In this blog, we will discuss food labels and doing a deep dive on making informed healthy food choices while traveling. I’m currently in Lublin, Poland and will be backpacking throughout Poland for the entire summer. If you’re on my email list, you may have received an invitation to be my guest at the Physician’s Committee event in July. I’ll be in New York for a week in July, and I’m excited about that. My summer plans involve traveling from Warsaw, Poland to New York and back, spending the entire summer in Poland, exploring different cities.
I just want to acknowledge that I am currently in Poland, living out a dream that really just started as a dream or intention. Just like when you create a vision board, I made plans in play just dreaming what would it be like if I hit up all these cities in Poland, what would it cost me, what would I see, etc. It wasn’t until certain events occurred and I checked my accounts that I realized I had the financial means to make it happen. I didn’t want to wait until winter since I’m allergic to the cold, so I took the opportunity to come here through mid-September.
If you have a vision for your best life but you’ve been struggling to get it off the ground, join me on a Happy & Healthy Strategy Call to plan out your best life for this year and beyond.
So far, I’m having a wonderful time, especially in Warsaw where there are plenty of vegan food options. Compared to LA’s vegan scene, I find it easier to locate whole food options in Warsaw. In upcoming YouTube videos and my podcast, I plan to talk more about my experiences and lessons learned during my time in Poland. I highly recommend it as a travel destination.
This is my first time traveling like this (bopping around from city to city, spending about 2 weeks in each one), and I usually don’t enjoy traveling. However, there are cognitive benefits of traveling, especially as I am doing where there are lots of problems to solve and something new to learn. Each move with each city, new synapses are making connections in my brain just trying to figure out the day to day. It can be exhausting so I do plan some downtime but also, my brain is getting a workout which will benefit me in the long term in terms of cognitive benefits.
Since you’re reading this blog, it may be safe to say that you are on a health journey to include more raw foods in your diet. However, healthy eating while traveling can be challenging, especially since many raw vegan restaurants didn’t survive the pandemic. Even before the pandemic, it was already tough for raw vegan restaurants because the majority of people aren’t vegan or raw vegan. In fact, only 2% of the population in America is vegan. Additionally, many vegans still consume a lot of processed foods so I would not necessarily call them healthy eaters.
The raw vegan community is quite small. I recall the early days of Earth’s Healing Cafe in Ravenswood, Chicago. One of our most popular dishes was a raw vegan burger, and I remember a woman who ordered it (she was our first customer) and said she needed to have it with crackers. This puzzled me because the burger is dry and doesn’t pair well with crackers. Plus, crackers is a processed food and the burger she was eating from us was the healthiest meal you could consume outside of a juice feast or water fast.
However, I realized that she may have been looking for more salt (or maybe even something more familiar), which is often found in processed and non-health conscious restaurant foods. At our café (which did not serve coffee), we used a healthy level of salt, which may take some getting used to for those accustomed to higher levels. We also used sea salt and Himalayan salt which is very different than iodized salt most people are used to. As people clean up their diets, they often find that even fast food and processed restaurant foods are too salty. In the beginning, we did a lot of education for our customers, which was expected since the store was still new and offering unique options.
I was fairly new to the high raw lifestyle at the time, having been on the journey for 3 years at the point we opened the store. But I was already enjoying the meals and the lifestyle. Everything tasted great. I attribute this to my mom’s good foundation, as she always avoided using salt in her cooking. Even though I grew up eating mostly whole foods and vegetables, I never had an issue with the lack of salt. Whether I was at home with my parents or with extended family, vegetables were always emphasized and included on the plate. Two of my aunts in particular always made sure to include them and make sure my cousins and I ate them.
I have been on this high raw vegan lifestyle now for 15 years. I just spent a couple weeks in Warsaw, Poland before coming to Lublin and I had quite the time. Warsaw has an abundance of vegan options. I couldn’t resist trying out all the options available.
I believe in enjoying life and having fun, but we also need to remember to take care of our bodies by eating healthy and nutritious food. It’s important not to stress about occasional indulgences, as everyone experiences them.
