If you have food aversions, allergies, intolerances, or dietary restrictions, traveling can sometimes be difficult. Trying new foods in other countries might make you feel nervous or turn into a dangerous situation if you’re highly allergic. Here are a few tips so that particular eaters can still have a delicious vacation.
Do Your Research
Planning ahead is the name of the game when you're traveling somewhere with a different cuisine. Research the general cuisine of the country or area you’ll be traveling to and take note of any regional ingredients or flavors that worry you. If you can, make restaurant reservations ahead of time, or scour food options near your accommodation that offer dishes you're comfortable with. Planning ahead can help reduce any anxiety you might feel about the foods that are available. If you have time, you can even try making a few of the regional dishes at home before you leave to get a feel for how they might taste.
Feeling nervous about trying new foods? Make a compromise with yourself! At each meal, eat one thing that’s safe and familiar (perhaps a hamburger or hot dog) and one thing that counts as adventurous. By using this tactic, you can try new foods, but still enjoy something familiar. Who knows? You might like the new foods so much that by the end of your trip, you'll start ordering only local dishes.
You don’t have to order exotic entrées right away. Instead, start slow. If you’re not a big fan of soup but you love bread, try ordering Colombian arepas or bunelos to begin with. After a day or two of traveling, you’ll feel ready to try more adventurous dishes like sancocho or ajiaco. It’s completely okay to give yourself time to adjust to the food in a new country. If you know your stomach reacts to strange food, just take it one meal at a time, giving yourself the chance to acclimate.
Choose a Buffet or Market
Restaurants that serve food buffet-style are wins for everyone. A buffet offers plenty of choices for everybody in your group. Whether you tend to be picky or have food intolerances, you’ll be able to find something at a buffet and you can try small amounts of new foods too. Street markets can also be a great place to find multiple options.
Share Meals With Others
If you’re open to trying new foods, but feel concerned you’ll end up not liking the food and wasting it, split a meal with your traveling companion. If you’re eating with a big group of family and friends, see if each person would be willing to give you one bite of what they ordered. That way, you can try several local dishes at once and know what you like, so you can be prepared when ordering at restaurants.
This might not be possible on every trip, but if you’re able to, pack snacks to take with you. Road trips make it easy to fill a cooler and bring along all your favorites. Traveling on a plane is a little more difficult, but you can still pack healthy, filling snacks to have on hand. If all else fails, stick a box of protein bars in your checked bag. You can also go to a grocery store once you reach your destination and pick up some food to stash in the hotel room. Knowing that you have snacks in your suitcase can give you peace of mind — even if you struggle to find food to eat, you’re not going to starve!
If you have a food allergy or intolerance, eating out can often be more trouble than it’s worth. Throw a language barrier into the mix and things get even harder. Google Translate and translation guides can be helpful, but sometimes things still get complicated. Try carrying photos in your wallet to show waiters instead. You can print out your own pictures of the foods you can’t have, or purchase cards on Amazon with a paragraph explaining your allergy in the local language. Make sure these photos spell out every one of the foods that your allergy or intolerance affects. If you can’t have dairy, for example, waiters will need to understand that you are unable to eat milk, butter, cheese, and any foods or dishes that have those dairy products in them.
If you don’t have any dietary restrictions, but still feel worried about trying new foods, that’s okay! Going outside of your comfort zone can be scary. In many cases, however, it’s entirely worth it. Be adventurous and try to enjoy the excitement of sampling new foods. After all, who knows? You might just discover your new favorite dish.