Traveling with Food Issues

I just recently returned from Oregon where I celebrated my Mom’s 90th birthday. Doesn’t she look great?

Anyway, I work very hard at being gluten-free. I am fortunate that I don’t have celiac disease, but I do suffer from inflammation when I eat gluten. Here are some interesting facts about the gluten-free industry taken from an article posted on the Celiac Disease Foundation website:

  • In 1996 gluten-free foods were a $100 million business.
  • In 2012, gluten-free foods grew to a $4.2 billion industry.
  • 27 million people consume gluten-free foods to lose weight.
  • 9 million go gluten-free because of Gastro-intestinal symptoms.
  • 7 million claim going gluten-free helps clear their headaches and foggy mind.
  • 320,000 Americans have a Celiac disease diagnosis.

With the industry being this large and knowing how many more gluten-free foods I can choose from at the grocery store, imagine my surprise to find that at the San Francisco airport, there were virtually NO gluten-free foods available from the food vendors. As one of the most liberal cities in the U.S. and the mecca of the hippies, I thought that they would have multiple choices. But, no.

On my way to Oregon, I found a couple of low-carb boxes. The one I settled on had fruit, cheese, and almonds. If you have a gluten and nut problem, this won’t work. If you or your child is on a gluten-free/casein-free diet (GFCF), this won’t work. The nuts were loose in the box. Does this mean that the person who put the fruit in the box touched the nuts before touching the fruit?

On the way back from Oregon, time was again spent at the San Francisco airport. This time I thought I would try Mexican food. Nachos seemed fairly safe. This time I talked to the lady at the counter. She, at least, was familiar with the question. Here is what I found out. The chips used were all corn, but were fried in the same oil that the flour tortillas were fried in. The meat was marinated in soy sauce. For me, this was ok, but for many, this would be too much exposure to gluten. So much is hidden in the foods we eat. Who would have thought that a Mexican restaurant would use soy sauce as their marinade?

What did I learn from this? Prepare, prepare, prepare. Put together some snacks that I can eat and carry them with me. Grapes and apples are good fruits to carry because they don’t squash very easily as you are juggled through the tight aisles on the airplane or traveling in a tight car. Find some protein bars that meet your allergy requirements and put some in your bag. If your family eats raw vegetables, there is nothing better than some carrots, celery, cucumbers, etc., when needing a pick-me-up. If you are like me and like some protein, not nuts, I like to pack some type of meat or beans. In a car, this is easy. In an airport, you may have to take the chance that the container will be confiscated. However, if it is the original container and you tell them you have allergies, they will probably allow it through.
Traveling and going on vacation is supposed to be fun and exciting (in a good way). So, plan ahead to make sure that you eat healthy and avoid foods that are harmful to you and your family.

Further Reading

Based upon anecdotal evidence, many learning challenges improve when on a gluten-free diet: autism, Asperger's, anxiety, depression, and others. Find out more about these learning challenges here.

100 Gluten-Free Foods You Can Eat Now

Canned Food That Is Gluten Free

Allergy Safe Travel