Now, since I do travel - which I'm blessed to do as I love speaking, sharing about finding joy and intentional living and networking - I've had to learn to travel gluten free. I haven't had gluten since Samuel was diagnosed with Celiac Disease (and I feel great, but that's another post). So today for Friday Favorites I thought I'd share nine of my favorite traveling gluten free tips. These tips work best for air travel - when we travel locally or go to the cabin that's an entirely different traveling story and plan. In other words, I almost bring my kitchen - including my dedicated gf toaster - with me.
1. Pack a snack. Actually pack a bag or two of snacks. My checked bag typically has granola (Udi's is of course my favorite), some bars (Larabars or GoodGreens Bars), some nuts, and crackers. If I'm traveling to a hotel this is almost a necessity because I don't really get the opportunity to venture anywhere but the airport, hotel, hotel, airport.
2. Make sure to have snacks in your carry on bag. I've learned this the hard way and have inevitably had to purchase the only gluten free option available in most airports - nuts at the Starbucks counter. Unless, of course, you are the Philadelphia International Aiport where they do not have a Starbucks. I know, I've asked - after wandering around looking for one. I am on a mission to get gluten free snacks available in Starbucks - I'd love to see an Udi's gluten free cookie there. I'd buy one everytime. But, carry snacks, they'll come in handy. And find me on twitter (@finding_joy) and tweet this message. :)
3. Be prepared to ask to meet the chef. Or don't eat. I've just started asking to speak with the chef whereever I may eat. I really appreciate these opportunities. I'm able to talk about gluten free, and am also able to verify that what they are serving me is truly gluten free, and I'm able to be a face for those many gluten free requests that they must get. Make sure to watch out for hidden sources of gluten - luncheon meats, salad dressings, soy sauce, etc...and don't be afraid to ask how an item was prepared. Is there a dedicated fryer? Is there a separate gluten free prep area. Those are questions that should and can be asked.
4. Expect that you won't have much to eat. Unless I bring snacks or visit a grocery store I typically don't get too much to eat when I travel. I will find a fabulous sushi restaurant and find great food there (again watch out for the soy sauce), but other then that the food selection is typically pretty light. Even though gluten free is becoming more well known, most hotels have a rather tepid gluten free selection to choose from. Do not be afraid to reach out to hotels - I follow up with hotels after visiting and talk about my experience with their food selection. If you don't speak, they don't learn - but be encouraging - that goes a long ways.
5. Did I mention pack a snack? I think I've hammered this point in enough. But, in case I haven't, carry food with you. Always.
6. Prepare to talk about gluten free. When I travel it is honestly the times when I talk the most about being gluten free. On the Udi's Gluten Free Community Boards I mentioned developing a one sentence explanation to why you are gluten free or, for me, what celiac disease truly is. Here's mine: I eat gluten free because 2.5 years ago my son, Samuel, was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, which is an autoimmune disease where the body cannot have any form of gluten - found in wheat, barley, rye, and sometimes oats. Often most people ask for more information at this point - and this can be a great springboard for bringing awareness. I think the most often heard misconception for me is that eating gluten free is trendy or that someone with Celiac Disease can cheat - they cannot -ever. See that face below? I fight for him and for others who live a life where gluten destroys the body. There is no option of cheating - there is only gluten free.
7. Develop extra patience. Yes. It takes longer to get food, to check food, to wait for your food, to find staff to find your food, to search out food in the airport, etc.. There are some fabulous apps to help you navigate, but then again, I do like to verify that what I am eating is truly gluten free. You will find your patience stretched - as you sit at the table while others eat, while you look at your selection that is often less, and sometimes while you don't get a meal til other are done. It's part of bringing awareness. I've adopted an attitude of gratitude for all that they do give, for the extra steps they take, and I hope that posture of thanks encourages them to further their gluten free options.
8. Expect to eat a great deal of chicken. Along with extra patience expect a bunch of chicken served to you. Or salads. Lots and lots of salads and grilled vegetables and well, chicken. So sneak up to your room or find those nuts. The funny thing is that gluten free really can taste great (Udi's motto) and I'd love to see more chefs, restaurants, and coffee shops embrace gluten free food.
9. Dwell on the good things. Sure, it can be challenging to be in a room where everyone else is eating fabulous looking food and delicious desserts, but in those moments think back to the health benefits of eating gluten free. I just have to remember those awful moments in the hospital with Samuel and the months before he was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and how his body was shutting down. Eating gluten free saved him - and I will do whatever it takes to keep him healthy. My sweet son has taught me to embrace everything he can eat and not sit in looking at everything he cannot. And that goes way beyond living gluten free - it's a life philosophy that I've learned by watching him be brave, watching him live life fully, and watching him thrive. It's gratitude for the good.
So pass me an Udi's Gluten Free Snickerdoodles. They're my weakness, the gluten free kryptonite, and they're amazing. If you want to chat more with me about gluten free, gluten free living, celiac disease, and find some fabulous recipes (not from me - ha - I'll eat them) connect with me on the Udi's Gluten Free Community. I truly am honored to be a part of their team. After Samuel was diagnosed I didn't think I'd find normal, or enjoy bread again, and they proved me wrong. Find me there -> Udi's Gluten Free Community.
And finally, since it's Friday and these are favorite things - I'm going to share this sweet picture of Samuel, the little boy with Celiac Disease who is my hero, at the grocery store with me. Remember last week when I wrote about letting them push the cart? Well, my next words would be to let them ride in those blue carts. Just bring your hard sanitizer.