Welcome back to my Traveling Abroad as a Picky Eater (or with a limited diet) Series! In this part, I’m going to cover the types of foods I ate while traveling, the foods you can usually find in most countries, and tips for surviving day trips with limited options.
What places did I usually eat?
This may make you cringe if you’re not a picky eater, but I was always on the hunt for Americanized restaurants. I’d say it was 60/40 split when traveling. 60% of the places I went were restaurants like Hard Rock, which is actually pretty cool because they’re all slightly different depending on what city you’re in. We went to Hard Rocks in Dublin, Brussels, and Prague. The other 40% were more authentic restaurants that had basic foods.
I’ll also admit that I ate at fast food places more abroad than I do at home. Partly because it’s cheap and convenient, but also because sometimes it was super hard to find anything else.
What did I usually eat? What foods can you find in most countries?
So for the 40% that I spent eating at non-American restaurants… what did I find to eat if there weren’t chicken tenders? Well, fun fact, Ireland actually has chicken tenders at a lot of their pubs, but they’re called “chicken goujons”.
Outside of that, I stuck to the basics. I’m not a vegetarian, so aside from pork, I was good with most meat. I stuck to grilled chicken mostly, but I did have an amazing steak in Brussels. Chicken and beef are both things you’ll find at most restaurants.
Pasta was another go-to. And if you like fruits and salads, those can be found at most restaurants as well. Pizza was another savior, especially in Germany. And when in true desperate times, baguettes are the backbone of Europe. I bought at least a dozen pastries to survive in Bavaria.
Make a list of basic foods that you like, and chances are you’ll be able to find those things at most restaurants. When I say “basic”, I’m referring to the ingredients, not a specific dish. Chances are if you’re a picky eater, you already have a mental list like this. My personal rule is that I’ll try anything if I like all of the ingredients in it.
If you don’t like lots of spices and sauces, you can usually ask for it on the side. Language can be a barrier, but this is definitely more doable.
Tips for surviving day trips:
1. Pack snacks!
A tin of Dean’s shortbread cookies and some flake bars were stowed in my backpack on most trips.
2. Fast food is always a desperate option.
Burger King, Subway, and McDonald’s are the most popular.
3. Buy baked goods.
There are so many amazing patisseries in Europe. In Germany, they have abnormally large card minimums, so we stocked up on cash. We took out way too much though, and I ended up buying at least 20 different pastries in Rothenburg just to spend it (and eat).
What About Guided Day Trips?
Some trips will have a lunch spot included. All of my Scottish and Irish day trips were like this, as well as the Prague walking tour. You are usually given 1-5 food options to choose from, so it can be difficult. Luckily, a lot of them offered pretty simple selections. But I always had a few snacks packed in preparation. Even if it’s not super healthy, bring something so that you have energy and aren’t spending your trip in a hangry mood.
A quick disclaimer – I am not vegetarian, vegan, or allergic to gluten. I’m a super-taster, which is obviously very different. I understand there are people who have even more limited palates than me and for completely different reasons – whether it’s a a health condition or a lifestyle choice. Even though that’s not why my palate is limited, the tips in this series can still apply and help you while abroad. Although my specific “go-to” foods may not align with a vegan or gluten-free palate, the basic concepts behind my tips can easily be applied to someone who doesn’t eat meat, gluten, etc.