Tips for travelling gluten-free

Monday, July 19, 2010 Leave a Comment

Two out-of-state weddings with two kids in one month.

Try that gluten-free.

One down, one to go and I learned some valuable lessons along the way, so I thought I'd share them.

1. Always carry g-free snacks. Nuts, crackers, carrot sticks, an apple -- whatever you can get that's convenient, make sure your bag has something for you, especially on a flight. You may be delayed, or have to potty and change diapers and not get a chance to find something along the way. If you're flying through DIA, stop at Pour la France in Terminal B and pick up some of their gluten and dairy free protien/granola bars. Yum.

2. Have a snack ready to combat the sugar monsters. It wasn't the chewy, buttery, flaky croissants piping hot from the first-class oven that the flight attendant brought to calm my kids down that did me in -- and believe me, that was tempting. It was the mini-Snickers, sitting in a bowl on my sister-in-law's counter that pushed me over the edge. I don't even like Snickers, and while I had a fleeting thought of "does it have gluten? chocolate surely has milk... oh who cares, how bad can one little mini candy bar be..." I had it unwrapped and in my mouth before my rational mind could protest. Oh, how I paid for that tiny little mini candy bar. It awoke some lizard-mind sugar craving that was insatiable. Startling, really. So go to Target, pick up the 100-calorie packs of cocoa-coated almonds, or the gluten/dairy free protein bars in chocolate from Pour la France, or if you're near Wegman's, they carry a European brand of cookies and hazelnut wafers called Schar. Delicious. (Unfortunately, no one in Colorado carries them.)

3. Know what you can order at a restaurant. Always, always ask for gluten-free options. I'm amazed at how many restaurants have gluten-free menus if you just ask. And any restaurant can make you a salad with a grilled chicken breast. Order extra veggies and use oil & vinegar dressing. The big chains like TGIF, Bennigans, etc. have g-free options. Fast food? Again, you might be surprised by the options -- check out glutenfreefastfood.com. At McDonalds you can order the hamburger without the bun, or even the hash browns. (But if you have celiac, the oil used to fry the has browns could be cross-contaminated, so you might want to avoid anything fried.) Urban Spoon shows g-free restaurants on their website, but the iPhone app doesn't work. (You should really get that fixed, Urban Spoon.)

4. Eat a full meal before your social engagements. No one wants to be the special-diet-request guest at a party. I don't want to call attention to myself, or make my guests prepare anything special for me. Elizabeth Hasselbeck had a great recommendation in her book "G-Free and Loving It" -- never show up hungry. If you've already eaten, you're less likely to eat something you shouldn't. No one has to know, you can still hold your plate and chat and eat the safe things on the menu,

5. If it's questionable, ask. Or skip it. Gluten is generally pretty easy to avoid, but you can't take things at face value. The wedding we went to served two things I felt sure were safe: roast turkey and grilled vegetables. The turkey was delicious. We were all remarking on how moist it was, the best we'd ever had, and I wonder what they marinated it in, some special brine? An hour later, I knew: they'd given it a flavor bath in MSG and gluten. I was so bloated I looked pregnant. So much for my cute fitted dress! Watch out for sauces -- they generally use flour to thicken them -- and marinades. You never know unless you ask. (The next wedding I'm breaking Rule #4 because my sister-in-law requested gluten-free for me. Thanks, sis!)

6. Have access to a kitchen. Hotel? Get a room with a fridge at the minimum. Staying with family? Get yourself to the grocery store and buy some basics to keep on hand. Hummus. Pre-cut vegetables. Fruit. G-free deli meat. I made some of my favorite grilled lemon chicken salad with vegetables and ate it for 3 days after the wedding. No matter how simple, sometimes you just need to prepare it yourself.