Food Babe Travel Essentials – Eating outside your home!

Writing these tips make me laugh considering I just got back from Europe – where I went on a major bender. Letting very loose in Italy! We ate everything. Multi course meals twice a day. Lots of great pasta, pizza, desserts & lots of gelato – all incredible dishes and not a single bad meal. Usually I would always order my pizza back home with a 1/3 less cheese, but somehow I didn’t quite make the effort to translate that to the Italians. Must have been something in those Tuscan grapes!

Pizza with just the right amount of cheese at Pizzeria Trattoria All’Anfora in Venice.

Gelato at every turn. You can

Regardless of my recent lack of self control, these tips below are really ingrained in the way I live and are second nature to me. Balance is key, you can’t live your whole life with a drill sargent going off in your head. Following these principles allow me to stay fit and healthy while still enjoying a great meal out.


1. Try to only eat out for special occasions or when you can afford to go to a good quality restaurant. This makes it special and why would you want to go out to spend money on food that isn’t nutritionally good for you? If you are going to eat junk – make it at home from scratch to minimize the damage on your health. Even when you are traveling, you don’t have to eat every meal out – consider eating breakfast in your hotel room or stopping by a grocery store and picking up some things for a picnic at lunchtime.

Fruit & Veggie stand we found walking through a square in Venice. I bought some apples for breakfast and lemons for hot water in the mornings.


Awesome little market in Positano – I bought some crushed red pepper from here, it’s so much hotter than the stuff you get here in the US.

2. Order a salad for the first course with dressing & cheese on the side – this helps alkaline the body and get your digestive enzymes working to help digest your food easier. If the menu doesn’t indicate what kind of lettuce is used – ask and then request all mixed greens, arugula or romaine – tell them to leave the iceberg out! (there are no nutrients in iceberg). Do not pour the dressing on your salad, simply dip your fork in the dressing before each bite!

3. Quiz the server to see which dish they think is the most healthy– The server has probably seen all dishes brought out one time or another and can tell you if your fish is swimming in butter or covered in cream sauce.

This fish looks like it is swimming in butter, but it’s not! This is dover sole and baby artichokes I ordered while dining at Al Covo in Venice, Italy. Al Covo prides themself on not adding any additional fats or oils when cooking their seafood. AMAZING.

4. Go as far as telling the server you allergic to butter and dairy, soy and corn. Butter really isn’t bad for you if it is organic and you use it in moderation – but restaurants can go crazy with it adding several hundred extra calories you can live without. Instead the chef can use olive oil to grill vegetables or fish. Soy and corn oil are the cheapest oils available so many restaurants use them. These cheap oils contain an overdose of Omega 6 fatty acids in your body and are probably not organic and have been genetically modified. When you have too much Omega 6 fatty acids and not enough Omega 3, your body goes out of wack, which is why the typical American is Omega 3 deficient and why you see everything being supplemented with Omega 3 now. Americans are getting too many corn products throwing off the balance!

5. Don’t order the meat unless you know it’s organic, if there are no organic choices – fish is better, but not farmed salmon, which is fed corn and dyed pink! Try a bean dish and mostly veggies. Goat cheese can add protein on your salad.

6. Before you order the soup – ask if it’s homemade or if it contains additives. Sometime last year it was a cold rainy day and I live right across from a gourmet food shop called “Dean and Deluca” – all of their soups sounded amazing and I wanted some soooo bad – but then I asked for the list ingredients and I was shocked! They get their soups premade from Sysco – a huge manufacture of processed foods. The first ingredient was Soy Oil and it contained MSG. MSG has so many negative side effects that I won’t go into here – google it – you’ll be shocked too. Another lesson here is not be fooled by fancy packaging and marketing – they are trying to dupe you in to paying more for the same quality food at fast food restaurants.

7. Drink hot water with lemon during your meal or hot decaf green or ginger tea – this helps digestion as you eat. Jugging any liquid during your meal slows down digestion which isn’t good – because you could easily feel the bubble gut – my word for the dreading bloating & gassy feel after a large meal with lots of drinks! Drink a large glass of water before you eat about 20 mins before or wait after for about 30 minutes to 1 hour after.

8. Mix and match – not seeing anything you like on the menu? Check out the specifics for each dish and ask the waiter to create you a plate. One time I remember I was stuck in an airport with one food option – Ruby Tuesdays! They had fresh guacamole served with chips and another platter that had shrimp. I asked them kindly to make me a plate of Grilled Shrimp and large scoop of that guac. It was delicious and satisfying and I made it home without biting the arm of the pilot.

