Gluten Free (And Paleo) On Maui: Part 2, Tips

So, you’re gluten-free or Paleo and planning a trip to Maui. If you’re wondering how to make eating on a special diet work as smoothly as possible, read on for my tips. If you’re looking for restaurant recommendations, find Part 1 of my series here.

1. Pack snacks

My flight was diverted to Honolulu on the way in because of a fire on the runway in Maui. We couldn’t get off the plane but had to land there to refuel. While everyone else was starving after 9 hours, I was eating a can of smoked anchovies in the galley (to save my seat mates the stink).

This miracle happened thanks to my number one travel tip: bring snacks. 

Bring more snacks than you think you’ll need. Bring more snacks than you could possibly eat. Do this because airports are often terribly devoid of any nutritious options, and because you never know how long you might be delayed in travel.

Here’s what I brought on my 9-day trip.

I brought quite a bit of protein because I find that’s hardest to track down in airports. Baby food squeeze packs sound weird, but they can be a quick source of carbs or veggie nutrition when you’re on the road and don’t want another wilted salad.

This salad is not wilted, it is delicious, and I made it with cold cuts from the deli counter.

I packed most of this list in my luggage and brought enough on the plane for 2 snacks. Additionally, since my lunch and breakfast were eaten in the air, I brought my insulated lunchbox and stainless-steel container from home and filled it with ground beef, sauteed squash and some sweet potatoes.

When I got to Hawaii, I used my snacks to fill out lunches while hiking or on the beach and my cooler to bring my lunch when I wanted to stay out adventuring all day. I always brought veggies and carbs along, because unlike in an airport it’s pretty easy to find kalua pig, fresh shrimp or other yummy proteins on the road.

2. Stay somewhere with a kitchen (and consider staying on a farm!)

I stayed at Hale Akua Garden Farm on the Hana Highway. This spot was fantastic because 1. I got to cook in a big kitchen with ceramic cookwear and tons of fridge and counter space and 2. I got to live on a working farm that distributed to local groceries and restaurants and sold some items directly to guests.

Farmer David with a growing banana

Farmer David with a growing banana

I grew up vacationing in cottages with my family, so I’m used to cooking at home during these times, and it really helps me feel my best while I’m out of my normal routine.

I grocery shopped (see below) the night I got in, and the morning after I arrived, I got up and did a smaller version of my weekly batch cook. I roasted some local Okinawan sweet potatoes, sauteed up half a head of cabbage and cooked some local grassfed ground beef up in a skillet with some onion.

I ate that for lunch and dinner for a coupledays, and packed nori hand rolls with deli turkey, avocado and sprouts and plantain chips for most of my lunches. This lasted me about half of my nine-day trip, and I batch-cooked a little more halfway through the week. This meant that when I did eat out, I really enjoyed it!

A typical breakfast—cabbage, bacon, pineapple and rambutan.

3. Rely on local grocers

Diane Sanfilippo, one of my favorite podcast hosts, often talks about how she hits up the local “hippie” food store in each new city that she visits. This is my favorite trick too!

The produce quality in Maui is unreal. It’s expensive to import, and Hawaiians seem to be very into local growers, organic and non-GMO farming and sustainability. This is really reflected in the quality of local grocery stores. Here are the ones I frequented:

Mana Foods

This gem, located near in Paia just off the Hana highway, is about 20 minutes from the airport and cruise ship port in Kahului. It’s well worth the drive for their selection of grassfed Molokai beef, hyper-local produce and paleo snack staples like coconut butter, nuts, plaintain chips and super-dark chocolate.

I stopped here on my way to my farm stay because the staff their said they had the best prices on organics, but I didn’t do a price comparison. I did stock up…

My Mana Foods haul. Several new sweet potatoes, grassfed beef, and a few snacks.

Their hot bar had a few paleo items like curried sweet potatoes, and unlike Whole Foods, they seemed to use “safe” oils like olive, almond for salads and coconut oil. All the ingredients were labeled. Their salad bar also had items you could mix yourself.

They also have a deli counter with Applegate products, which I think is even better (less preservatives) than buying the pre-packaged Applegate products, which they also sell. Look out for Maui Coconut Water in the drink case.

