Tips For Gluten-Free Travel

Eating a gluten-free diet with all the comforts of your own kitchen can be a challenge…but when you travel, staying gluten-free presents a whole new set of problems!

If you’re sensitive to gluten, you have to remain especially vigilant to avoid accidentally ingesting it because gluten is hidden in SO many unexpected places. If you let down your culinary guard in a new and temporary environment, you may suffer extreme digestive upset or other auto-immune reactions to this problematic protein.

When you travel, you give up a great deal of control over your diet. At home you can stock your refrigerator and pantry with your favorite gluten-free items. But when you’re away from home, in unfamiliar surroundings, your foods are often prepared by strangers and you may have trouble finding out what has been used to make your meals.

That can spell serious difficulties for those who react to gluten.  It’s easy to avoid obvious gluten-containing foods made from wheat, barley or rye. But you may not know that things like seasonings applied to burgers, fish or potatoes can be adulterated with gluten. Consequently, while foregoing bread, rolls, croutons, pasta, etc., you can unknowingly be feasting on foods cooked in oil that contains wheat.

Advice for the Traveler

Tips for staying gluten-free when traveling include:

  • Bring your own food: In planning your trip, don’t forget to take as much of your own gluten-free food as possible. If you’re traveling by car, this may be relatively easy. You can stuff your trunk with gluten-free snacks and other items so you have them available as you travel. If you are flying, you are more limited in what you can carry onboard an airplane.
  • Communicate with the food people: Get used to the fact that when you travel, you are going to be explaining your diet to many people who don’t understand why you have to avoid gluten. In restaurants, hotels and motels, be prepared to explain what foods you are trying to avoid and why. Chances are, they will sympathize and do their best to accommodate you. Daniel Moran, a chef who has celiac, suggests that, in restaurants, you talk to the manager.  “They have the most time to help you and they will help you because they typically care more than the regular workers.”
  • Research your destination: Use the Internet to pick and choose the restaurants you will eat at. Virtually every restaurant has a website with their menu displayed. Fortunately, most restaurants have at least one gluten free option to choose from.
  • Watch out for cross contamination: Unfortunately, even if a restaurant item seems gluten-free, when it is prepared on a surface previously used to slice bread or deal with another food that contains gluten, it may become contaminated with gluten. For some people who are not very sensitive to gluten, this may not be a problem. But, to be on the safe side, when you discuss your meals with your server at a restaurant, be sure to ask about the possibilities of your food being unwittingly contaminated with gluten.
  • Send your food ahead of you: Destiny Stone, a columnist who writes about celiac and gluten, points out that you can often go online and order gluten-free food and have it shipped to your destination. That way, your food can be conveniently waiting for you when you arrive and you don’t have to pack as much food into your luggage.
  • Talk to gluten-free dieters in the place you are going: Danna Korn, author of Living Gluten-Free for Dummies, suggests that you “check with a support group in the area you’re visiting to see if they have a list of celiac-friendly restaurants or grocery stores.” Oftentimes, these folks have the inside scoop on the best places to locate gluten-free foods.
  • Request whole fruits or vegetables: Cutting boards can be a source of cross-contamination with gluten. When you are served a whole fruit or vegetable, you know it hasn’t been exposed to the problematic surface of a cutting board.
  • Bring non-perishables to the airport: Since airlines are susceptible to long delays, Korn suggests bringing foods like cheese, ham, vegetables, pepperoni, nuts and gluten-free candy that you can snack on and which won’t go bad.
  • Avoid seasonings: You should always order fish and meat prepared without seasonings. Many seasonings contain wheat.

Getting away from home doesn’t have to mean getting off your gluten-free diet. But when you are away from home, you just have to be more conscious of what foods you eat and how they are prepared. Luckily, if you plan ahead and take the precautions above, you should be able to enjoy your travels and avoid problematic ingredients.

Peter Amen

By Peter Amen

Peter Amen has been exploring natural health remedies since 2010.

He suffers from wanderlust and loves to write about the benefits of traveling for the mind, body and soul.