Travel Tips

Traveling with Food Allergies Internationally


Some places are easier than others , but nearly everything in Asia for instance is pre prepared with any number of coatings and/or sauces – all of which contain anonymous ingredients. Although this is part of the wondrous experience for most, those of you with any sort of allergy or sensitivity may feel a sense of paralysis.

Not to worry – you can maintain a very selective diet everywhere in the world that works for gluten free, celiac, vegetarians, vegans, and those avoiding candida.

At the start of our trip I experienced an allergic reaction severe enough that I had to cut all of the unknowns out of my diet to reset my system. I am going to give you a step by step on how to maintain the exact diet you need while in any foreign land. It helps if you are traveling with someone that understands and supports your needs, but it’s not overly debilitating either way…

Make yourself some form of an allergy card in the local language.  You can make it on your phone translator (or even on paper – have a local write it for you). This way you can easily communicate the things you are allergic to, and hopefully stay clear of harmful ingredients.  You can also get allergy cards laminated online before your trip if you plan ahead….

If you do not trust restaurants, you can also prepare your own food – this is how I did it:

  1. Buy whole fruits and vegetables from the local farmers – this can be done easily in most locations.  If you don’t pass stands on the street, ask.  Nearly every country in Asia has them lining the streets, where you can buy entire bags of fruits/veggies for a few US dollars.
  2. Shop in the expat style grocery stores.  There are many different names across around the world, but a quick google search will give you a useful list with proximity to your lodging.
  3. Delivery is king in many major cities.  You can have any number of expat grocery stores deliver to you – view a few options here.  In big cities like Shanghai, you can also have any food within the city delivered to you via Food Sherpas.  My personal favorite for eating out in Shanghai quickly became Pure and Whole – you can read their menu here.
  4. When you arrive at your hotel/hostel/guesthouse assess the situation. Do you have a fridge in your room?  Is there a shared kitchen?  I have dealt with the best situation (having a condo with your own kitchen) to the worst situation (washing vegetables with bottled water in the bathroom sink, having a single cutting knife that the front desk gave me, plastic silverware I bought at the store, and two plates that the hotel lent me).
  5. If you want to eat things in Asia that don’t work well with chopsticks, you probably want to buy your own silverware somewhere along the way.  There are some hotels that are not westernized and will not carry anything besides chopsticks – their diets just don’t require it.
  6. Buy things at the store you can snack on, nuts, dried fruit, rice cakes – whatever it may be, have it in your bag at all times in case you cannot get somewhere and are starving.  I can almost guarantee you will not be able to find suitable food on the street in some places throughout Africa or Asia without conducting serious research first.
  7. Carry your staples in your bag, so that you can turn any chopped up vegetables off the street into a meal.  Salt, pepper, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, balsamic, whatever it is that you are used to seasoning your meals with – throw it in a backpack and consider it part of your walking pantry 🙂

And lastly, when you feel adventurous – find the little street vendors that chop up meat and veggies to throw it on the grill.  These most commonly exist in places with middle eastern influence, but I’ve seen them all over the world.  You can literally watch them cook and will know exactly what is going into your meal.

Hope these short tips help you stay well on your journey!  Eating in certain places of the world can be a little rough on the body and there are many ingredients in the food that you never know about…so if you have any food allergies, these steps should keep you happy and healthy!

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