Travel Tips to Prevent Digestive Distress

Hello all! Sorry for the late post – I started writing this entry from my motel room in Ohio on Sunday, and we were traveling all day yesterday. The BF and I are on a road trip to meet with friends in Ohio and Minnesota this week. It’s a twenty hour drive, so I’m glad I knew how to best prepare my system for the change in routine. The last thing anyone wants on a road trip is digestive distress…the uncomfortable feeling of needing an immediate bathroom, or going days feeling like there’s a rock in your gut…it’s not fun, especially on vacation! (Yes, I’m talking about diarrhea and constipation – just to be clear.) Here are my top five tips to prevent digestive distress while traveling on the road.

1. Try to eat the same (or similar) foods you eat at home.

As tempting as it might be to indulge at rest stop eateries, your digestive system may not be happy with this choice. By being on the road, your body is already in a different environment, so you’ll want to avoid any unnecessary stressors to your system – unless you’re fine with stopping at multiple rest stops due to poor food choices. If your body is not used to eating chocolate at 10 am, for example, don’t buy that candy bar just because it’s available.

Once you’ve reached your destination, continue to respect your system by easing into trying new foods. I know that eggs are a safe bet for me, so I had that at the diner Sunday morning. I wisely chose not to have a milkshake – even though it looked delicious – because I just didn’t know how I would react to it, since I don’t have milkshakes at home. When you do decide to eat away from your norm, make sure you are near a bathroom for 30 minutes after your meal – just in case.

2. Bring your own food.

Not only will this save you money, you’ll have control over the ingredients, and you’ll avoid any negative consequences of being hungry but unable to stop because the next rest stop is 40 miles away. I made a huge chicken salad that the BF and I shared for lunch, and we brought string cheese, tankabars and epic bars, and I brought cans of sardines for myself so I can get a good source of healthy fat. I wish I had thought to also pack grapes and carrots for that first day’s drive – the food I brought definitely lacked crunch – so I made sure to get some for the next leg of the trip. But refer back to the first tip – if you don’t usually eat 1/2 a pound of grapes in one day, for example, and you do that on the road, don’t be surprised if your digestive system becomes unhappy.

3. Watch your fiber intake. 

Buying grapes, carrots, and Terra chips was a huge help for the 2nd leg of the trip – it felt great to have real food to eat on the road, and fiber definitely can help you stay regular. But I neglected to remember what eating A LOT of fiber-rich foods can cause: flatulence. The fix? Make sure you also add some protein and healthy fats to your snacks. The balance of macro-nutrients will help ease any flatulence issues, and it will also keep you satiated and focused for your drive.

4. Supplements

One thing that made a huge difference for me was to continue to take probiotics. I have found the probiotics keep my digestive system consistent. Full disclosure: I often become constipated on road trips that last for more than a few hours. There’s something about sitting in a car for numerous hours that my digestive system just doesn’t like. But on this road trip, I increased my probiotic intake, and that, along with the first two tips, has helped keep me regular. So, if you aren’t taking a probiotic yet, go start – but make sure you begin at least a few weeks before your trip so your system can acclimate.

5. Stay hydrated – drink water.

It can be tempting to drink coffee, soda, or energy drinks while on the road, but it definitely won’t be kind to your digestive system! Hydration is crucial to preventing constipation, so bring that water bottle! Caffeinated drinks often cause dehydration, so try to limit your intake to one cup in the morning if you must have a little caffeine to avoid withdrawal.

Bonus tip: Already constipated? Try walking around.

Sitting for long periods of time can affect the flow of the digestive system. Moving the body, such as exercising regularly, also keeps the digestive system regular. But it’s quite difficult to exercise when spending the day in the car. The fix: when taking breaks at rest stops, devote some extra time to walking around. Even a 10 minute walk every 2-3 hours can help relieve constipation.

Got a travel digestion tip? Leave a comment to share!

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I Love Spices!

When I first started eating clean, spices were the first magical thing I discovered. My taste buds were changing, and I was able to recognize differences in flavor from the spices alone. I found, and still find, it fascinating that one can travel the world through spices.

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I actually have three drawers full of spices…and 1/2 a cabinet shelf.

So today we’re going to travel the world together! If you want your dish to have a Middle Eastern flavor, I’ll give you the spices for that. Chinese? Indian? French? Italian? I’ve got it all. I haven’t figured out all areas of the world (Greek food, I’ll get to you soon!) but here’s a good starting place, especially if you’re new to spices.

