[Series] Hack ALA: Eating Right at Conferences

Joanna recently wrote on why you should attend conferences, Brianna wrote about presenting at them, and PC Sweeney wrote about how to be awesome at going to conferences, but what happens when you get there and you are starving for food you can actually eat? Vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, Paleo/Primal – these are just some of many specialized diets out there. Sticking to any diet is tough and takes plenty of willpower. For many people who have food allergies, there just isn’t a choice in the matter. Traveling complicates things because you are forced to eat out more, and you don’t know what is available to you. Many of the tips tell you to eat for free and take advantage of the multitudes of vendor lunches. That’s well and good, but only if you don’t have any dietary restrictions. What about the folks who do?

There are a few tricks to help you eat well when you are at a conference.

  • Pack some light snack bars or trail mix in your bag before you go. Trader Joe’s has a handy product guide to help you choose what items work best for you. If you’re eating Paleo/Primal, raw nuts, seeds, cheese, and jerky are essential snacks. As always, check the label to see what works for you.
  • Bring a refillable water bottle (preferably a BPA-free one). Don’t forget to stay hydrated! You can survive days without eating, but you always need water.
  • Sometimes you just have to eat away from the conference, so scope out alternative eateries before you attend the conference! That way, when you go through the line and see there’s nothing but wheat-laden items and you have Celiac, you know where you can go eat. Those of you who have to watch out for wheat know that it’s lurking in the most unusual places, so be vigilant. There’s an ALA alt-annual guide, put together by wonderful, local librarians to help you decide where you might want to try having lunch or dinner.
  • Grab fruit from your continental breakfast (if you happen to be at a hotel that offers one). Many times, the catered lunches at conferences have a nice selection of vegetables, so that’s a good option, too. Load up on fresh snacks while you’re at the conference.
  • Ask other like-minded folks who have similar dietary restrictions where they’re going to eat. Sometimes other people have the inside scoop on where to go!

If you have any other tips on how to eat well at conferences please let us know in the comments!

Additional Reading:

A Gluten Free Guide – Travel
Five Tips for Vegan Travel
Survival Tips for Eating Paleo When Traveling

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