2014 will mark 2 years of committed "clean eating" for myself and my partner. And by committed I mean that we don't purchase processed foods for our household nor do we indulge in them as "treats" the same way we used to. Chips, bread, crackers, pre-made foods, packaged foods, frozen meals, refined sugars...none of that stuff belongs in our home anymore. Just to give you some brief background: when I decided to look into changing my diet to maximize weight loss results and improve my health, it naturally progressed towards the "Paleo" lifestyle. I knew absolutely nothing about it nor had I ever heard of it until about 3 years ago. Over the past 6 years or so, I've tried weight loss shakes, juicing, smoothies, protein supplements (powders, bars, etc), low calorie dieting, low fat dieting, low carb dieting, and any other fad you can think of. I counted points, tracked ounces, measured grams, and played with negative/positive calorie balance. Yup, I've done it all. But now that I just eat simple, real food...I don't have to do any of that anymore.
Anyways, back to the topic. The one complaint I hear the most from clients is how difficult it is to stay on track while you're traveling. I don't find it difficult at all for the following reasons:
- I am committed to a healthy diet and lifestyle regardless of the season or occasion.
- When I travel, I like to enjoy my time to the fullest without the possibility of gas, bloating, diarrhea...you get the picture. I will avoid it to the best of my ability and that starts with keeping my diet in check.
- Clean eating is a priority to me, not a choice. It has changed my life so drastically for the better that I can't think of a single valid excuse or reason that I should ever sacrifice it. Period.
When you make something a priority in your life, you do it and stick to it no matter what.
Ok, so given all of that, let's look at a recent example: my trip to Maui. I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear that I put about 5 times more energy and time into planning, prepping, and packing my food for the trip than planning and packing clothes and personal items. I've been to Hawaii several times and know that it is, without a doubt, notably more expensive for almost everything...including food. Keep in mind I only spend about $500/month for 2 people to eat organic, pastured meats, local produce, etc. You could easily spend that much in just one week on food if you're on vacation. No thank you! I had recently read on a blog about coolers being allowed on airplanes so I thought, if the cooler can come on board, why not the food? Then came the research. I called, emailed, Googled, measured, and read my way to the answers and confirmation I needed. Now this is totally dependent on the airline, your point of origin, and your final destination but this is the general breakdown for flying from the U.S. Mainland to the Hawaiian islands on Hawaiian Airlines (HA): Yes, you can bring your own food with you in your baggage. Yes, you can bring a hard or soft cooler (no styrofoam) as checked baggage. Yes you can bring almost all produce as long as it's free of soil, disease, and pests (for the very few exceptions, see Dept of Ag website link below). Yes you can bring frozen meat. Yes you can bring any and all processed foods.
Here are the resources I used that helped me the most during my research:
- Hawaii Department of Agriculture Traveling Guide
- Hawaii Department of Agriculture Plant Import Rules
- Hawaii Department of Agriculture Plant Quarantine Branch: (808) 832-0566
- HA Restricted Items List
- HA Reservations Department: 1-800-367-5320
- TSA Prohibited Items List
- TSA Specific Item Check
I asked VERY specific questions about each item I was planning on bringing and got written and verbal confirmation from representatives of these accredited sources that it was OK to bring those items. After I had the green light, it was time to pack!
My initial idea was to just find a cooler that was within the carry-on size limit for HA and bring the food on the plane with me because I read about this on many travel blogs and forums. However, it turns out HA no longer allows coolers as carry-on items. GOOD THING I CALLED TO VERIFY!!! So then I thought, OK, I'll just bring the cooler as checked baggage. Wrong again! Well not technically but HA now charges $25 for your first checked bag. If my partner and I checked our own bags each way that would be $100 total in baggage fees. Again, no thank you! Great, OK so now I'm looking at trying to consolidate both of our belongings AND the cooler into 1 checked bag. It was definitely going to be a challenge but totally worth it. Plus, I love challenges! :)
New plan: use a soft cooler.
These are the food items I took with me in my checked bag (NOT in the soft cooler):
- coconut oil
- canned salmon
- sweet potatoes
- nuts, seeds, and dried coconut (my homemade trail mix)
- steel cut oats
- canned coconut milk
These are the food items I took with me in my checked bag with 2 ice packs (IN the soft cooler):
- frozen ground turkey
- frozen sliced ham
- frozen chicken sausage
- frozen chicken thighs
The food in my checked bag weighed nearly 35lb. I had only 15lb left for my personal belongings but when you're going to Hawaii, you pack lightly anyways. It worked out perfectly. I passed the Ag check upon arrival with flying colors. In fact, I declared everything I had with me that was fresh (all the fruits and vegetables) and just as I had learned before leaving, none of these items were cause for concern. They didn't even need to inspect anything. By the way, all of my food in my cooler was still completely frozen solid after 10 hours in transit.
At the airport, I picked up plastic forks, spoons, and knives from the food court as well as packets of mustard, hot chili sauce, and honey. I used the mustard as an ingredient in my tuna and salmon salads for lunches and the honey to add a touch of sweetness to my oatmeal. The chili sauce I didn't end up using because it had questionable ingredients but when I find something I can potentially use for FREE, I do not pass it up!
Our first (and only) lunch out we collected salsas, jalapeños, and fresh cilantro from the salsa bar at the restaurant we dined at. A few days later we returned to stock up a second time after purchasing an horchata so my partner didn't feel bad about it. Haha. I never feel badly about things like this. Never.
When we arrived, we stopped at Costco and Down to Earth Natural Foods and got eggs, green beans, cauliflower, a 2lb bag of greens, bananas, zucchini, a few protein bars (Rise is the only brand I buy...and I can count on one hand how often I eat them in a year), and clementines. That cost us only $46 and was the only other food we purchased besides 3 meals dined out. The thing that saved us the MOST money was definitely bringing all the food with us from home. When we got to the studio we were staying at, I prepped as I always do at home. I cooked the oatmeal, make tuna and salmon salad with cilantro, mustard, and onions, marinated chicken with spices and mustard, and boiled the sweet potatoes. It took me just 1 hour. The best part about it was that I had my soft cooler and two freezer packs with me so that every day, I could pack our lunches and snacks and leave them in the car. It was wonderful.
If I could do it all over again, I would. I plan on traveling like this for the rest of my life when possible. Both my partner and I actually lost weight while in Maui because of all the hiking, walking, swimming, and exploring we were doing. Had I not stayed committed to my lifestyle, I would have been another statistic traveling around blowing money and gaining weight. I prefer not to be a statistic.