Maintaining the keto way of eating while traveling: I can’t count the number of times that I’ve been e-mailed, messaged, or asked about this topic. It’s a common factor that when people travel, they’re just not sure if they can keep up with a high-fat ketogenic lifestyle.
A few months ago, my girlfriend and I went on a small vacation through Portland and Seattle. I wanted to document all of the food I was eating to share the experience and to provide some tips and tricks with all of the curious folks out there. Being ketogenic while being on vacation is one thing – but eating well while staying keto is another, and I’ll show you how to do it.
While many of the exact restaurants and places we ate were location specific, the advice and guidelines should be able to be used anywhere.
Shop for Your Hotel
This is common practice now for most people. Finding the best deals for a hotel is becoming easier and easier on the internet. With many sites, you’re able to do in-depth searches when you’re looking to book your stay.
Make sure that you give yourself the option of having a kitchenette in your hotel room (pictured below). This way, you can cook some nights, eat out some nights, and still be really happy with both your waist and your wallet when you get back home. Staying on a ketogenic diet while we were traveling was made possible by this.
The great thing is, many hotels that have rooms with kitchenettes don’t charge more (or it’s minimally extra) than what a normal room would be. Be sure you call in advance to make sure you’re getting a full kitchen. We spent one night at a hotel that claimed they had a kitchenette, but it was really only a dorm room size refrigerator and a microwave.
To find a hotel with a kitchenette, it’s pretty simple. Most of the major travel sites will have an option to do an “advanced search” and give the option of filtering out all hotels without a kitchenette.
Another tip is to look for apartments. If you’re visiting a large city, chances are they have plenty of new apartment buildings that are looking to rent out. Many of the larger hotel booking sites will offer you apartments for rent – and they’re very affordable. Not to mention, they’re much roomier and more than likely updated. You usually get a full kitchen, washing amenities (for laundry), a dinner table to sit and eat at, and a good sized bathroom that doesn’t make you feel cramped.
If an apartment isn’t your thing, or you have to book a hotel for your business trip, then there is one upside: the food. Typically hotels will include some sort of breakfast, and occasionally some sort of dinner plan. In Portland, we stayed at a great hotel that included both. Breakfast usually consists of pastries, waffles and oatmeal – but they almost always have eggs, bacon, and sausage ready to go on your plate.
When dinner time rolled around, we got the great luxury of getting bacon…by the pound. That was something I was extremely happy with and definitely took advantage of. A plate full of bacon with a simple salad made of lettuce, cheese, olives, and ranch dressing. Albeit a bit simple, it was delicious – and best of all, it was free!
Preparing and Planning
Preparation always goes a long way, whether it’s your food intake on a day-to-day basis, or while traveling. It’s always good to be knowledgeable about the various places to eat when you’re visiting somewhere you’ve never been before.
Make sure that you include the planning for the plane ride itself. Stocking up on some snacks before you go, and even making a breakfast that can last you a few hours. We baked up a delicious frittata and brought it with us on the plane – we even got compliments from the staff on how good it looked!
Take some time to look up different food places in the area you’re visiting – restaurants, diners, cafés, coffee shops, and grocery stores. If you’re prepared and ready when you get there, it will make the whole vacation less stressful – and staying on the ketogenic diet much easier.
Plan ahead and reserve restaurants if you want to, look at their nutrition menu and have an idea on what to order, or simply look up the local markets and have a bag ready to take with you so that you can cook your own dinner and enjoy the tastes of the local cuisine.
I know it’s pretty uncommon for you to stock up on groceries when you’re on vacation. But, a new way of eating means a new way of thinking. Take a look online to source out nearby places that sell food. While in Portland, I asked the front desk for recommendations on where they have heard are good.
A small tip that you can always use when you have unfriendly front desk staff is to ask locals. When you’re out and about, pick out different people and ask them where they go to shop. It may sound weird, but you get fantastic insights about where to go and what to eat in the area.
If you’re a bit more on the timid side, you can always use Yelp and TripAdvisor to get good insights on places people have visited. As a disclaimer, some of the ratings may not be accurate on these sites, so make sure you go through and read some of the more recent reviews that people have written. We did this for a few of the places we visited and had no issues.
We were given the suggestion of Olympic Provisions, Laurelhurst Market, and New Seasons Market.
Above is an assortment of meat and groceries that we got from the recommendations.
Olympic Provisions sells all things meat – from charcuterie to liver mousse and everything in between, I would call this place Keto Paradise. They give you the choice to pick up sausage, bacon, pork rillettes, organ mousse, and a number of different salamis to try out. After shopping, we whipped up some flaxseed crackers to go with our meal.
It was one of our favorite places, and I would even say had some of the best tasting sausage I’ve ever tried. Their staff is very knowledgeable about the ingredients and few of their products contain breading of any kind.
The salami was already smoked for us, so we had it around at all times and whenever we were in a pinch, we could easily go after some delicious meat to keep us going. The sausage all got cooked up, stored, and taken with us when we went between Portland and Seattle.