9. Order off the menu – Ask the chef to create something for you – this is especially great at a more established or fancier restaurant where the chef is highly skilled and can test his creativity for you. I remember one time I was at a fancy steak place in a casino for a work function – I don’t eat steak and nothing else really was appealing to me – so I asked the chef to make me a vegetarian plate that only used light olive oil with some whole grains . It was so fabulous that one of my bosses who was sitting right across from me – looked over and said “Wow – I wish I had that.”

10. Create an old standby and build a relationship with the staff – I have my favorite standby restaurant when I am too busy to cook but still want to eat healthy. I’ve gotten to know the staff and they make everything perfect for me every time. At one of my standbys – The sushi chef makes me my roll just how I like it – a special roll with all veggies with no white rice or fatty sauces. He knows that I like my ponzu sauce on the side of my Ahi Tuna Sashmi to control the amount of salt that I eat. I always start with a big bowl of romaine with extra cucumbers and the ginger dressing on the side. They also have great hot green tea! It’s a fail proof meal, I don’t have to worry about it or stress over anything.

11. If you end up eating too much or not the right thing, follow the meal with fresh grapefruit juice. The grapefruit juice will minimize the insulin spike in your body (when insulin spikes rapidly, this releases fat storing hormones). Then take a brisk walk or do 50 air squats about 45 mins after. Some of the extra calories you just consumed will be used up and you’ll be able to sleep better. (I credit this tip to “4 Hour Body” by Tim Ferris – it really works)

This may be the best dessert I’ve ever gotten at a restaurant. 6 miniature creations by the chef at Torre Normade in Maiori.
It’s easy to go overboard when your fork cuts into this little chocolate hazelnut cake to find oozing salted carmel inside.
food babe subscribe healthy habits icon
Healthy Habits
food babe subscribe left green arrow
Subscribe to Food Babe!
Get a free copy of Food Babe's Healthy Habits, enter amazing product giveaways, and be the first to get the latest blog post.
Posts may contain affiliate links for products Food Babe has approved and researched herself. If you purchase a product through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same (or at a discount if a special code is offered) and Food Babe will automatically receive a small referral fee. Your support is crucial because it helps fund this blog and helps us continue to spread the word. Thank you.

34 Responses to “Food Babe Travel Essentials – Eating outside your home!”

  1. Linda Crain

    I commend you for your honesty, Vani. It’s almost impossible not to let loose in Italy! Bravo Bella!

  2. Amy Hawn Nelson

    Okay I just learned a whole lot in that post. Keep it coming!

  3. @shellyeve

    this is awesome vani! i need catch up on all your old posts… so helpful!

    • Food Babe (to @shellyeve)

      Thanks Shelly – So happy you like the posts! Let me know if there are any other topics you’d like to hear about! :)

  4. Katelyn Weaver

    Hey there,

    Glad you had a great trip to Italy! I don’t blame you for allowing yourself free reign in Italy…best food ever. I have lived in Germany for almost 2 years, and the really great thing I find about Europe is not only do they have a ban on GMO’s, almost everyone recycles and anywhere you go out to eat there are minimal dressings, butter etc…everything taste pretty much home made. The nutritional quality of food here and all over Europe, in my opinion, is quite substantial! I think I might starve when I go back to the US. Food quality is just different between the two continents. Cheers, Katelyn

    • Food Babe (to Katelyn Weaver)

      LOL – I know, when we travel overseas now – especially to Europe, we get so excited about not having to worry about every little detail so much! The food is 100 times better. Even in Asia, everything is so fresh and delicious!

      • Linda (to Food Babe)

        You MUST get to Izmir, Turkey…..the food there (and really anywhere in Turkey) is fantastic! We lived there for 22 years and always ate healthy at restaurants locally and while traveling throughout the country and at home! The weekly markets are a super array of the freshest seasonal fruits and veggies!
        Now we live in N. Italy 1 hour from Venice and I can say that though eating IS delicious and fun here, we still DO prefer Turkish food!

  5. Sarah Darnell

    Hey- great post! I love the tip about just saving until you know you have enough to go to a healthy restaurant! About ice burg lettuce it does have some nutrients just not the same ones or as much as the darker green lettuces. So you could have them throw a little ice burg in! Nutritional value of one cup of iceberg lettuce
    8 calories
    0.5 grams protein
    0.7 gram of fiber
    10 mg calcium
    78 mg potassium
    4.5 mg vitamin C
    16 mcg folate
    13.3 mcg of vitamin K
    164 mcg beta carotene
    152 mcg of lutein and Zeaxanthin

  6. KEP

    Actually, telling people in a restaurant that you have allergies like that is a pretty crappy thing to do– because it isn’t a matter of just not putting it in the food. If you tell them that, they must go into the kitchen and prepare your entire meal with new/ unused dishes, pots, pans, knives etc. on a surface none of those things has touched! My husband has worked in the catering business, and hearing that is pretty much a sure fire way to screw up their night (and yours– it takes twice as long to get your food typically, because of the prep).

    • Food Babe (to KEP)

      I disagree – but thanks for your comment!

      • KEP (to Food Babe)

        About what part? I know not everyone thinks its a crappy thing to do, but that is protocol for any public food service when someone even whispers “allergies”. If you were given double the workload for some reason, just because they have some superstition or idea ( such as someone thinks having food in the same pan that butter has been in makes them fat or it’s impossible to just say “no butter/ dairy on my dish please”) would you be ok with it then?

      • KEP (to Food Babe)

        About what part?

        I know not everyone minds making someone’s job and life that much harder, just because they are afraid to eat, but it’s so much simpler just to say “please no butter/ dairy on my dish”.

        …And false sweetners/ saccharine are something you are against I thought I read.

    • Ginger (to KEP)

      I disagree too, I used to be a cook and never, ever felt that way. I have celiacs disease and it’s hard enough to be taken seriously. Any contamination can make me seriously ill for days and have to miss work for at least three days. If they find it too much work to put their customers first I would say they are in the wrong business. Maybe you should name the place so people can be sure to avoid it with their food preferences.

  7. Yung Dalman

    Hazelnuts are produced in commercial quantities in Turkey, Italy, Greece, Georgia, in south of the Spanish region of Catalonia, in the UK county of Kent and in the American states of Oregon and Washington. Turkey is the largest producer of hazelnuts in the world with approximately 75% of worldwide production.*

    View the newest post on our personal blog page

    • Linda (to Yung Dalman)

      I have had both Turkish and Italian Hazelnuts and others and NOTHING will ever compare to the super taste of the Turkish ones!

  8. Angela

    Little Green Pouch is a neat option you might consider to bring premade smoothies or other puréed foods and sauces.

  9. Meg

    This is a great article and as a former server, yes, say it is an allergy because that is the only way to know 100% it will not be added.

    I live in Europe and the one thing I would add is to learn to say (or have it written down) your modifications in the native language. And even if you can say dressing on the side, it may still be very confusing for the server (as I learned in Croatia last week).

    We also traveled to Venice last week and overate pizza, gelato, and best of all, ordered off the menu (amazing thing to do, they are proud of their food and do it right). We gave our server the green light to make any healthy fish dish. But in the am, we would buy fresh berries from vendors on the street. And snack on fresh fruit from little markets throughout the day.

    But the best part about traveling in Europe is the food and not having to worry much about extra ‘bad’ stuff being added.

    Thank you for this article!

  10. Anya

    Thank you for #7! I am originally from Ukraine, but I live in the US now. I get looks and laughs when I don’t drink cold water with ice with my meal. It is as if I am not educated, that’s the impression I get. Even though in Eastern Europe, it is a tradition to drink after your meal and normally drink warm tea; I follow this rule based on the very reason you’ve described.

  11. Thomas E. Gebbie

    by the way sysco does not manufacture food ,they just distribute food to customers

  12. Elizabeth Lessner

    Food allergies are nothing to lie about. You’re doing a tremendous disservice to any person who suffers from often life-threatening food allergies.

    You win for World’s Worst Diner. Glad you don’t eat out often, you should like a terrible human and customer.

    • Sharon (to Elizabeth Lessner)

      Wow! That is kind of harsh, I have food allergies and think she is making it safer for all of us. A food allergy is when something does not agree with your body and I think that is up to everyone to distinguish what is harmful to their body. It may not always be an extreme reaction but still may harm your body. I have found that I can eat corn and soy but they give me heartburn, is that enough to say I am allergic? I choose not to eat them. I think it is great to ask for what you want when you are paying for food, not just eat blindly whatever they put in front of you.

  13. mitchell mathias

    really lying to get what you want many people have actual food allergies that might kill them if ingested so i listen very closely when someone tells me they are allergic to something and even go back to the kitchen and read ingredients. you just wasted my time that i could be giving to another customer

  14. realfood

    Youshould really re-title this to “how to be the worst diner in a restaurant ever”. If you’re so concerned just stay home and do everyone a favor.

