian pan-fries the mixture.  Pumpkin soup with corn chips and packaged ginger bread cookies make a marvelous meal.  My own portable, pre-made Caribbean concoction is delicious.  Bean burgers with tomato slices and sesame balls for dessert is an extremely filling supper.  The easiest feast is organic spaghetti sauce with rice noodles and soy parmesan cheese, followed by hot rice milk and cocoa for a bedtime treat.  Not to be forgotten at home are basics such as tea, coffee, cocoa, salt, spices, garlic, lemon, and peanut or sesame butter.  Although the time and energy required to arrange for safe meals away from home may seem overwhelming, it can have tremendous rewards.  If you eat compatible foods, then you may experience fewer reactions and increased energy in your new surroundings.  Wherever you go, PLAN AHEAD to eat well in order to be well.  It’s definitely worth the trip!


Gwenith Whitford, Bmus, MLS, had been an amateur musician and professional librarian in Halifax when she was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Environmental Illness.  She moved to Ontario in 1993, where she continues with treatments.  She lives near Peterborough in a house with many ecological features.
 While she recovers from CFS/EI, she occasionally writes health-oriented stories for a number of magazines including Disability Today, Health Naturally, alive, Vitality, Alternative Journal, Family Practice, Northern Woman Journal, and Herizons.  Her interest in outdoor recreation and travel has resulted in articles which have appeared in Explore, Canoe & Kayak, Edges