Laurelhurst Market is part restaurant, part butcher. It had a great environment when we walked in and offered a full range of meats to choose from at the butcher counter. From ethnic sausage to stuffed pork chops, they had just about every type of meat you would want.
Top pick steaks paired with great rack of lamb, or South African Sausage with Irish Bacon on the side (pictured above). The counter staff there did not seem to be too knowledgeable about the product ingredients, but I was able to ask for the butcher himself to come out and he was more than happy to tell us about all his products.
New Seasons Market
New Seasons Market is a Whole Foods type of store that sells all organic meats and vegetables. Since we were already stocked up on the former, we went ahead and loaded a small basket full of green beans, broccoli, mushrooms, cheese and pistachio butter for snacking.
It was an adventure in itself to look around the store: seeing shelves full of new and exciting products I had never seen before. Well worth the trip!
With a combination of sausage, salami, vegetables, and cheese (pictured above) – we were able to eat a fantastic local keto meal on the cheap.
When you go somewhere new, you always want to dive into the local food and enjoy what they have to offer. You can definitely still do that while staying on a ketogenic diet!
I’ll talk about some of the experiences we had while we traveled that just about follows with anywhere else in the world. There’s always a way to eat the local food.
Pike Place Market
While in Seattle, we were lucky enough to go to the Pike Place Market – world famous for their fish. Fresh off the boat and ready for your sampling, this market had just about everything you’d ever want from the sea. It’s not just a fish market by any means, though.
It’s sought out by most people that go on vacation to Seattle. Locals come by to sell art and crafted material as souvenirs. They have an entire section dedicated to fresh flowers and fresh vegetables – ready for your picking and cooking. Plenty of locals come here to shop, and I can see why.
I will add that they do have some fantastic meat places, too. To name one, Uli’s Sasuage – a place that’s famous for their kielbasa. We grabbed some fresh sausage (pictured below with romanesco) and it definitely lived up to its name.
I was able to talk to the butcher himself, and go through his personal favorites and recommendations. He makes the sausage, so he was able to tell me what the ingredients were and guide me on picking a few samples to try out. Maybe I bought too much from him, but the taste was spot on.
All that said, the fish is the glory of why people come to Pike’s Place Market (pictured below). After strolling around in awe, we decided to grab some fresh sashimi style salmon and take a walk in hopes to find another snack to fill us up.
If you’re a fan of cheese, this place is really fun. It’s a quaint little shop that’s right across the street from Pike’s Place Market. With hundreds of competitive awards under their belt over the last decade, you know their cheese is going to be good – and they do too. They let you sample different varieties of cheese before you buy it, so you know exactly what you’re getting into.
We were able to sit down in the store, relax, and eat our salmon and cheese (pictured above) – separately of course! As you eat, you can watch them hand make their cheese through a glass window, showing exactly what they do in their process to get the food you’re eating in front of you. An experience in itself that I definitely would recommend to anyone visiting this city!
Coffee, coffee, coffee!
Seriously, coffee and tea cafés are around just about everywhere. Do yourself a favor and buy some heavy whipping cream and butter while you go to the grocery store to stock up – that way you can have a great cup of ketoproof coffee anywhere you want.
If you’re lucky enough, you can usually find small packets of Kerrygold (single serve packets) inside of Starbucks or other places with bakeries. Usually they don’t mind if you ask for a few extra packets to take with you.
I noticed that many coffee joints don’t have stevia on-hand, so if you’re a fan of sweet, make sure that you pick yourself up a small bottle of liquid stevia. You can easily carry it around with you, or portion it out before you start the day. This way, you can always have a fat-filled breakfast or a mid-morning snack.
Even better – make the hunt part of your vacation. Look up different highly rated coffee joints around where you are and visit them. We were able to visit 7 different coffee places while on vacation – one for each day we were there.
Different coffee shops offer unique tastes, roasts, and usually knowledge about the coffee they’re brewing. Talk with the barista and they will usually be more willing to help you out with special requests – and they sometimes have some fantastic brewing tips for when you’re at home.
If you’re on vacation or just traveling, chances are you’re going to eat out at a restaurant more than once. Although it’s not a big deal for most people, many do stress over the menu offerings of places and may not order because of dietary constraint.
Scouting for keto friendly options is always going to be a bit tough, especially when you get into the more upscale places.
One of the few restaurants we went to was called Clyde Commons, who proudly serves the meat sold by the recommended Olympic Provisions. We were very happy when we saw this, and decided to take a quick trip inside during their happy hour.
Their happy hour menu consisted of many different viable keto options, some of which included marinated olives and pork rillettes. The pork rillettes were served with charred baguette (which we did not eat), pickled onion and house-made pickle (which have residual sugar but was a fantastic compliment), and a house-made grain mustard.
Making choices in restaurants can be as easy as a roasted pork shoulder, a steak with butter, or a simple chicken salad. But, if you know what to look for and don’t mind asking what ingredients are used – you should have no problem eating your favorite foods.