  15. Kara

    Are you seriously telling people to fake food allergies? You know there are people who have such severe allergies that they can die from them, correct? And that the kitchen has to be very careful any time a person claims allergies, because they don’t want to actually kill someone as opposed to just *gasp* making them eat butter! You are minimizing a very difficult and dangerous condition that many parents and children have to deal with and it’s completely irresponsible. Shame on you.

  16. Joe

    Please do everybody a favor and NEVER dine out. Fake your allergies at home.

  17. Lela

    I’m very careful about ordering soups in a restaurant. My daughter works in a restaurant that is known for using fresh ingredients. One day when she was visiting us, she saw that I was going to throw away some tomatoes and carrots and celery that were past their prime. She asked if she could take them with her to work to put in their soup. Now, these vegetables had been in the crisper way too long and I would never eat them. I asked her if they used old foods often and she said they save all their foods like this for their soups. Needless to say, I didn’t give her the veggies and I also don’t ever eat soup out anymore.

  18. Franki

    Thanks for the great advice. I would strongly urge you not to say you have a food allergy if you don’t. My daughter recently was diagnosed with life threatening food allergies. This is extremely different than a food preference. I literally put my daughter’s health in the hands of a restaurant and I trust they will take it seriously. By others claiming they have a food allergy when they don’t I worry it would make the claim seem less important. Though I fully understand you’re strong desire to avoid some of these very unhealthy ingredients. Thank you, love all of your great info. Thank you for helping me clean up my family’s diet!

  19. Marika

    When I was reading about your dining experiences in Italy I was nodding my head in agreement. Loved all the food I ate there and I too indulged in gelato while there. All the food I consumed was delizioso! I am from Greece and I agree with you and some of the previous posters about how food in Europe not only tastes better but you really don’t have to worry as much about consuming “frankenfood”. I live in the U.S. now and I love this country very much but I am concerned about how food is manufactured here. Unfortunately as things stand it’s mostly up to the consumer to try and become better informed about the foods that we eat and to also try and make healthier choices. Some times it’s easier said then done but if someone wants to make a change they will do it. Again thank you for the great tips!

  20. Diana B.

    Wow! I just had a question about the ponzu sauce. I know to stay away form soy and doesn’t ponzu sauce have soy in it?

  21. Kimberly

    To all those ragging on Vani for saying she has allergies shame on you! My father is extremely sensitive to cheese. He has told his servers many times no cheese in his dish but out it comes with cheese! So he finally had to say he was allergic to cheese to get people to stop putting it in his food. Some years later he developed a severe lactose intolerance and now can have no dairy. You should be able to eat the food you ordered with confidence that it won’t make you sick. Especially with the prices of eating out.

  22. Ginger

    As someone who absolutely cannot eat certain foods and a former cook I think the more educated restaurants, cooks, and servers become about allergies the better. I would rather eat at a place that has training and practice in allergies. The more they do it the less likely to make mistakes when it comes to serious allergies. And the more options there will be. I can’t believe how selfish and ignorant people are in their need for attention and special-ness.

  23. Vicky

    All of you people need to lay off the allergy criticism. If you are paying, especially as stated in a pricey restaurant, you have the right to order what you want. Period.

  24. Sam

    As a person with non-life threatening allergies, I can tell you, the more exposure you receive, the more severe your reaction becomes. For years, I would ask servers to leave tomatoes off my meals (I have a non-life threatening allergy to them), it never failed, my meal came out with tomatoes OR I would see/taste remnants of tomato because they were added to my meal then PICKED off before it came to me. After my husband got tired of me fighting yet another rash, he started telling the servers I’m allergic. Now I receive no tomatoes. When I’m paying minimum $20 for a plate of food, I expect it to not have picked off remnants of an item I asked not to have- allergy or no. I have friends who will simply vomit from the taste of something, no allergy, the taste is just that disgusting to them. Would you prefer to be the server that has to clean that up?

  25. KRose

    If you have celiac’s, then you should know that this is horribly irresponsible advice. Think about it for a second. The more people promote the “just say you have an allergy” advice, the more it reinforces the idea some people have that people just claim allergies because they don’t want to eat anything. But if you’re happy to run the risk that someone’s going to figure “oh, people just say celiac’s when they really just mean they’re picky. It’s just a little flour, she’ll be fine,” then go right ahead and keep backing this self-centered little suggestion. Clearly the Food Babe doesn’t care, but it’s surprising that someone actually affected by this would be so unconcerned.


Leave a Reply