Italian

Basil, Garlic, Onion, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, Fennel, Cinnamon (Southern Italy) and Marjoram (Southern Italy)

Mexican

Chili powder (you can buy it, or make your own using any of the following spices), Chili peppers, Cumin, Oregano, Garlic, Cloves, Coriander, Onion, Cocoa, Cilantro, Cinnamon, Saffron

Chinese/Asian

Chili Powder, Chinese Five-Spice (star anise, Szechuan peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves, fennel), Coriander, Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, Cumin, Ginger. I also like to use Toasted Sesame Seeds for garnish.

Indian

Turmeric, Chili Powder, Cinnamon, Cloves, Coriander, Curry Powder, Thyme, Nutmeg, Paprika, Allspice, Cardamom, Mint, Sage, Saffron, Garlic (especially Northern India), Ginger (Northern India), Cumin (Northern India), Cilantro (Southern India)

Caribbean

Allspice (considered the Jamaican pepper), Cinnamon, Bay Leaf, Cilantro, Cloves, Thyme, Parsley, Dill, Garlic, Ginger, Nutmeg, Onion, Orange

A great flavor combination: cilantro + garlic + onion

Middle Eastern

Aleppo Pepper, Cinnamon, Coriander, Cumin, Cloves, Paprika, Garlic, Ginger, Dill, Parsley, Marjoram, Mint, Nutmeg, Oregano, Thyme, Sesame Seeds, Ras el Hanout

Ras el Hanout (rahs-el-haNOOT) is a spice blend. Usually vendors all over the Middle East and North Africa will have their own version. This is the recipe I use. It’s delicious!

Mediteranean

Bay Leaf, Basil, Coriander, Garlic, Marjoram, Oregano, Mint, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Savory

Great combination: marjoram + rosemary

Moroccon/North Africa – my favorite flavor combinations!

Cumin, Paprika, Cilantro, Cinnamon, Coriander, Ginger, Saffron, Mint, Parsley

Great combinations: Moroccon: cinnamon + coriander + cumin; North Africa: cumin+garlic+mint

African

Coriander, Cumin, Chili pepper (West and South Africa, especially), Garlic, Onion, Cinnamon (South), Cloves (South), Ginger (South), Turmeric (South)

French

Chives, Thyme, Tarragon, Mustard, Parsley

Southern/Provençal: Anise, Basil, Garlic, Lavendar, Marjoram, Rosemary, Sage

Spanish

Bay Leaf, Garlic, Onion, Orange, Sweet Paprika, Parsley, Thyme

Great combination: garlic + onion + paprika

Thai

Chili Powder, Cinnamon, Thai Basil, Cilantro, Coriander, Cumin, Chili Peppers, Curries, Garlic, Ginger, Lemongrass, Mint, Turmeric

Great combination: chili pepper + garlic + cilantro + coconut milk (I know, not a spice, but it’s yummy!)

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Cabinet full of spices and spice mixes. I love Penzeys!

So there’s my list so far! But you might be asking, “Where do I start? Buying all those spices at once is too expensive!” And I completely agree. Therefore…

My List of Most-Used Spices (and some others that are good to have)

Most-Used: Cinnamon, Cumin, Cloves, Coriander, Cilantro, Chili Powder (you can make your own to save money), Garlic, Ginger, Onion, Parsley, Thyme

Good-To-Have: Basil (especially if you make a lot of Italian food), Cardamom (not used by itself often, but used in a lot of spice mixes), Chinese Five-Spice (for Chinese food), Cocoa Powder (Mexican), Marjoram, Oregano, Rosemary, Paprika, Mint, Turmeric

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Well Fed 2 Spice Mixes

Well Fed and Well Fed 2 by Melissa Joulwan are two of my all-time favorite cookbooks. I’ll write a full review in a different post someday, but among all the things I love about these books, the thing I love most is the way she teaches the reader to create different ethnic meals through the use of simple base ingredients and a change of spice mixtures. The spice mixes pictured above are from Well Fed 2. The tall jar is Magic Dust, and it’s more than just a spice mix…I use it like a condiment. I also have a few favorite Penzeys spice blends that I’ll share in another post.

Poll Time! 

Question Time! What’s your favorite, go-to spice or spice mix? Answer in the comments!

Sources:

Well Fed + Well Fed 2

The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg