Monday, May 6, 2013

Eating Gluten Free on Vacation

Guest post: Eating Gluten Free on Vacation

Whether remaining gluten-free is a personal choice or a healthy necessity, vacation has a way of screwing up the best thought-out diet. Traveling means eating at restaurants, snacking on the road and trying new things – managing a gluten-free lifestyle is more difficult when you must deal with the unexpected. The key to staying healthy is planning.
Before You Go
Hit the road with a full stomach whether going to the airport or driving to your location. Travel is exhausting. There are bags to move, lots of walking to do and the stress of trying to figure out where you are most of the time. Eating before you go eliminates the need to settle for whatever you can find at the last minute. Start the vacation right with a healthy meal. That is one less you have to worry about while on the move.
Find the Right Lodging
Look for lodging that offers you the opportunity to cook, even if it is just a small refrigerator and microwave. Online travel sites let you select amenities you want in a hotel. This is a practical approach to finding a place with a kitchen. If the establishment has on-property restaurants, look on the website for menus to see what foods are available before making a reservation.
Consider calling ahead of time to let the hotel know you have an issue with gluten. This gives them the chance to wow you by stocking the mini bar with appropriate snacks or having items in the continental breakfast that are gluten-free. Corporate hotels may be prepared to deal with guests who have Celiac disease or another health issue that restricts their diet.
Use that same approach with airlines if flying for many hours. Let them know when you book the ticket that you have diet considerations.
Shop Around for Healthy Restaurants in the Area
Pick the places you want to try ahead of time. If you know what restaurants are available in the area, you can avoid problems when you go out. One of the major factors that I have found that made a difference in my travels was when I began to read the reviews on the areas and restaurants of where I was staying before hand. Without this knowledge, it is practically a free for all when you get to where you are going and this is what often leads to unhealthy eating and nearly impossibly to meat the gluten-free needs. In my recent travels out west, the reviews from other travelers proved pivotal to finding one of the rare Las Vegas Hotels that had a vegetarian menu.  When you are making a reservation at these restaurants, let them know you need gluten-free options so they can be ready. Just like the hotel, most restaurants survive on tourism and want to make an impression by helping you out. Make a list of foods that contain gluten or special handling instructions you require and carry copies with you to hand out, as well.
Pack up an Emergency Kit
Pack an emergency travel kit, so you have food to eat if you are stuck. If the family is at a restaurant or in a theme park and you are left with few gluten-free options, the emergency kit can fill in what you can’t buy.The emergency kit would include items that are easily stored and can be used to make a quick meal if need be. This could include some gluten free bread and peanut butter, or perhaps even a few gluten free protein and energy bars. The purpose of these items is simply to hold you over until you can find a place to feed your body with the appropriate foods.
Staying gluten-free and staying at home does not necessarily go hand in hand. People are better educated about food allergies and illnesses like Celiac disease than they used to be. The world is becoming more health conscious place to live. This means going on the road is not just possible; it is practical, as long you know your limitations and plan ahead for the trip.   

Cole Millen is an avid traveler and foodie who never forgets that life's best memories are made through real life apprehension of legitimate "experiences."


How do the rest of you deal with eating a special diet when traveling? Eating out? Ordering takeout? Eating at a friend's house? Do you bring your own food? Bring enough of your own gluten-free food to share with others? Share your thoughts and challenges in the comments section!


Carla Ulbrich

The Singing Patient: Author, Survivor, Humorous Songwriter and Entertainer - Carla's book "How Can You NOT Laugh at a Time Like This?"