We’re excited to welcome Dr. Amy Myers to the Thrive Market blog today! When it comes to autoimmune diets, she’s the go-to expert you need to know. Her brand new cookbook, The Autoimmune Solution Cookbook, is an invaluable resource for AIP eating that’ll help you cook delicious meals at home, and prep for traveling and dining out, too. Read on for her best tips for staying on track while dining out, plus bookmark an exclusive cookbook recipe that’s perfect for staying in.
Following an AIP, Paleo, or other special protocol while on the go can feel like a pretty big challenge at times. While more restaurants now offer farm-to-table, organic ingredients as well as grass-fed and pasture-raised meats, it’s still hard to be 100 percent sure what’s in your food without actually making it yourself. However, with a little creativity and planning, you can set yourself up for a fun trip that will help you stick with any dietary protocol, without compromising on quality.
I’ve had quite a bit of experience with this (including mastering some great tricks and experiencing a few mishaps) because as a physician, business owner, and mom, I travel a LOT. Even when I’m not traveling, I’m pretty much on-the-go at all times. After being diagnosed with Graves’ disease, sticking with an autoimmune-friendly diet has been essential to my overall health and wellbeing. And because I know there are certain foods I don’t tolerate, it takes some planning to make sure I stay on track while I’m out and about.
Here are the best tips and strategies that I’ve learned for sticking with an AIP diet while traveling and being on the go!
1. Prepare for success
When you’re running around, busy and stressed-out, it can be tempting to reach for junk or food you know you shouldn’t have. Or, you might run into a situation where you need to buy prepared food, and oftentimes you don’t really know what’s in it. That’s why I always focus on preparing for success. That way, if you’re stuck in a bind, you won’t have to worry about making compromises.
When you’ll be out for several hours—whether in all-day meetings, at a conference in a new city, or vacationing in a foreign country—pack plenty of homemade or prepackaged, nutrient-dense snacks to keep you satisfied until you have the chance to eat a full meal. The Mango-Avocado Salsa with homemade plantain chips from The Autoimmune Solution Cookbook is one of my absolute favorite snack combos, as well as the Rosemary Sea Salt Crackers with Rutabaga Hummus! I always bring an insulated bag with a built-in freezer pack, so you can just stick it in the freezer and then pack it with leftover meals or homemade goodies for eating on the go!
When I don’t have time to make my own food, I’ll keep a whole avocado in my purse for a filling dose of healthy fats. Some of my other favorite snacks to keep on-hand are grass-fed beef jerky, cans of wild-caught salmon, coconut yogurt and fruit, and protein smoothies or bars.
2. Know your “no” foods
We’re all human, and I understand having a little slip-up here and there when life gets too busy. That being said, there are some foods that are absolute “no’s” for those of us following a special dietary protocol for health reasons. These are foods that, no matter what, you do not eat. For me, those foods are gluten and dairy, and if you have autoimmunity, then I would recommend that these be your absolute “no” foods as well. For others, it could be high-histamine foods or nuts or eggs. Know which foods you can’t make any compromises on because of how they’ll wreak havoc on your gut or immune system.
Other foods such as rice, beans, and maybe even the occasional sweet treat aren’t necessarily the best foods, but they won’t derail you when you eat them in moderation. For example, I enjoy a gluten-free, dairy-free cupcake on my birthday. And when my husband and I are traveling or if we go to brunch, I might have eggs since I do okay with them. They’re just not foods I eat every day because I know that over time they could cause inflammation for me. Once you know which foods you can never eat and which you can tolerate in moderation, you’ll be able to better navigate the eating world while on the go.
3. Order ahead of time
I always try to stay in a hotel, Airbnb, or other rental that has a refrigerator and microwave—or for extended stays, a kitchenette or full kitchen. That way, I can make or bring as much of my own food as possible.
If I’m staying somewhere with a kitchen, I like to order staple items such as grass-fed meats, wild-caught seafood and pantry items such as cassava flour, avocado oil, and coconut aminos from Thrive Market so that I can simply pick up organic produce and easily prepare AIP-friendly meals.
Even when cooking all your own meals isn’t option, you can order AIP grab-and-go favorites (such as Epic Bison Bacon Cranberry bars, sweet potato chips, freeze-dried fruit, and wild-caught salmon) and have them delivered straight to your hotel, vacation home, or wherever you’re staying so you can still guarantee you’re getting the right foods to keep you on track and energized.
