I have a potentially crippling nerve disease. Staying on a gluten-free diet means the difference between walking or being confined to a wheelchair.
Giving up wheat is a small price to pay.
Other foods are off the menu as well. This includes dairy, MSG, aspartame, artificial preservatives and genetically modified ingredients.
At home, I prepare organic meals. But I can’t do this on the road.
Travel is difficult, but not impossible. It just takes planning ahead and making sure to pack filling gluten free snack foods.
Away from home, I eat at Asian restaurants, and at other establishments that accommodate special requests.
Nowadays, most restaurants are happy to assist patrons with food restrictions. A few years ago, one proprietor told me that 10 percent of his customers request gluten-free meals. I imagine, though, this number is even higher today, as a growing number of people are giving up wheat.
Gluten Free Snacks for Travel
We took a plane trip to a family reunion. We also stayed in a hotel with our relatives. I knew there wouldn’t be a kitchen. Also, we’d be moving in a group. So there wouldn’t be much down time. Nor could we easily visit a grocery store.
But I didn’t want the entire reunion dictated by my diet.
On the day of our departure, I ate a big breakfast and a huge lunch. That’s because I couldn’t eat plane food. Our flight departed after 6 p.m. I packed two sandwiches made from brown rice bread and organic turkey breast for dinner and a late-night snack.
I had also packed four boxes of Mary’s Gone Crackers organic rice and quinoa crisps. If all else failed, I could munch on these. These crackers made the trip so much easier. In retrospect, I wish I’d brought more. They are delicious and filling. I never went hungry, thanks to these crackers, which come in various flavors. They contain flax and sesame seeds, which add calories and protein.
Mary’s Gone Crackers also came in very handy when everyone else was snacking on the complimentary hors d’oeuvres in the hotel lounge. They really did make the trip doable.
Gluten Free Snacks for Travel
Travel is challenging when you have health problems.
For instance, you’re not allowed to bring liquids over three ounces in your carry on bags. Although I was under the impression that exceptions were made for medication and supplements, this wasn’t the case on our flight.
So I ended up having to throw away an expensive herbal tonic. Fortunately, I packed another in our checked bags, and covered it with a lot of bubble wrap so it would survive the flight.
Bottled spring water is also banned in carry on bags. Travelers who don’t want to drink the soda, fruit juice or purified tap water served on the flight should board the plane well hydrated. Although you’ll still need to drink something to prevent dehydration, you may not need to drink as much.
We were traveling to meet family members. My mother, bless her heart, picked up a few things for me at Trader Joe’s. In my hotel room, I organic fruit, raisins and brown rice bread. The hotel provided free bottles of natural spring water.
The bread and the fruit were what I had for breakfast. I also had the choice of oatmeal, hard boiled eggs and fresh cut fruit in the hotel lounge, and I took advantage of this.
My extended family doesn’t mobilize early. So my husband and I, and our children, explored the City of Portland, Oregon, where we stayed, before everyone else woke up.
Where to Find Gluten Free Foods When Traveling
This is when we ventured into the downtown for lunch. Travelers with food restrictions usually do well at Asian restaurants. We chose a funky Vietnamese restaurant twice, for this very reason.
I ordered a bowl of pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup. Although the recipe calls for added sugar to sweeten the broth, and I need to greatly reduce or eliminate my refined sugar intake, this was an exception. I ate a bit of the broth and all of the meat and noodles. The dish was very filling and this was my main meal of the day.
One important point: This strategy will not work for people with celiac disease or for those who are severely allergic or sensitive to wheat. That’s because it’s highly probable some of the seasonings and flavorings in Asian dishes contain wheat or wheat starch.
However, you can order a special meal of steamed rice and vegetables, without seasonings.
People with fish allergies may need to avoid Asian restaurants altogether. Fish sauce is used in many dishes.
Gluten Free Italian Restaurants
Portland has hundreds of food carts. I also ate at these a couple of times. (I have painful nerve problems, not celiac disease.) The food is generally cooked after the order is taken, and most proprietors are happy to handle special requests.
Even Italian food is possible. Many restaurants offer wheat-free pasta. Our extended family chose a cute Italian eatery in a nice section of downtown Portland for a group dinner. If there was nothing on the menu that worked, I planned to walk a few doors away to a Thai restaurant. Again, since I’m not strictly gluten-free, this would have been an option for me, as packaged Asian seasonings often contain wheat.
Happily, the establishment did offer rice pasta. I ordered it with marinara sauce and no cheese.
I had already stopped at a grocery store the day before and picked up some organic lettuce. I kept this in my hotel room. So I had my “salad” before going out for dinner.
Since I had less control over dinner arrangements, I made sure to eat a lot at lunch. Then, just in case dinner was tricky, I could still eat Mary’s Gone Crackers, salad and dry roasted almonds.
For instance, one night the entire family went to a low-end Chinese restaurant. This was attached to a casino in nearby Washington state. The waitress assured us everything contained MSG. Everything was already prepared. I couldn’t place a special order.
That was the night I settled on a small bowl of white rice, along with a few steamed vegetables. (Somehow, we could order these.) Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my crackers. So I had to wait until I returned to the hotel to eat anything substantial.
Another day, my husband and children, along with my two siblings and their families took a drive to the coast. I was hoping for seafood or even Mexican food. But someone picked a pub-style restaurant with very limited offerings. So I ordered a plain burger. It came with lettuce, tomatoes and onions. The ingredients in the French fries were questionable. So was the oil they were cooked in. This is when I ate organic potato chips.
Fortunately, I had also packed some Kettle organic salt and fresh ground pepper potato chips in my suitcase. At home, I usually don’t eat chips. But I’m so glad I had them on this leg of the trip, as there was virtually nothing else to eat at this particular restaurant.
Although my diet wasn’t as strict as when I was at home, I did my best. I was able to enjoy a wonderful family reunion with memories that will last a lifetime.
Disclaimer: This article is an account of my trip, and is not intended as medical advice. People on restricted diets should discuss their health concerns with a medical professional. The author bears no responsibility for food choices.