For most of us, it's hard to think of anything more relaxing or much needed than a vacation.
However, for those of us still learning how to stay on track with our keto diet, the idea of trying to keep up with keto on the go may be more stressful and confusing than anything else. This is especially hard in the early days of a ketogenic diet. Let's put that worry to rest right now so you can enjoy your travels and still stay keto.
Keeping up your diet can actually be a great way to amplify the experience of your vacation. Far too often, international travelers notice weight gain after their journey, as well as some seriously disruptive and unpleasant digestive issues, in part from adjusting to a new diet and straying from their usual dietary needs. With a little bit of diligence, it can be easy to immerse yourself in a new culture and enjoy delicious meals, without the feeling of being weighed down by carb-heavy, processed foods.
If you're determined to not let a family road trip or a friend’s destination wedding throw a wrench in your ketogenic diet, we're here to help. Here are some of our top tips to help you keep on track, no matter where you are in the world.
6 Tips to Manage Keto on the Go
Consider your accommodations
What you eat on vacation is important, but perhaps surprisingly, so is where you stay when it comes to keeping your diet on track.
As you have probably learned by this point, preparing your own meals without the carbs is key to successfully maintaining a keto diet. You simply cannot depend on mainstream restaurants to provide and prepare the foods you need three times a day, seven days a week.
While at home, this can be fairly easy — but making your own meals at home is a bit of a challenge when, well, you are not actually at home.
If you are planning to prepare your own meals while traveling, an important first step is to find a place to stay that accommodates this need. As an added bonus, making your own meals can save you tons of money on your trip, especially in tourist-heavy destinations where restaurants often charge high the prices.
It can also enhance your experience by allowing you to make memories on your own schedule. Imagine shopping for eggs and omelet ingredients at the local marketplace and bringing them back to cook breakfast, or preparing dinner and enjoying it on the beach — no tips or service fees required!
If this idea sounds like the right option for your trip, you should first make sure that you'll be staying somewhere where you are able to cook, prep meals, and refrigerate food. Many hotels will offer suite options that include access to kitchenettes or even a fully-equipped kitchen, but the unfortunate reality is that this type of accommodation will often come at a much steeper price than your average room. A great alternative is booking an actual house or condo.
Personally, my family and I love booking through both Airbnb or VRBO. It's usually pretty easy to find a great place to stay no matter where you're traveling to. We've used both sites for travels in the U.S., Europe, and Australia with no issues at all. The added bonus is that you get to know the actual room or house you'll be staying in as opposed to a hotel where you don't find out until you show up at the front desk. Whenever we go someplace where the view outside our room is important, we definitely book through one of these two sites.
Start your trip right (and fat adapted)
Being fat adapted means your body is in a state where your body is able to use stored fat reserves as an energy source.
Becoming fat adapted is an essential step in your journey to ketosis, and fat burners often feel a lot more energized, which is an ideal position to be in while gearing up for busy trips that require lots of walking or physical activity.
Although everybody is different, the good news is you can become fat adapted after just a few weeks of practicing a keto diet. In general, being in ketosis offers many more benefits than simply being a fat burner, but if you are a newbie to the diet, being fat adapted is a fine first step.
Whether you would like to be fat adapted or in ketosis for your vacation is a personal preference, although time may be a constraint. However, it is important that you at least reach the point of being fat adapted before ever stepping foot on a train or an airplane.
It is essentially impossible to skip a withdrawal period in your journey to becoming fat adapted. As your body adjusts to a much smaller amount of carbs and starches and much higher amounts of protein and healthy fats, you will enter a withdrawal stage, often referred to as a keto flu.
During this period, you may experience a wide range of unpleasant symptoms, including irritability, fatigue, and exceptionally strong carb cravings. Basically, the keto flu can leave you in the worst possible position for traveling. Given the intensity of the cravings, you will also likely find it even harder than usual to stick to a low-carb diet and could blow your weight loss plan out of the window.