Whole Foods in Kahului

When I go to a new place, I have to visit Whole Foods. The food nerd in me loves seeing what each place stocks and how they set up their store. And I love seeing regional and local products on their shelves!

Overall I’d rate this Whole Foods “fair.”

There was an awesome-looking BBQ bar with some spiced pork belly, brisket and ribs that looked perfectly Paleo. I didn’t eat there because I’m avoiding nightshades, but it would be a really good option if you want to know exactly what’s in your BBQ.

Local kraut at Whole Foods in Kahului

The hot bar was tofu-heavy, but there was a salad bar with some local items. I got some great prosciuto and uncured ham at the cured meats counter.

Other places with good protein options are the the fish counter, where they sell steamed cocktail shrimp and the canned fish section, which is my go-to. They had more varieties of sardines than my Whole Foods at home and several new things, like baby clams, that I had never seen before.

This is a good place to put together a salad and find some protein to place on top. They also sell Jackson’s Honest chips, the only place on the island I found that did so.

Down To Earth

This is a vegetarian store, but I actually found it to have great local options and, if you hit up one of the other stores I mentioned or a local butcher or fishmonger for your protein, it’s probably one of the friendliest places on the island.

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My favorites at this spot included all the coconut products, including a huge selection of Maui-made coconut kefir in several flavors, coconut water and frozen coconut meat. There was a wide selection of produce as well, though not as expansive as Whole Foods, and bulk nut options.

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They also have gluten-free pizza pre-made, and their salad bar had good Paleo choices. If they’d just had some cold cuts…

So there you have it! My best tips. Let me know in the comments below if you travel to Hawaii (or anywhere!) and find these come in handy.

Gluten Free (and Paleo) On Maui: Part 1

I needed a break, man.

So I picked up my stuff and just went. Alone, unencumbered, beholden to no one. Livin’.

I hiked, I swam, I body boarded, I slept a lot. I did not argue with anyone about restaurants. It was probably the best trip I’ve ever taken.

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Here’s the thing. I love to freakin’ eat. I’ve heard Michelle Tam call this “gastrotourism.” But when you’re coming off and autoimmune protocol, it can be a daunting task. That’s why I cooked most of my meals in my rental kitchen, and tried to eat out when I knew it would be really special.

I follow a Paleo diet, but I believe that when you go on vacation, it’s important to establish your no-go zones as well as the things you’ll bend for. Paleo perfectionism doesn’t help anyone. I won’t touch gluten or dairy because I know they’ll give me uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms that will ruin the rest of my day. Gross. I also try to avoid soy, because it makes me bloat (gross), and peppers, because I’m coming off AIP and they showed up on my food sensitivity panel.

Finally, I always try to minimize sugar, with varying success. I was really pleased on this trip by how much my gut healing showed through. Probiotics, yo!

Without further adieu, here are some of the foods and spots where I ate them on Maui

Mama’s Fish House

799 Poho Place, Paia, HI 96779

I saved my meal here for last. It was absolutely amazing!

I ate at the bar and told the bartender right away that I was gluten-free, and she helped me make my selections.

They usually serve bread and soup as an appetizer with every meal, but instead my server had fresh coconut and pineapple brought out. It was squishy! I dig it!

I also ordered a cocktail off their “lighter” menu, because this is my party. The coconut mint refresher had gin, coconut water, and apple mint, and while I didn’t expect it to be this fruity, it was really good and not too sweet.

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I had the I’a Maka Niu, Ono (fish) marinated in coconut milk and lime and served in a delicious young coconut. This was totally paleo and a great protein option. I also ordered a side of kalua wild boar, which is just perfectly marinated pork but from a delicious and totally free range animal. Finally, I ordered the poi—it’s a traditional taro paste that’s just taro and water. And it’s complimentary!

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This meal was pricey, but the setting is right on the water and the fish is super fresh. I think this is an absolutely stellar option for a memorable meal in a place that will defitely remind you that you’re on vacation.

Haliimaile General Store

900 Haliimaile Rd. Makawao, HI 96768

This upcountry restaurant is a trip to find. Inside it feels like a big open country home, and they use really fresh ingredients cooked with a twist on the traditional Hawaiian.