Café’s and Bars
The easiest meal of the day to eat out is by far breakfast. Many places offer eggs, omelets, sausage, bacon, or other type of high-fat foods that are easy to order without too much effort. Dive bars or café’s will usually be quick to serve and have some great tasting food. We had the pleasure of eating breakfast at a great place called The 5 Point Café, which featured a fantastic omelet with smoked salmon (pictured below) and hollandaise sauce.
These places usually won’t offer too much on their lunch menus, but you can always go back at night for a great comfort dinner like buffalo wings (make sure they’re not breaded), burgers with no bun, or if you’re in a seafood capital – crab legs.
Knowing that I’d be in Seattle, I found this one before I had even stepped foot on the plane. I wanted to go to a seafood buffet, and that’s exactly what we did. I had done a bit of research beforehand and settled on a place called Salty’s. Now, this isn’t your average seafood buffet where you’re constantly waiting on new food to come out.
They go above and beyond to always have the food coming out by the bucket load – literally! Each time the crab legs went out of stock, they’d bring out a fresh new bucket for you right away. During my research I found that many of the other restaurants around town would refill slowly, and the extra price tag here was worth it for us.
Plus, they had melted butter on tap to dip everything you wanted in. So, it was the perfect way to balance out the lean seafood we were eating! (pictured above)
The beauty of the internet is that most restaurants will list their nutritional information on their website. If you’re panicking about what you should eat at a certain restaurant, don’t fret! Take a look at their website and plan out what you’d like to order. That way when you’re there, you’re relaxing and enjoying yourself.
Many places that make their own foods from scratch will usually make their own sauces, too. Typically you can find high fat and ketogenic friendly sauces to add to a meal for a small price to really take your experience over the top.
Dining Out on the Go
If you’re lucky enough to have a Farmer’s Market in the city you’re visiting – give it a try! They usually have vendors there that really take pride in what they’re making. You can get some beautiful farm-to-table meat and freshly picked vegetables right from the farmer themselves. It makes for a great experience, and gives you some fantastic product to eat.
Be careful though, these markets won’t be year-round. During winter, they generally shut down and won’t be open. So, if you’re in a rut, you can always take a look at a second option.
The second option you have is food trucks – although you really have to be weary on this one. Don’t be afraid to ask them what the ingredients are, as the food is made fresh and they’re usually proud to tell you what’s in their food. Luckily, we encountered a Paleo food truck while in Portland called Cultured Caveman (pictured below) that served some keto friendly items.
They served up some awesome coconut flour fried chicken tenders with a delicious side of collard greens and bacon (collard greens were cooked in the bacon fat). They served it with a house-made aioli that was superb. (pictured below)
Lastly, while you’re stocking up on your morning coffee or mid-morning snack, you can many times see hard boiled eggs, snack-size cheeses, and small packs of nuts available in the display cases. While this is common in gas stations and convenience stores, more and more coffee shops and cafés are offering elevated versions of these as well. These are a quick and easy way to get some keto food while you’re sightseeing or running to a meeting.
Stock up on snacks and easy-to-bring items for you to eat on the plane. Although planes do usually serve peanuts as a snack, they do add up in carbs quite quickly for such a small serving.
Salami, cheese, and other tid-bits (pictured below) that are easy to carry around and won’t spoil too fast are a great option you have. Typically you can find these in the airport, but I always love to enjoy the food I eat – so I choose to shop before I leave where I am visiting.
If you’re pretty simplistic when it comes to food, you can always bring nuts with you. They last long, they taste great, and they’re packed full of fats (if you choose correctly). Macadamia nuts and Brazil nuts are among the top high-fat nuts out there, and they’re well worth the extra cost if they save you from an accidental cheat right at the end of a great vacation.
Vacation on Keto: It Can Be Done!
So, what did we learn for planning a great vacation while still staying keto?
- Shop for your hotel – find a great hotel with a kitchenette inside so that you can cook while you still enjoy the local food.
- Prepare – make sure that you spend a bit of time researching so you know where you want to go and who will offer ketogenic friendly food.
- Shop for groceries – stock up on the things you’ll need so that you can make an enjoyable vacation without breaking your diet, or the bank.
- Local food – you’re on vacation after all. Make sure you still take some time out and enjoy the food that surrounds you in the place you’re visiting.
- Restaurants – visiting them can be hard, but it’s definitely not anywhere near impossible to stay keto while you’re eating out. If you’d like to see more specific information regarding what keto-friendly dishes you can order at specific restaurants, read through our keto and fast food guide.
- Eating on the go – there are many routes you can go to get food while you’re out and about and don’t want to sit down.
- Coming home – always be prepared with snacks and something to eat on the journey home so that you don’t put all your hard work to shame. Not sure exactly what snacks to bring with you? Check out our list of 50+ keto snacks for some delicious suggestions.
Do you have any special tips and tricks to share with everyone on how you stay keto while traveling?