Staying paleo/primal while travelling is always a challenge. Not from a willpower or wanting to eat junk standpoint, but just because you’re limited to whatever food’s available. Locally, the worst-case scenario is I eat at one of the places I’ve already tested out, or at the hot food counter of a grocery sore, or just go home. When you’re on the road, you kind of make the best of what’s out there, and oftentimes that involves some compromises. I have a sort of priority list in mind of what I will and won’t eat. I think this varies greatly by individual, and it can be related to how strict you are with your everyday diet. On the other hand, I’m sure there are people who eat strict paleo at home, but let loose on vacation. When I travel, I try not to sweat it too much – it is my vacation after all, and I don’t want to a) spend most of it searching for food and b) stressing about what I can and can’t eat. Having said that, I refuse to eat grain in any way shape or form (the only place that stuff sneaks in that I’m semi-aware of is sauces that have been thickened with flour, which I generally try to avoid, but aren’t a deal breaker). Other than that, I try to keep vegetable oil consumption low (which seems to be kind of a lost cause when eating out) and just realistically do the best I can. Quality, in terms of organic, local, or grass-fed kind of goes out the window – I choose to pick my battles. So that’s my mentality of eating out when traveling – a little looser than when I go out to eat (where I can look up menus of several places beforehand).
Luckily, Las Vegas doesn’t exactly have a shortage of places to eat. Within 5 minutes you can usually check out the menus of several spots, ranging from cafes to restaurants to buffets. I suppose the buffets would be the most primal, since you can get whatever you want. However, the three problems with buffets are 1) they’re not cheap, 2) they take a lot of time – there’s often a line-up to get in, and 3) you’ll inevitably end up over-eating.
The other option that would solve a lot of these problems would be to cook for yourself in your hotel room. And this may be just the ticket for those that are very strict with their diets, even on vacation. This might not be your best bet in Vegas, however. Very few hotels have kitchenettes, and there are no grocery stores on the strip, meaning you have to account for the time/cost of getting to a grocery store. And then there’s the time that you spend cooking rather than sightseeing.
So here’s how I stayed primal(ish) while in Vegas…
First of all, I stayed at Vdara.
“Vdara Hotel & Spa at CityCenter™ –a non-gaming, non-smoking, eco-friendly, all-suite boutique retreat ideally situated between ARIA Resort & Casino™ and Bellagio® on the Las Vegas Strip.”
It’s a pretty fantastic, brand new hotel – I loved that it didn’t have a casino and it was completely non-smoking, it meant peace and quiet when I wanted it. At the same time, it links right to the Bellagio, which means you’re super close to all the action. Its eco-friendliness was appreciated (LEED Gold, low- or no-emission paints, glues, and carpets, Aveda bathroom products that are paraben- and sulfate-free, and green cleaning products). And perhaps most importantly, it had a kitchenette. Not only that, but it also had a little market by the lobby that sold all sorts of goodies. To name a few: natural sausages, bacon (with preservatives, unfortunately), organic butter, organic eggs, organic cheese (I even saw a raw cheese), and fruit (not organic, but still – blueberries, blackberries). I was quite impressed with the selection of natural/organic products. It was way quicker, cheaper, and healthier to cook breakfast – and an awesome start to the day! That picture above is my breakfast overlooking the Bellagio fountains. And if you’re at Vdara, you absolutely have to splurge on their Black Dragon drink (Bacardi Dragon Berry Rum, Blackberries, Fresh Mint Leaves, Fresh Lime Juice and Pure Cane Syrup) – it may very well be the best drink I’ve ever had (just tell them to go easy on the cane syrup).
What’s with all the Caesar salads? A lot of the time, they were the only primal-ish menu item. I obviously left the croutons behind, don’t know the source of the meat, and probably got too much omega 6 from all the crappy vegetable oil in the dressing. Otherwise, it’s lettuce + chicken + cheese = pretty primal. Plus, it seemed fitting to have a Caesar salad in Caesar’s Palace :P (top image). By the way, that one was pretty cool – it’s a little hard to tell from the picture, but they actually individually covered each leaf in dressing and then stacked the leaves on top of each other. They then piled the meat and cheese on top. It was a really unique presentation and all the leaves were evenly covered in dressing.
Apparently other types of salads exist too, this one at Wendy’s of all places. It’s their Apple Pecan Chicken Salad. Yuck, I kinda wish I hadn’t just read the ingredients, because it actually tasted pretty decent. Good thing I at least skipped the salad dressing.
I’m surprised at how appetizing that top one from Fatburger looked. I had a good chuckle because a customer at the burger joint was so puzzled by seeing a burger without a bun that he asked me what the heck I’m eating. That right there is an XXL (16 ounces). Below is a Certified Black Angus Beef burger with blue cheese, caramelized onions, and mushrooms. And that’s a turkey burger beside it.
Dinner Buffet – Paris
The only buffet meal was dinner at Paris (since French food is one of my favourites, and I consider it to be more primal than most cuisines). I don’t regret it for the experience, but the food, although primal, was nothing extraordinary, and not really worth the $30.
As you can see, there’s some prime rib, beef ribs, various onions, yams, chicken, Brussels sprouts, spiced cauliflower (very tasty), and mushrooms. And, for dessert, a crème brûlée and a crème caramel. It’s funny, a couple of years ago my dessert serving would’ve easily rivaled the main plates. Those two were the only grain-free options (I had to check because it’s unfortunately not unusual for flour to find its way into custards), and they were more than enough.
Overall, I’d say that’s not too shabby in terms of keeping my meals primal. Also, since I do batch cooking, I’m used to eating the same thing a few days in a row, and I honestly didn’t mind having multiple Caesar salads and burgers.
And as an aside, it was so great to get some real sun – we just don’t get sun like that in Vancouver! Interestingly enough, even though it was my first sun exposure of the year, I didn’t really burn. I put some coconut oil on as a precautionary measure (I always joke that it’s a bit of a toss-up in my mind between coconut oil actually protecting my skin and just making me crispy faster). I got a little bit pink, but that very quickly turned into a nice tan, without any peeling or anything. I attribute that to the primal/paleo diet – I’m sure I would’ve burned in years past.
What are your tips for staying primal in Las Vegas (or while travelling in general)?