05/29/2012 03:16 pm ET Updated Jul 29, 2012

Cooking Holidays Keep You True to Your Diet, and Budget

If I had bags of money I would eat out at good restaurants every day. But the cost of eating really healthy organic food where I live and roam is next to impossible. There is one really overpriced organic restaurant near my house, and loads of places that sell great salads, but when it comes to meat, cheeses and other dairy products, I like to eat organic when I can. Because, some argue, the higher up the food chain you eat, the more contaminants you may be exposing to your body.

But what happens when you travel? Do all your food cards fly out the window? How do you stay true to your principles if you eat organic or under strict dietary laws like halal, kosher, gluten-free or vegan? I have a good friend who has Crohn's disease. She can die if she doesn't have the right diet to live by. Sure, you can find some 5 star hotels than can fly in your favorite cook with their own pots and pans and menu, but if you are an average person like me, like most of us, how can you keep your standards without breaking the bank?

If you are frugal like me you'll have purchased extra cheap airfare from the Internet, and have decided to travel to someplace where you can really stretch your traveller's dollar. This past February I spent a month in Thailand and was drawn to the incredible selection of cooking holidays that hotels offered. Want to learn to cook seafood, meat, traditional Thai, fusion or veggie? For about $20 to $30 a lesson you can learn from some of the best Thai chefs.

What I love about cooking lessons is that you can bring your own pots and pans, and select, wash and cut your own ingredients. Although Thai food is tasty enough when eating out of local canteens, the food can leave you bloated with too much grease and carbs. And if you avoid certain animal products like myself it is next to impossible: Good luck trying to order a vegetarian pad thai without the oyster sauce, dried shrimp or white sugar. Most locals will just nod and prepare the national dish in the only way they know how.

So if you are industrious enough to have rented an apartment or unit with a kitchenette when you travel, you can take your cooking lessons home with you at night to practice on your family. It's really easy in Thailand, for instance, to find "chefs" who will tutor you for a very low fee. I have one friend who was there a few months ago and just picked a restaurant he liked and asked to apprentice.

While on my travels in Thailand I met many hotels like this eco-hotel, The Kala, where I stayed, and which was giving gourmet courses from the simple to the complex. Cooking holidays are something that is catching on with travellers. As we travel cheaper for longer (it's better for the environment by the way, a new study has shown), we'll see more and more cooking holidays pop up. Will you take on the challenge?