I recently had a delicious salad from a great restaurant in Lublin, which I will be sharing soon on my YouTube channel. The salad was healthy and delicious, although the “chicken” on top was actually mushrooms deep-fried in batter. While it tasted great, my body did not appreciate the deep fry because I had not been consuming oil until my travels to Poland. Even store-bought hummus contains oil, making it challenging to avoid when looking for healthy meals to make while away from home. However, there are ways to work around it and get back on track with a high raw lifestyle. If you’re interested in this lifestyle and have been working on it for quite some time, I suggest having grace with yourself while traveling and incorporating some cooked foods if needed.
Everyone’s journey is different. Some are able to eat raw foods regardless of the situation and circumstance, but for me, how and where the food is prepared is really important. I’m not very flexible when it comes to my meals especially since I tend to get nauseous easily when it comes to stuff like that.
The tips I put together below are for someone who wants to eat as healthily as possible while traveling, incorporating as much raw food as they can find, but also some cooked food if it’s healthy. When it comes to packaged foods, it’s important to focus on the ingredient list. I recently went grocery shopping since I am now in an apartment with a kitchen. I spent my time carefully reading every label.
For those who need help navigating food labels and ordering at restaurants in Poland, I’m working on a video for my YouTube channel to go into some detail on this. Knowing some Polish words can help you avoid certain foods and order the right things. Sometimes packages don’t have English on them, so I use the Google app with the Google Lens feature to help me translate the words I don’t know. With the app, you basically just take a picture of the text, and it will translate that into English for you. It’ll detect whatever the language the original text is, so this could work for wherever country you go.
You may come across corn starch or sugar in many packaged food items. For instance, I purchased ready-made chickpeas in a jar and found that the ingredients listed included both corn starch and sugar which is both basically sugar. Warsaw has some health food stores but the ones here in Lublin are few and far between and the options are quite limited.
This being my first digital nomad long term trip away from home, I am learning as I go. It’s not like a short vacation; I’ll be away from home, my kitchen, tools, knives, and my process for creating healthy meals for months. It’s been a learning experience, figuring out how to navigate real life on this trip. I analyze ingredient lists, factor in the extra time for grocery shopping due to spending time translating labels, looking for sugars, artificial additives, and unhealthy fats if I want to avoid them. Saving time is possible by just creating a simple high raw meal plan that can work based of what I have been seeing in stores:
- Breakfast: cold pressed or HPP juice (loving the ones with imbir (polish for ginger)
- Breakfast 2: whole fruits
- Lunch: salad with a 1/2 lb of greens (mixed greens, pickles, and hummus)
- Dinner: salad with a 1/2 lb of greens (mixed greens, beans, potatoes and corn)
The only difficulty with this is, I am changing locations every 2 weeks. In a couple days, I will be off to Łódź for a week before heading to NYC and I will need to kind of switch up my meals again.
To maintain my healthy eating habits while traveling, I prefer staying in an Airbnb or apartment with a kitchen. It’s important for me to have access to certain tools, like a chef’s knife, to cut up fruits properly. Fortunately, my current apartment (they allow for short and long term stay and provide towels) has everything I need.
In Poland, organic products are identified with the label “bio” or “eco”. I have had to relax my strict rules around this because I am not near a supermarket with lots of organic variety. However, I am sensitive to chemicals but the taste of the nonorganic grapes and apples I got here did not irritate my throat the way non organic ones from America do.
The European Union bans many chemicals that are allowed in the US. This is most likely negatively affecting Americans more than Europeans and causing a lot of our obesity and chronic disease crisis in the states. However, with all that said, there is still a chance that I could be consuming Roundup and glyphosate through non-organic foods without realizing it here. I just don’t know.
Some farmers in America claim not to use chemicals, but they do not pay for organic certification. I may need to detoxify my body when I return to Florida due to the chemicals I could be consuming from eating out and from consuming non organic foods. Unfortunately, chemicals are pervasive in our world, and it is challenging to avoid them. Although we can use different techniques and foods to reduce their impact, it is complicated to eliminate them entirely. Even when we eat out, we do not know if the restaurants are using Teflon-coated pans that contain forever chemicals, which is dangerous for our health.
