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Home > Vitafriendspku > Your pku journey > Staying Away from Home (Teens)

Staying Away from Home (Teens)


Staying away from home and changing your usual routine, will always bring new challenges.

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This is no different if you have PKU. A host of unfamiliar foods may present, ones you do not know the protein content of, whether it be visiting friends and family, travelling locally, or going abroad.  When travelling overseas, there are the added factors of potential language barriers and concerns around taking protein substitutes in your luggage to consider.

You might also be getting to the age where you are sleeping over at friend’s houses or are going on more overnight school trips and are starting to take on more responsibility for managing your own diet.  

Here are a few hints and tips to make sure that your trip goes smoothly:

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Going on holiday

Before you go:

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  • Ask for a letter on headed paper from your dietitian or GP to confirm that you are following a special diet and may need additional luggage space. This letter will be valuable when travelling through customs with your protein substitute and low protein foods. 
  • Make sure you take contact details of your dietitian and hospital in case there are any issues or questions whilst you’re away. 
  • Find out the local hospital contact number in case of emergencies and the details of the nearest metabolic centre at your destination. 
  • Take your exchange ready-reckoner with you so that you can calculate protein content of local products. It will also be helpful to take portable electronic scales with you to weigh foods. 
  • Print off your travel insurance documents so you have all the information to hand if you need it whilst away. 
  • Take a selection of food basics with you e.g. your favourite cereals in small packs, low protein biscuits and crackers, pasta and low protein bread. 
  • A language appropriate dictionary may be needed to assist in the translation of food items.  Or, if you prefer, Google Translate may be of assistance.   
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Travelling with a protein substitute:
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  • Calculate how much protein substitute you will need.  We suggest taking 3-4 days’   supply in your hand luggage in case of any issues with lost or delayed luggage. 
  • An extra supply of protein substitute should also be considered, in case of spillage or damaged packaging. 
  • Ask your dietitian about a powdered alternative to a ready-to-drink protein substitute. This will save a lot of weight in your luggage.  We recommend you do this well in advance of your trip. 
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All inclusive, à la carte or self-catering?
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  • Before you go, if one isn’t already provided, ask the hotel if they can provide fridge space, to store liquid protein substitutes and low protein food. 
  • Speak to the hotel chef when you get there and ask if the low protein foods can be prepared for you. Often the chefs are most willing to help and enjoy making foods especially for you. 
  • If your holiday has an all-inclusive buffet, there is usually a good variety of permitted fruits, vegetables and salads on offer and there should always be something that you can eat. 
  • If your holiday meal options are à la carte, ring ahead and ask if they can email you the menu so that you can plan your meals before you arrive. 
  • If your holiday meal options are self-catering, you will be able to buy low protein ingredients and cook yourself. Before you set off, ask your accommodation if they have all the cooking equipment that you will need. 
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When you are staying away from home

If you are going on a trip with school or staying over at a friend’s house, with all the excitement, it may be hard to remember to take your protein substitute and manage your own diet.

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Getting used to doing this when you are away from home will help grow your confidence in managing your own PKU diet in the future.  

There are a few things that you and your parents can do to make sure this goes as smoothly as possible:  

  • Let your friends and whoever is supervising your trip know that you have PKU and give them a brief overview about how your diet is managed so that they know why you are taking protein substitutes and following a special low protein diet.  
  • If you are going on an organised school trip, ask for a menu of their meals in advance so that you can make sure you can have something similar. This will also help to ensure you pack enough low protein foods for the trip. 
  • Make organisers aware in advance that they will be required to prepare low protein alternatives to meals and that you will provide specially manufactured foods such as low protein pasta and/or rice so that they can do this. 
  • If you are going to a friend’s house, check with their parents or carers what they are planning on preparing for dinner and breakfast so that you can bring low protein alternatives and suggestions on how to make the meals suitable for your diet.  
  • Ensure you pack plenty of low protein snacks in case you get hungry or if suitable foods aren’t readily available.  
  • Don’t forget to pack your protein substitute and set yourself alarm on your phone so that you don’t forget to take them at the right times.  

The most important thing to remember is that going away should be fun, so please don’t be worried about it. If you follow our advice, your trip is sure to go well. Have fun and bon voyage!  

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