In retrospect, I think many of the options at this restaurant had soy. But I did call ahead about gluten-free choices and found they had quite a few.

I had calimari without the breading as an appetizer and ordered crispy duck with roasted root veggies and a maple glaze and green beans for my meal. This was truly delicious, but I got a definite soy flavuh from the skin. I didn’t ask about this because I’d eaten half before I decided that.  If you’re cool with soy, this is an awesome meal.

This was my most expensive dinner on the island. For a meal, an appetizer and a glass of wine, I paid $100 with tip. But it was worth it, even with the soy. And of course I accidentally deleted my pictures.

Ulupalakua Ranch Store

14800 Piilani Highway, Kula, HI 96790

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If you have time, I recommend you take a day for a food tour of Maui’s upcountry. I did this loop and visited the island’s only winery, Surfing Goat Dairy, and a beautiful lavendar farm.

At the end of the road is this spot, which has amazing sandwiches made from wild game and an upscale “plate lunch” option. Plate lunches in Hawaii are usually served with macaroni salad and rice, but this place had much fresher sides like green salad and olive oil and parsley potatoes.

I was on second lunch (a real vacation thing) so I ordered a serving of delicious kalua pig without a bun. It was something like $2! I topped it with some Hawaiian black salt I bought at the store. Afterward I went back and ordered a whole pound to take home. This was great for meals all week.

Save room for lunch here if your journey takes you to Maui’s winery.

Paia Fish Market

100 Baldwin Ave, Paia, HI 96779


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This place in the town of Paia on the road to Hana is one of the better Paleo options on the island. Inside it’s low-key and everyone sits at picnic-like tables. I ate here all sandy and gross after a day at the beach and felt totally comfortable, and you know, that’s important.

My salad had charbroiled Ono, a couple of the biggest, freshest shrimp I’ve ever seen and lots of local greens.

This place works well for special diets because it has a lot of customizable options. You can choose your fish and get it as a meal with a side or on top of a salad.

Maui Brick Oven

1215 S. Kihei Road, Kihei, Hawaii 96753

Warning: NOT PALEO.

This is a dedicated gluten-free recipe that I found thanks to a post from Nom Nom Paleo. 

They are open for dinner and have items like pizza, fish and chips, sweet potato fries and, my favorite, the fried calimari. Yum! I got an order of these after a day at the beach. They were soft on the inside and really chunky, like really good calimari should be!

I say it’s not paleo because most of their recipes have soy or rice, but if you can tolerate a bit of that it’s a great vacation splurge. I hear the fish and chips are delicious and pizza might be great for primal folks. You can check a full list of allergens here. That’s an awesome resource!

Maka by Mana

115 Baldwin Ave. Paia, HI  96779

This is a raw food restaurant, and they have many gluten-free options. They also stock fresh organic juices and smoothies, and I had a really good blended macha latte with fresh Brazil nut milk. You can also sit at a bar and drink local kombucha, which they have on tap.

But my absolute favorite thing here was the raw coconut kefir ice cream. I. Died. They make it fresh with fruit, so I had a serving with pineapple and strawberry and a serving flavored with durian fruit. That last one was, as they say, funky. But I liked it! And I also liked the raw chocolate they poured on top. Yummm.

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Coconut Glen’s 

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Look. This is the best and probably most-Paleo ice cream you’ll find on this island. It is un. freaking. believable. Glen mixes coconut milk with fresh fruit and toppings like candied coconuts and chocolate. There’s a truck in Paia, right next to Maka, and a bigger stand on the outskirts of Hana, so I encourage you to try it TWICE if you’re taking the road to Hana. WORTH IT.

Maui Sugar Shop

878 Front St. Ste A10, Lahaina, HI 96761

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I saved the best for last.

This bake shop is dedicated gluten-free and they’ll talk you through which items have dairy, eggs, nuts or coconut if you’re avoiding those. They even have paleo options, and if you’re staying in Lahaina I would suggest calling ahead to see if they’ll make you a paleo treat or if they have any in their case.

They didn’t on the day I visited, so I went for a vegan strawberry chocolate whoopie pie and a chocolate-dipped macaroon. The whoopie pie was the best thing I’ve eaten in years and one of probably 3 baked treats I’ve had in my year of Paleo. I most enjoyed the frosting, and I’ve very thankful for vegans.

What’s the best gluten-free meal you’ve ever eaten while traveling? Let me know in the comments below if you’ve enjoyed a great gluten-free meal on Maui!

How (and why) I Dumped Coffee

Before I fell in love for the first time, I fell for coffee.

Stepmom made the best, strongest fresh-ground coffee, and at first I added cream and sugar because that’s what Dad did. I was 13. I used it to greet an ungodly hour of summer, because the waves at the beach were best early in the morning.

Later, my coffee consumption became a source of pride. I learned that I couldn’t tolerate those frapp-things or the white chocolate whatevers without some serious digestive problems, so I just drank it tall dark and handsome.

I was proud of that intensity. Newsrooms are built on intensity. Reporters want to go harder and faster and longer than everyone else, and then they want everybody to notice.

See, I think for many people, coffee is as much cultural as anything else. Working culture in America is focused on drinking coffee. Giving it up makes you weird.

In college, offee helped me make my deadlines. Coffee helped me win national writing awards. Coffee let me graduate with a 3.8. COFFEE MADE ME HOT, MAN. (That last part is patently untrue)

Last year, in the middle of an internship that had me waking up at 4 a.m.,  I dumped coffee.

“What?” you sputter. But why? Coffee is paleo, right? And also, how’d you do that without KILLING ALL THE THINGS.

I’m gonna slow you down there for a hot second. Here’s the why and the how of my breakup with coffee. (SPOILER ALERT: I DID WANT TO KILL ALL THE THINGS.)

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WHY (the hell?)

The positive and negative affects of coffee have been addressed at length in the paleo community. I like The Paleo Mom’s post in which she discusses how giving up coffee might help you heal faster, and Chris Kresser’s podcast on whether coffee is good for you.

For me, kicking coffee began before I’d even started eating paleo.

I first tried a standard elimination diet, and coffee went immediately off the table. It stayed off when I moved to a candida control diet, because coffee and, in fact, all caffeine is often on the ‘no’ list for those plans.

I’m not on a strict candida protocol anymore, but I will always struggle with those annoying little guys. I am also recovering from adrenal fatigue and find that artificially kicking up my cortisol production with a shot of caffeine just doesn’t make me feel my best. Plus, I’m concerned about gluten cross-reactivity.

I don’t by any means think that coffee should be cut out of everyone’s diet. But looking back, I can honestly say that coffee has never made me feel well and has always upset my stomach. I think it’s an area of our health we take for granted, and it’s a sacred cow for many folks who have kicked other baddies out of their diets.

HOW

Here’s how I dumped coffee.

> I started out with a tea called “Morning Thunder” or something equally sexual. It had a ton of caffeine, but it helped me break my coffee habit. I recommend this over trying half-caf or decaf because 1) the irritating compounds in coffee are still present in those blends and 2) much of my relationship with coffee was centered around the taste and aroma. From black tea I moved to teas with less and less caffeine until I was off it all together.

> Drink lots of water. As I said, I started this process at a time when I was sleeping about 6 hours each night and beginning work at 6 a.m. On days I focused on drinking water, I left work feeling like I had gas left in the tank. When I was dehydrated, I was drained. It’s as simple as that.

>Eat a nutrient dense diet. Focus on organ meats like liver, which has b vitamins shown to provide a boost of energy. Eat a variety of vegetables. Drink bone broth. Snack if you need to during this time, even if you don’t think you should do that on paleo (who says we “should” do anything on paleo, anyway?).

>Don’t fill the hole with sugar. You may be tempted to give yourself a boost with something sweet when your energy is failing. This is transferring one bad habit onto another, and your sugar crash will make you want to KILL EVEN MORE THINGS.

> Be gentle on yourself in the days after you begin edging off caffeine. You will get headaches. You will get brain fog. You will be sleepy. Didn’t you expect this? Just stick with it. Breaking an addiction is always worth it in the end.