Travel in India with type 1 diabetes – food glorious food

In late July 2011, exactly 7 months after Amy was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, we backpacked around India for four weeks, in a trip we called Monsoon Meandering.

This is post 10 in the series about that trip and its planning and how type 1 diabetes played a part.
This post isn’t really related to diabetes per se but hopefully contains a tip or two for you.

India – a food lover’s paradise

One of the great things about going to India on holiday surely has to be the food. Everyday you get to eat a different variety of Britain’s National Dish, although ironically you won’t find Chicken Tikka Masala anywhere in India apart from 100% foreigner focused hotels. As a note I’d suggest that if you ever come across a restaurant selling Chicken Tikka Masala run a mile and look for somewhere a little more authentic, listed at www.foodora.ca/chain/ci5qh/banh-mi-boys, as an option.

Once bitten, twice shy

If you’ve read my blog from our first trip with the kids in 2009 you’ll know that I was a very poorly chap (That’s The Last Time I Joke About Dysentry!). Going back in 2011 I was naturally quite worried of what lay ahead and even more worried that rather than get hit myself with Delhi Belly that Amy might get poorly, resulting in high blood-glucose levels, ketones and worse DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis).

Delhi Belly is avoidable

Many people will avoid going to India after hearing a horror story from their long-lost-Uncle’s-best-friend’s-cousin – i.e. someone they’ve never met – and how that person got really ill. Well, I could give you stories like that from people that have stayed in the UK too.
‘Delhi Belly’ is avoidable if you eat wisely and trust your instincts so don’t think that any trip to India will end up with you getting very ill.
Listed below are a few of the things I live by when abroad but do bear in mind there’s no scientific facts behind any of it, it’s just my opinion.

Simple rules to stay healthy

It’s not the food that makes you unwell

In my experience it’s not the food which makes you – read me – ill, it’s the way it’s cooked, or actually the way it’s prepared.
I’ve eaten all manner of things during my travels – Brain Curry being the oddest – and never suffered when I’ve known the food has been cooked from fresh.

Trust your gut reaction

I can pinpoint my 2009 illness to the hotel we stayed at in Jaipur. When I took one look at the restaurant I decided I didn’t like the look of it but laziness got the better of me so that’s where we ate that night. The food tasted so good, I ate so much and although felt poorly the next day we still returned to the same restaurant the next night. I knew that place didn’t “feel” good and from here on in I will always trust my initial thoughts about a restaurant. (see the last rule too.)

If it’s still sizzling it’ll probably be okay

After 90% of my wedding party were poorly in Thailand back in 1994 I’ve always lived by the simple food rule that in foreign climes I’ll only eat something that’s pretty much still boiling/sizzling. This has served me well throughout Turkey, Thailand, India and Nepal, whilst seeing those ‘I’ll-just-eat-this-salad-because-I-recognise-the-food’ types getting very ill instead… see the next rule.

Don’t eat it if it’s cold and washed in water

My wedding guests and I all got ill after eating during a buffet cruise down the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok. We were very, very ill and after working out who ate what we realised it was the rice dish. Since then I’ve pretty much avoided rice whilst abroad, but I shouldn’t have, not if it had just been cooked and was hot…see the next rule. People I met in Turkey were eating salad because they recognised it and didn’t recognise all that ‘foreign rubbish’ – I know, I know, why go abroad!? – but their salad was cold and washed in water not up to UK standard, so these people just got worse and worse each day. If they stuck to eating a nice flame-grilled shish kebab as we did they would have (probably) been fine.

Don’t avoid the rice

I’ve avoid rice for so long whilst abroad but all for the wrong reason: what made us ill in 1994 wasn’t the rice, it was the fact that it had been cooked, cooled naturally and reheated a little, all in humid climate and on board a probably not-so-clean boat. In 2009 after being so ill the only thing I could eat afterwards for days was plain boiled rice. How ironic that the thing I’d avoided for so long made me well again.

The look of a restaurant isn’t everything

Whilst taking a 5 hour drive in India we pulled up at a Dhaba – Indian roadside cafe – which basically has a roof but no (or not many) walls. There was an air-conditioned restaurant next door but wanting to get the full Indian experience we entered the Dhaba. We chose a table at the back and when pulling the chair out the World’s fly-population evacuated and my heart dropped for a second. I’m not the sort of person to be put off by a fly, or two, or a thousand.
“Right, we’ll still eat here but only choose something deep-friend”.
We ordered a couple of plates of pakoras (deep fried mixed vegetables) and some finger-chips (or French Fries to you and me). We could see into the kitchen from where we sat and I could see that it was all being freshly prepared for us.
It worked, our pakoras tasted great, no-one even had a hint of being unwell and we’ve used the “deep-fried” maxim occasionally ever since.

Next up – Amy’s first few food days

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