Monthly Archives: January 2012

Traveling Gluten-Free with Food Sensitivities

  1. Make sure the place you’re staying at has a refrigerator and microwave (if not a kitchenette) to plan what food items you may bring with you.
  2. Look up grocery stores in the area of travel before you go and you’ll know where to head to for fresh veggies to make salads all week. Try looking up gluten-free establishments in the area too; you never know what new places you might find.
  3. Prepare food you can bring on the plane with you (no liquids) so that you don’t have to run around like a mad person at the airport trying to find something that complies with your needs. Make a salad with protein, bring nuts, an apple, a protein/snack bar that is safe for you. I also travel with my own water bottle (but it has to be empty when you go through security) and ask the flight attendants to fill it on the plane so that I save a plastic cup and also get more than a half cup of water to drink for a 4-hr flight. You could also look up the airport map ahead of time to get a directory of airport restaurant options before you go.
  4. Pack food in your checked suitcase that you can eat while you travel: canned tuna, canned chicken, nut butters, nuts, a hard avocado that will ripen while you’re there, an ice pack to keep things cool, made-ahead meals that you froze and will stay cold while you fly, canned anything that meets your dietary restrictions, spices for seasoning, some cooking oil would be good too if you can put it in a leak-proof container or use a solid at room temperature one like coconut oil, ¬†protein powder, a stick or mini blender, a can opener, a knife for prepping food items (make sure it gets checked, as sharp knives aren’t allowed in carry-ons), containers/bags for bringing your food with you as tour the area you’re visiting, fruit that’s packed with padding to prevent denting… use your imagination and you’ll find this list is limitless. Make sure to weigh your bag before you get to the airport; if you’re over 50 lbs, the airlines will charge you extra fees.
  5. If you do eat out, ask questions. If you have many food sensitivities like me, make up a small laminated card of your “no go” items and carry it with you as a reference not only for grocery shopping but to possibly show the restaurant staff so they can try to help you find safe foods to eat.
  6. You are your own advocate. Speak up if you have concerns and if the food you’re presented with seems questionable, then send it back and find an alternative. Bringing your own foods will be the best way to ensure you are eating something safe. And bonus, you’ll have room in your suitcase on the way home for purchases =)

My work had me on a crazy schedule for the last 6 weeks that had me running back and forth to the East Coast with a short stint in California the week before Christmas. Whew! Glad to be back. My blogs were on hiatus as I did not always have the energy to look at a computer after work whilst in my hotel watching HGTV, and I kept forgetting to note my website password to actually access my own site from my work laptop =)

I found out a few days into traveling that I shall not eat gluten anymore and to avoid certain foods for a while. Eating while traveling after that news was kind of a pain. I did manage however, and for the most part minded my new diet. When I got home that first weekend, I went into panic mode and bought a bunch of crazy things at the local co-op that I could eat. I switched up from my carry-on to a full size suitcase and brought canned tuna, protein powder, et al along with to prepare meals for myself on the road. A good plan, except I forgot to pack a can opener =)

My nutritionist said I could still eat out, just be particular and ask about ingredients. Now I’m one of those types of people who hates to go ask store clerks for help… you can imagine my success rate. The next week of travel, the very first lunchtime, the ladies in the office wanted to take me to lunch. I told them about my health limitations and was surprisingly met with support from these lovely women. I say I was surprised as when I try to tell anyone about my limitations, I feel like some crazy diva who everyone must think is making up this ridiculous diet just to lose weight. Score 1 for pop culture and mainstream media for making me feel bad about making sure I don’t get sick. *sigh* Score -1 for me for not having the confidence to ignore anyone who might judge me. I’ve mentioned I’m a work in progress, right?

That first lunch looked promising at a place where I could customize a salad, but even though I asked about ingredients, their menu hid crucial information like their walnuts being candied walnuts (which would have cane sugar at the least). I risked the chicken, taking it as it came, which later turned out to be a mistake as it made me sick. In the end I wound up with greens, chicken, and maybe one other topping as I had to push the walnuts to the side. Lesson learned. Ask more questions or don’t eat out.

I’ve learned my weak moments are when I’m running through an airport trying to change planes and needing to grab dinner as I will never be able to eat the snacks airlines carry. At those moments, I’m tired, ready to be home, and a personal-sized Domino’s pizza never looked so good. Except that I never. eat. Domino’s. and partaking in anything like that would only make me feel worse. If you’ve ever been to the Hartfield Airport in Atlanta, then you know how big it is. I scoured that whole place all 6 or so times I was there for food I could eat. My suggestions are (and most airports should have something comparable): Chili’s To Go stands that have salads WITH protein that doesn’t look scary (my Caribbean chicken salad had red peppers, but I picked those off and ate everything else happily), Chili’s restaurant for a burger sans bun with customized toppings and maybe a side salad if you can eat the toppings (really any restaurant that has burgers should be able to do this, but I did have one at a sports-themed restaurant at ATL that did make me sick although I can’t recall their name), Qdoba was doable as I used their smartphone app to figure out what foods had allergens I couldn’t consume, if you have time for one of the seafood restaurants (I never did) then you could get a good piece of fish cooked as you need it (or get a salad to go with fresh crab meat on top, although your plane mates might not like you), various markets had Vita Coco coconut water in which I could mix in my protein powder, and don’t forget you could buy a cup of soy milk or other milk alternative from one of the plethora of coffee shops. If you’re just looking for gluten-free, many restaurants have options for that. If you have sensitivities like me, then you’ll have to be pickier in choosing where to eat.

I had one very nice establishment in San Diego called Toscana actually make up a meal for me that was safe without upcharging me! Granted they missed that tomatoes shouldn’t be in there, but I was able to easily pick them out and had a great piece of tuna. By my 4th week of travel I was sick of salads and wanted some hot food; this restaurant sure helped me out.

My final week of travel was fantastic food-wise as I had a kitchenette. I stopped at a grocery store and came back to cook up a pork chop for dinner on a small stove using only salt and cinnamon as spices. It was delicious. Cinnamon is my new go to spice for seasoning meat. I cooked up some veggies and assembled salads for the week, making it my easiest, healthiest, and tastiest week of eating while traveling.

Here’s my pork chop dinner. With sauteed onions and mushrooms on a (microwave) baked potato, and a side of greens with avocado. I learned that coconut oil as butter on the potato is yummy.