Traveling While on Keto
Keto food can be challenging at home, let alone while traveling, especially if you’re just starting out. Even if you’ve been on a keto food plan for quite some time, it’s tempting to cheat while traveling. It’s much easier to find high carb meals! With forethought and preparation, though, you can maintain a keto plan while in hotels, planes, trains, and cars.
Measuring and Tracking
Measuring your food for logging is impossible while traveling, but do the best you can to estimate and log your numbers. Even if your estimates are off by 20–30%, sticking to the routine of tracking significantly increases your likelihood of sticking to the keto food plan.
Why It's Important to Eat Keto Food
Eating food on the approved Keto Intelligence food list will ensure that you stay in ketosis while you travel. When you are in ketosis, your body is “fat adapted,” meaning that your liver is converting the fat that you eat into energy. Because it is easier for your body to convert sugar into energy, the body quickly reverts to using sugar for energy when you eat too many carbs, turning off your fat-burning system.
Even if you exceed your daily calorie budget while traveling, you can keep your body “fat adapted” by eating high-fat, low-carb foods from the Keto Intelligence food list. You’ll easily begin to burn body fat once you return to eating within your calorie budget.
If you are traveling for work, especially if you do so frequently, do your best to stick to your existing food routine. Make an effort to eat similar foods at similar times of day. Stick to your keto food plan and macros as well as you can.
If you’re on vacation, you may decide that you want a special meal or two that are not keto. The key is not to go overboard. Make reasonable choices with reasonable portion sizes. Be aware that if you’ve been on keto for a while, eating highly processed, carb-heavy foods such as pasta or sweet desserts can make you feel sick; you may experience chills, sweats, and lightheadedness that can last for up to two hours.
Snacks really come in handy when you’re low on keto options. My favorites include:
Keto Intelligence-approved nuts, such as pecans and macadamia nuts;
Individually-packaged small portions of cheese (BabyBel cheeses are great);
No-sugar beef jerky (you may want to buy this ahead of time, because it can be hard to find at convenience stores);
Individually-packaged servings of sliced salami and other processed meat (because of its high salt content, you can carry it all day without refrigeration);
Pre-cut keto veggies;
Olives and pickles are great options if you have access to a refrigerator or cooler.
Check out a restaurant’s menu online ahead of time to decide what you’ll order. A menu can be a great source of temptation — all those options! — so it can be helpful to avoid it all together. Many restaurants have their nutrition and ingredient information online (they are also happy to provide them at the restaurant), so you can see how a given meal works with your daily macros.
Meat, cheese, and vegetables are almost universally available and will get you through many meals. Get comfortable asking for substitutions and feel free to get creative with the menu. If you don’t see something that works for you, ask them to deviate from the menu slightly. Telling them that you “can’t eat” something, instead of that you “don’t eat” something, can encourage waiters to think creatively.
To add fat to your meal, ask for extra pats of butter, mayo on the side, or for heavy cream (not half and half) for your coffee.
Eggs are usually made to order, so they are a great option for all meals. Seafood, steaks, dark meat chicken, bunless burgers with cheese, lettuce, mustard, and mayo are also readily available.
Salads are also a great option. Avoid restaurant-prepared salad dressings, which often have added sugar, and opt for a sprinkle of cheese, a drizzle of olive oil, and salt and pepper. Always ask for a list of every ingredient in a salad before ordering; restaurants often omit things like croutons, dried fruit, and candied nuts from the menu, which can be very disappointing and sometimes stressful when the meal arrives.
Don’t forget about chain restaurants. We have many national restaurant chains with consistent menus; these can be an invaluable resource if you are a frequent traveler. They may not be the most exciting choice, but having experience with a menu can be very helpful when you are struggling to find something to eat that is on-plan.
Eat Breakfast, Bring Some Snacks, and Skip Lunch
Breakfast is the easiest meal of the day because almost any egg dish or omelet can be easily adapted to conform to a keto diet. Many hotels have breakfast options with eggs, sausage, bacon that come with your meal. Hotels with restaurants will have many keto breakfast options. If you’re worried about having access to keto foods throughout the day, add more to your breakfast and then skip lunch, supplementing with keto snacks.
Avoid alcohol completely or decide before the traveling how many drinks you’ll allow yourself. Hard alcohol with no mixers is best (not for driving, however!). Hard alcohol has no carbs but does add calories, so be sure to include them in your tracking. (A gram of alcohol has 7 calories, which is almost as much as fat.) Dry wines and light beers can also be low carb. Just be sure to avoid sugary mixers and opt for seltzer water instead.
Remember that you'll experience a lowered tolerance for alcohol on a keto diet. If you'd like more information, read this article on keto, weight loss, and alcohol.
AirBnBs and Public Parks
If possible, stay in an AirBnB or a hotel room with a full kitchen and cook some meals. You can eat breakfast before going out, pack some lunch, and then eat out for dinner. If you can, go to a local public park with charcoal and lighter and grill your food. Looking for a public park with grills is a great way to explore new parts of a city. If you’re driving cross country in the US, even the smallest towns have public parks with grills.
Most importantly, relax and remember that it won’t be perfect. A few glitches are much healthier than breakfast, lunch, and dinner at McDonald’s. If you fell off the wagon, don’t beat yourself up. It’s just a great reminder of how important and powerful our daily routines are in establishing practices for healthy living.