Avoiding Pastries In Lisbon: Dealing With A Fussy Diet While Abroad


I love to travel and do so, quite frequently. For most of my life, travel was something of leisure or when my mom decided to bring me away on a business trip with her. More recently, I’ve been traveling more and more for work.

I currently work for a wonderful startup called Memeoirs. The team are Italian, Portuguese and Irish (me) and offices are based in Italy and Portugal. I’ve traveled to Lisbon five times in 6 months to meet my team and chat all things marketing. I love the city, people and the restaurants and cute cafes. It’s like stepping into a sweet European wonderland from the past with cool architecture and old trams.


One challenge I’ve had to deal with on my last couple of visits has been that of my diet. I don’t eat gluten and don’t drink caffeine. Considering the coffee and AMAZING pastry collection in Portugal, this has been a challenge.

While it has been tempting to give in and try a pastel de nata and espresso, I’ve resisted.

I’ve come up with ways of making it easier to resist the pastries and instead reach for healthier options.

1) I bring healthy snacks from Ireland. My suitcase is usually full of rice cakes, nuts, dried fruit and this week, protein bars to keep me from giving into temptation. This also helps save the pennies as a pastry works out between 20 and 90cent a pop which doesn’t seem like much but trust me, it adds up.

2) I make it clear to my colleagues that I’m being a fusspot. So there’s no confusion, I ensure I say at least 20 times (per day) that I don’t eat gluten. This means I don’t have to explain myself when I order a bread-free burger in the local restaurants (except when I’m trying to figure it out in Portuguese).

3) I avoid strolls to the cafe. The men I work with seem to run on caffeine. They take trips to cafes for shots of espresso a couple of times per day. After which, they seem super energetic and revived.  I avoid the coffee run by staying at my desk with my headphones in (so sociable, I know).

4)I keep it simple. When I go for dinner, I tend to order something straight forward so as to avoid any surprises. I choose fish and vegetables or salad and chicken with baby potatoes, all options that are healthy and still so tasty.

Pastel de Nata

When I travel abroad, I really notice how lucky we are in Ireland. Several restaurants, cafes and shops cater extensively for gluten-free, vegetarian and other specific dietary requirements. This has led to my comfort and ease in eating a little awkwardly.

Over the past 5 months, I’ve tried some amazing gluten-free products from Ireland. I’ll be posting more about these in the coming months.

In the meantime, are you an awkward eater? What has your experience abroad been?

  • It’s so hard when you’re away and for whatever reason, the local food doesn’t suit you! I don’t know what I’d have done *without* coffee and cake on a recent trip to Austria, I couldn’t eat any more fried meat or pickled cabbage!

    • junemvc

      Oh dear! Pickled cabbage sounds rough so I don’t blame you :). You’re lucky that cake was there to save the day so.