If you have any sort of food allergy, you know that one of the worst feelings in life is feeling hungry but not knowing where to get food. Outside of the comfortable walls of your home, you don’t have 100% control over your food preparation. This is where doing a bit of research will go a LONG way.
Here are my own tips for surviving planes, airports, and other forms of transportation when travelling. Please note that I am NOT coealiac so do not need to deal with cross-contamination issues (with which I would highly recommend calling businesses to ensure 100% non cross-contamination…but I’m sure you’re already familiar with this).
TOP TIPS FOR SURVIVAL:
- Use the word “allergy.” If the person doesn’t seem to speak English fluently, use words like “Makes me sick” and use your hand motions to show yourself literally being sick! A big reason for this is that ‘gluten free’ has become a pretty big bandwagon. Resulting, saying things like “I don’t/can’t eat gluten” or “I’m gluten intolerant” often means that you’ll be treated like the person who thought giving up gluten was a healthier lifestyle (have you read the ingredients list of gluten-free baked goods…trust me – this isn’t healthier!!!!). If you SINCERELY have a gluten intolerance, use the word ‘allergy’ instead. You’ll be treated much more seriously in ALL cultural contexts!
2. Don’t just ask for the gluten-free meal when you buy your ticket and not do any follow up. 48 hours before your plane is departing, CALL the airline and ensure that you are on the special meals list. Also do this at the check in counter. Why? Because this way the airline can correct misinformation. If there isn’t enough time and no food on board for you, you will still have time to visit a restaurant/cafe in the terminal to have enough food with you prior to boarding.
3. THINK about the airline. If an airline is Asian or Middle Eastern, chances are you’re going to have a good gluten-free rice option on board. If your airline is North American, there’s a very good chance that pizza and pasta are going to be your choices. It might mean that you don’t need to be as determined to call ahead for the GF meal for one airline, whereas another you want to make sure that you’re getting your special meal.
4. Don’t trust everything ‘gluten free’. My special meal one time came with a bun, unwrapped, lying on top of my food. I felt it and it was mysteriously warm, soft, and buttery. If it feels too good to be true…it probably is! Upon calling over the flight attendant, I learned that she had placed the bun on top of my meal as habit (all other meals always receive buns). and on that note…
5. Still read your labels! From pudding to yoghurt to salad…remember back in your early gluten free days when you learned about hidden names for gluten? If you’re anything like me, you’ve done your homework and spent months doing research, so now you can go shopping with relative ease (I just instinctively know to avoid most canned soups, for example and don’t even need to check HP BBQ labels – I know they’re safe!) Remember that certain items made in one country may use gluten whereas in another they do not. Don’t forget to check your labels!
6. Bring along a snack. I’ve been learning this myself. Always carry some nuts, a banana (if you’re allowed), a chocolate bar…something to get you through. I LOVE the granola recipes at http://www.ohsheglows.com! The Glo Bars are phenomenal and will keep you fuller longer!
7. Get to know fast food staples. When I think of fast food, I often think of big juicy burgers and chicken fingers that I can’t have. But most food courts these days ALSO have more “international” options (I love that food term “international”…which basically means anything that isn’t a burger). There are so many cultures where gluten isn’t a staple in the recipes: Ethiopian, Korean, Thai, Japanese, Lebanese, Indian….these are GREAT options for when you’re needing to eat in the airport! Nothing but McDonald’s and Subway? Don’t forget about the beauty of a fresh salad! Instead of the salad dressing (glutenous madness – pleh!) they should have oil and balsamic vinegar in their offerings!
8. Keep that health serious but help people out!!!!! When I first became gluten free, the hardest thing for me was suddenly becoming a “picky eater”. I was fine with reading labels and cooking things myself…I hated having to tell someone who has just invited me to dinner (so kind!) that I can’t eat gluten. In today’s society, most people understand what “gluten” is, but sometimes you’ll still have to help them out. Instead of telling someone what you CAN’T have, if they’re confused, offer what you can have: “do you have plain white rice? do you have a salad without the dressing?”
Above all, remember that this is YOUR trip and your health is YOUR priority. That cabin crew or restaurant owner is doing their best, but only YOU know YOUR body best! It is NOT worth being sick over politeness or misunderstandings. Instead, be loving to yourself…be extra careful to read labels, bring some food with you, and do your homework.
In the end you, and your body, will have an amazing trip!!!!