4. Do your restaurant research
Having the internet at your fingertips is one of the best ways to help you stay on track while out and about. Today there are a number of apps to help you find restaurants that suit your diet needs—whether AIP, Paleo, gluten-free, or a different protocol.
I also recommend looking at a restaurant’s menu online before committing to any social engagements. That way, if there really is nothing you can eat there, you can suggest an alternative restaurant or plan to eat a snack ahead of time. However, I’ve found that this is rarely the case, and chefs tend to be more than happy to work with you. I’ll often call ahead to mention any special requests and to ask about food preparation or ingredients. That saves time having to ask the waiter a bunch of questions.
Remember: there’s no need to be embarrassed when asking the manager or server if they can accommodate you. And as always, a simple “please” and “thank you” can go a long way.
5. Order like a pro
Almost any restaurant experience can easily be made AIP with a little preparation and a few critical swaps.
- Sauces and dressings: Many sauces in restaurants are made with gluten, nightshade-containing spices, or other mystery ingredients. Soy sauce is one of the biggest offenders, often found in dressings, meat marinades, and stir-fries. For this reason, I always request my meat or fish be simply grilled or broiled with a little olive oil. You can also bring your own homemade dressing for salads, or ask for some lemon wedges to squeeze on your greens.
- Nightshades: If nightshades are one of your “no” foods, always make sure to ask that tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes be omitted from your meal. You can replace potato-based sides with steamed vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, or carrots. If you have a dairy sensitivity, request that any sautéed dishes be made with olive oil instead of butter.
- Fried foods: Be especially wary of fried foods, which can be cross-contaminated if they use the same deep-fat fryer for gluten-containing foods or anything else on your “absolute no” list. Not to mention, the oil used in deep fryers is typically canola or soy, both of which are highly inflammatory.
Remember, traveling is about soaking up new experiences and enjoying the moment! Preparing ahead of time and remembering that it’s not an exact science is key, so that during your actual trip you can can focus on being present over perfect.
For even more tips on staying on track with an AIP lifestyle, be sure to check out The Autoimmune Solution Cookbook, which includes over 150 amazingly delicious recipes that are all AIP approved!
Mushroom and Asparagus Caulisotto
On nights when you’re dining in, stir up this “caulisotto” (aka the cooking alchemy that happens when cauliflower meets risotto). Dr. Myers says “unlike traditional risotto, you don’t have to stand and stir it for 30 minutes, and it has the added bonus of being grain-free!” There are lots of ways to suit your tastes, like adding carrots, spinach, celery, or even bits of nitrate-free bacon. It’s great as a main course, or a side dish served alongside roasted chicken or pork.
Yield: 2 servings
Active Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
1 tablespoon avocado oil
½ onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, grated
2 cups Cauliflower Rice (recipe follows)
10 to 15 spears asparagus, trimmed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 cup sliced mushrooms
½ cup grass-fed bone broth
¼ cup full-fat coconut milk
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon coarse sea salt
Put the oil, onion, and garlic in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Sauté over low heat about 5 or 6 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the Cauliflower Rice, asparagus, mushrooms, and bone broth. Cook for 3 minutes, then cover and simmer for another 5 minutes.
Add the coconut milk, pepper, and salt. Cook until the Cauliflower Rice has absorbed most of the liquid. The caulisotto should be creamy, not dry.
This rice alternative is a recipe workhorse that you can make on the stovetop or in the oven. Use it for dinner tonight, or freeze a few batches for later!
Rinse the florets in a colander and shake off excess water. (You can also give them a whirl in a salad spinner to dry them.)
Place cauliflower in a food processor or blender. (You can also rice the cauliflower using a box grater. Be sure to watch your knuckles! Using a blender will result in uneven “grains.”) Depending on the size of your machine, you may have to do this in two or three batches. Pulse the cauliflower three or four times until it looks like rice. Store it in a glass container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month.
For stovetop rice: Heat 1 or 2 tablespoons avocado oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cauliflower rice and a bit of sea salt and black pepper, to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, until the rice is lightly browned and cooked through (taste a few kernels to check).
For oven-roasted rice: Heat oven to 425°F. Spread cauliflower rice on a sheet pan and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Roast, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes (or longer if you want it darker).