If you have a reasonable window of time between now and your trip, it would be a good idea to commit to your keto diet now. It will almost certainly help you feel energized and healthy for your trip without the tempting cravings that make the early stages of this low-carb diet such a challenge.
If eating at restaurants or cafés is still a priority, you should be prepared to call ahead and plan your meals accordingly.
For many vacationers, one big challenge they face when exploring a new location is not knowing where to eat. Instead of spending a few minutes on Google, we often decide to “play it by ear.” In turn, this leads to us either eating at the same trashy fast food places available back home or choosing the first place we can stop once our legs get tired from walking. All in all, it is a sure-fire recipe for disappointment.
Planning ahead will save yourself time and energy later on in your trip and ensure you stop and eat at locations other travelers are raving about.
TripAdvisor and Yelp are great (and free) resources to find well-reviewed places to eat within your price range. Often, these eateries will have menus available online, sometimes even directly on Yelp. If not, you can always call or email ahead of time.
Especially when dealing with a language barrier, restaurant staff might not understand what you mean by keto-friendly. Instead, ask about specific proteins they offer, as well as vegetables such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and bok choy. If any menu items you noticed look good but have heavily processed or starchy items, you can always ask what substitutions are available.
Embrace different cultures while staying strictly keto
Let’s face it, food is vital. First and foremost, food exists to fuel our bodies, but from a cultural perspective, it is so much more than that.
Eating meals with friends and family can help foster a sense of community and togetherness. Eating out with others can offer a way to use food to connect to foreign cultures. While it is true that your Tuscan vacation might be a lot lighter on pasta and pizza than most other travelers, it does not mean your keto diet will keep you from embracing the cuisine of a new culture.
After all, essentially every culture in the world is known for eating meat and vegetables. Your vacation can be a perfect opportunity to explore how different communities present different takes on your go-to keto-friendly meals you enjoy while at home.
Picture this: You eating Portuguese chicken while watching the sunset in Lisbon, munching on vegetable kabobs in Athens, or even snacking on grilled kangaroo in Uluru (yes, that is a thing).
Don’t be afraid to bring up your dietary concerns
Sometimes, the easiest solution is to speak up.
Calling a restaurant ahead of time is one thing, but sometimes while traveling, you're unable to choose where to eat altogether. Whether you're traveling with a tour group, attending a wedding, or staying at a resort, you may have a few or all of your meals already laid out for you.
If this is the case, there's no need to worry. All you have to do is bring up your concerns about eating keto on the go and advocate for yourself. Ultimately, tourism companies exist to make your trip as spectacular as possible. Often, they are well-prepared to respond to your concerns.
Chances are, there will already be keto-friendly options available, especially at buffets. If you are struggling, you can always discuss with staff about substituting starches with vegetables, finding a protein source that works for you, and so on.
Another word of advice is to speak up to those in your life. Whether you are going on a trip with a group of friends, family, a partner, or alone and hoping to meet some interesting and like-minded travelers on your journey, a lot of people can influence your diet.
Sometimes, the people we love the most can put an unwelcome amount of pressure on us. They might not understand the benefits of a keto diet or feel that they are just trying to help you fully enjoy your trip by encouraging you to cheat. The reality is that your diet is about your health more than anything else, and slipping up could leave you feeling more bloated, irritable, and unsatisfied than just sticking to your diet.
It is important to advocate for yourself and make it clear to your travel partners that you value your diet and do not want to feel pressured into carb-heavy foods. Travel is ultimately about so much more than food — it is about learning, exploring, and, hopefully, relaxing. Politely explain that your keto diet does not affect your ability to do any of these things and, in fact, your trip is all the better when you are giving your body the best fuel.
Conclusions About Keto on the Go
Overall, it is important to remember this is your vacation and how you feel matters. Following a keto diet is all about breaking away from a cookie-cutter lifestyle, living differently, and feeling better for it. Your vacation does not have to be a barrier to looking and feeling your absolute best. Keto on the go is completely doable if you’re willing to put in a little extra thought ahead of time.