I’m not sure if detoxification methods can completely eliminate the negative effects of forever chemicals, which are known to cause reproductive issues and other health problems. I am banking on crucifers and leafy greens doing the job but I am still searching for some research to backup this strategy.
Here’s some new info you may not have heard. The exposure of pregnant women to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) has been found to be associated with slightly higher body mass indices (BMI) and an increased risk of obesity in their children. The study was conducted on eight research cohorts across the United States. PFAS are used in various products, including textiles, personal care items, firefighting foams, food packaging, and medical products. These chemicals are highly durable and persist in the environment for extended periods, which earned them the name “forever chemicals.”
The study analyzed PFAS levels in blood samples from pregnant mothers and calculated the BMI in their children aged between 2-5 years. The research found that higher PFAS levels in maternal blood during pregnancy were associated with slightly higher BMIs in children, and an increased risk of obesity was observed in both male and female children. These associations were seen even at low levels of PFAS exposure, suggesting ongoing risks despite reduced usage in some products. The findings highlight the potential harmful health effects of PFAS exposure on children, emphasizing the need for protective measures.
Future research will explore the long-term impacts of maternal PFAS exposure on obesity-related health outcomes in older children, adolescents, and adults. Overall, this study emphasizes the link between PFAS exposure during pregnancy and an increased risk of obesity in children, highlighting the importance of understanding and addressing the potential risks associated with these chemicals.
Recently, the manufacturer of these chemicals, 3M, has been in the news for paying billions of dollars in a settlement related to the harm caused by their products. While this is a step in the right direction, it may not be enough to undo the damage already done. Moving forward, it’s important to implement policies and regulations that prevent the use of harmful chemicals.
Ok, so back to the navigation food labels while traveling and making informed healthy eating choices. If you’re on vacation, it’s best not to worry too much about serving and portion sizes. Just relax, enjoy your food, and have fun. However, if you’re not feeling well due to overeating or if you’re like me and will overeat as a default if given the chance, intermittent fasting can be a really helpful strategy. It works for me because I have a set cutoff time, and I use my fasting time to drink lots of water and meet my daily water intake requirements. During my feasting window, I can enjoy whatever I want to eat.
Usually, I obtain most of my protein from beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. However, it has been challenging to find places that offer healthy and clean food with sufficient protein. Making my own food is easier because I can control the quality and quantity of protein in my meals.
When it comes to carbs, I don’t pay too much attention to counting or tracking it. If you eat a whole food vegan diet, you are eating a diet full of carbs. All plant foods are carbs. I been getting my protein and fats lately from hummus, which store bought ones always have oil. Unfortunately, finding cruciferous vegetables like kale and Brussels sprouts has been a challenge.
I don’t focus on calories but make sure to eat enough to fuel my daily five-mile walks. Staying hydrated and eating high-fiber, whole foods is essential.
If you are traveling with rheumatoid arthritis, eating out can be dangerous as the oil used in restaurants can cause painful flareups that can set you back in your recovery journey. To avoid this, it’s best to get a place with a kitchen and stick to making your own meals. Eating out can be risky as you have no control over the oil and ingredients used by restaurants, which can make your condition worse. Restaurants often use oil to enhance the flavor of their food and make it more satisfying, but this can be harmful to your health.
When at home, I like to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables in different colors to promote good gut health. This can be challenging while traveling, but eating locally in-season produce is perfectly acceptable. Dr. Will Bulsiewicz’s work on gut health and the microbiome explains that the foods we eat encourage the growth of certain bacteria. Eating fast food and processed foods can lead to an overabundance of bacteria that may not be beneficial for long-term health. Conversely, eating apples, grapes, and salads can promote the growth of beneficial bacteria that can improve cognitive function and overall wellbeing. Ultimately, what we eat determines the bacteria in our gut, so it’s okay to adjust our diet based on what’s available while traveling. Just do the best you can.
I hope sharing my experience and challenges with healthy eating while traveling and how I am navigating food labels to make informed choices has been helpful to you. Although we have discussed food labels before here, we have never covered this topic in this context. Given that it is summer and many of us are traveling, I thought this was the perfect time to address it.
What are some of your strategies for making healthy food choices while traveling? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.