My Life Camping with Dietary Restrictions

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Keto, vegan, paleo, carnivore; there are so many different types of diets in the world right now. Some wish to live a healthier lifestyle, some for environmental reasons, and some because of an allergy or intolerance.

I had a period when my doctor put me on a diet that was very similar to a Keto diet. At a time when I felt like my eating was restricted already, finding food while camping with dietary restrictions just felt like it compounded all the feelings that I was really, really missing out. A small town just doesn’t have the options of a major city. However, with some help, I found that an alternative diet is very much achievable anywhere; it might just take some more forethought.

As an adult, a good friend developed a wide range of allergies, and her entire life felt like it was being flipped on its head. I traveled with her for a bit, and she showed me some survival tips so that no matter where she was, she always felt like she had something to eat that didn’t make her feel left out. 

The staple foods I never leave home without.

  1. Chickpea pasta
  2. Shelf-stable alternative milks
  3. Canned meats and vegetables
  4. Peanut butter (or alternative nut butter)
  5. Canned coconut milk
  6.  Chia seeds (for chia seed pudding)
  7. Oatmeal
  8. Dried fruit
  9. A variety of seasonings: garlic powder, salt, pepper, chipotle powder, turmeric, graham masala, curry powder, cumin, cinnamon, nutritional yeast, and sometimes more.

Have simple go-to recipes that don’t require much thought.

Even at home, I appreciate having simple mid-week meals that take ingredients I have all the time and get a limited number of dishes dirty. Build the meals from ingredients that are easy to find in any store across America. For me, I always have the base ingredients for a one-pot curry. Coconut milk, whatever veggies I have on hand, a protein like chicken, tofu, or chickpeas, and then I season it in whatever way I’m feeling. Turmeric, curry powder, graham masala, and garlic powder are all seasonings that I make sure to have on hand. Each time I make a curry it can be new and different, but I know I will always have the base ingredients in any given moment. 

>> READ MORE: Why I Always Cook My Own Food While Camping!

Sometimes, you have to eat the same thing over … and over.

Eating out can be tricky with dietary restrictions, and even more so when you’re in an unfamiliar place. You can cook 95% of your meals, but on a day on the road, sometimes convenience wins out. A lot of the time, that means ordering the same things at restaurants that you know will be safe. For my friend, that looked like ordering burgers without a bun a lot of the time. It also doesn’t hurt to know an item or two that you know you can eat at some of the major fast-food chains because you never know when it might be the only thing around.

>> READ MORE: Tips for Storing Food in an RV So It Actually Lasts!

Stocking up whenever, wherever possible

As I travel from one place to the next, I find it interesting how the brands change from region to region. That can make it hard to find some items that while plentiful in some areas are nowhere to be seen in others. I always have chickpea pasta as a staple when I travel, but having that requires stocking up when I see it in a store. Sometimes, you don’t know when you are going to see it again!

When camping with dietary restrictions, always read the ingredients list!

Reading the ingredient labels when I go into a store has become a habit. It was something that my friend first noticed when she developed her allergy. Even if you recognize a brand, not everything in their collection will necessarily suit your needs. It’s a good habit to know exactly what you’re putting in your body at all times. It feels obvious to me as I’m writing it now, but it’s still something I had to be told, and so I figure someone else might benefit from hearing too.  

Have staple snacks that you will be able to find no matter where you are.

It’s all about streamlining the decision-making process. When you are on the road long enough, you want something that feels like a routine and familiar. Finding snacks that meet those requirements is something that I like to have: carrots and hummus, or satsumas or beef jerky. Even if the brands change, I know that I can find all of those things almost anywhere I go. It’s easy and simple, and it makes road days still feel healthy. 

Focus on what you CAN have!

When you go out to eat or hang out with people who don’t have the same diet as yourself, it can be really easy to feel like you are missing out. I know that social situations became hard when I wasn’t drinking at all, especially when meeting up with friends while camping. Having sparkling water didn’t feel like it was the same thing. This was one thing that my friend told me that stuck out. If I just focused on all of the things that I couldn’t have, I wasn’t serving anyone or making myself happy. This was more of a change of mindset than anything else. She recommended I focus on what I could have as opposed to what was unavailable. 

The important thing that I have realized on my own food journey while traveling is that it is possible to feel satisfied anywhere. Staying in control of what you are eating, can give the whole experience of van life a sense of stability in an ever-changing life. I love to cook, and I love food. My husband and I make sure that we can still make exciting meals on the road, and it has been a fun adventure.  

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Robin and her husband Eric have been building out their 2008 Mercedes Sprinter and love to take it to new mountains in the winter. She loves to ski, and they have geared the van for just that. You can usually find her at a local coffee shop or library working on her next novel when she's not in the mountains.

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