HOW TO EAT LIKE A LOCAL ON YOUR NEXT VACATION, EVEN WHEN YOU HAVE DIETARY RESTRICTIONS
“Eating like a local” and exploring a new country through its food is, in our opinion, one of the best parts of travel. New countries bring fresh new flavors, unique cooking techniques, and the opportunity to sample local ingredients that might not be available to us in the US. We’re all about letting go while abroad, enjoying that pizza in Italy, or savoring those freshly baked croissants in Paris. But what if you’re legitimately limited with allergies or dietary restrictions that you need to follow while overseas? Is it possible to still enjoy your trip and enjoy the local food without stressing about ingredients? Earlier this summer our family embarked on a trip to Northern Italy, and despite my dietary restrictions (I’m plant-based and gluten-free to help manage the symptoms of my autoimmune condition, dermatomyositis), I was determined to enjoy every meal and eat like the locals without feeling deprived or stressed out. While it definitely took some planning and effort, I left Italy feeling like I truly experienced the food culture without compromising the habits that help me feel my best. I’ve recapped the resources, travel tips, and mindset that worked best for me:
Important Note: If you don’t have any serious dietary restrictions or allergies, then by all means PLEASE enjoy it ALL while traveling! We’re definitely not advocating for restricting what you eat on vacation unless you have to.
1: Get Over the Guilt: First and foremost, you should never feel guilty for saying ‘no’ to something that is being served that doesn’t work for you. Stand up for yourself - you’re not an inconvenience. What’s the point of eating something that will make you feel unwell just because someone offered it to you? Who has to experience that unpleasantness – YOU DO.
2: Call Ahead: If possible, call the restaurant beforehand and them know you have dietary restrictions so that they can plan ahead and prepare options for you. If you’re staying at a hotel with a concierge, ask them to help you make the reservation and make sure they mention your restrictions when making the reservation.
3: Translate Your Restrictions Into the Local Language: If you’re traveling in a non-English speaking country, translate your dietary restrictions into the local language and print out a piece of paper that clearly explains your restrictions in the local language. Keep the paper with you, and show it to the waiter while ordering so there is no confusion with the language barrier!
4: Focus on the YES List: Don’t see anything on the menu that works with your allergies or restrictions? Rather than focusing on all the no’s (such as NO nuts or NO meat), focus on the ingredients used across the menu that you CAN eat. Ask your server if they can make you a plate using X, Y, and Z ingredients that you know you CAN eat, and then let them get creative with how those ingredients are assembled!
5: BYO Snacks: Never worry about going hungry by packing convenient grab & go snacks like dried fruit, granola, or Siren Snacks. If the options at a restaurant are limited, you can always fall back on your snacks to hold you over until the next meal.