Hello my friends! I’ve just come back from a super trip to Florida with my daughters, and I thought I’d post about something that is a difficulty to overcome when I am traveling with my daughter, Danielle.
She has an allergy to gluten, which is the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. She was diagnosed 4 years ago when she began to suffer some extreme stomach symptoms. Since she will kill me if I go into detail, suffice to say that she was a miserable camper for months and months on end. We took her to the doctor and had her tested for food allergies and other issues, and she had a very high reaction to wheat and gluten. There is no treatment for this condition, the only way to diminish the symptoms is to refrain from eating anything that contains wheat or gluten.
Sounds easy, just avoid the bread and pasta, right?!! Wrong! First of all, wheat and gluten are in EVERYTHING! It’s so difficult to avoid it. Even food items that you wouldn’t think had wheat in them, like gravy, bouillon cubes, and soy sauce can contain gluten.
Obviously if she’s eating at home it’s not a problem because I am extremely careful, emphasize protein, fruits and vegetables, and make most everything from scratch. However, it’s when she’s eating away from home that it’s a real problem. A trip to a restaurant, supposedly a pleasant experience, can become days of misery if she isn’t vigilant. It’s even worse when we are on vacation.
However, it is possible to eat safely, and feel good with food allergies while on vacation. My tips will help not only those with allergies to gluten, but to shellfish, nuts and any other food items as well.
1. Be a vigilant label reader- Danielle carefully reads every label before buying any food product. And she knows the foods items that contain gluten but don’t have the words wheat, barley, gluten or rye listed like brewer’s yeast, bulgur, durum, farro, malt in any form, matzo, and the list goes on and on. Google food items that contain gluten for a complete list.
2. Ask for a gluten free (or any other allergy) menu- the first thing Danielle does when entering a restaurant is ask for a gluten free menu. She can peruse the menu and make her choices from there. Some menus have the gluten free items listed on the regular menu. The most problematic restaurants have neither of those options. In that case she has to ask if there are any gluten free options available. Some servers are very knowledgable about their gluten free options, but if they aren’t don’t hesitate to ask to speak with a manager or chef.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask how their gluten free items are prepared-for instance, if a restaurant has gluten free French fries but uses the same fryer that they use to make breaded chicken or onion rings there could be gluten cross contamination. In addition, if they have gluten free bread for toast but make it in the same toaster as the wheat toast that is another danger for people with a gluten allergy. Again, if the server seems unsure ask to talk to the chef or restaurant manager for reassurance.
4. Your cell phone can be your best friend- Some very useful apps are out there to help people with food allergies. Two in particular that Danielle uses are “find me gf” and “scan avert”. Find me gf is an app that lists the gluten free restaurant options around the country. You can search by restaurant or by area to find the best options for dining. Scan avert is an app that allows the user to scan barcodes on labels and shows a list of gluten ingredients that food item contains. Pretty cool!
In my humble opinion, Walt Disney World does an extraordinary job and is a very safe place to eat for those with food allergies. All of the food items shown in the pictures above were made at WDW restaurants. Whether at their walk-up or table service restaurants, as soon as Danielle would ask for a gluten free menu they would go through a very thorough set of procedures to ensure her food safety. At the walk-up places, they would stamp our receipt with the word “allergy”, and give us a special beeper that would go off when her food was ready. They would bring it from a completely separate kitchen from where other food is prepared, and it would have either an allergy flag or be placed on different colored dinnerware, something to differentiate it from regular food. In the table service restaurants, they would give her a gluten free menu, then either the chef or manager would come to speak with her, and answer any questions she would have. All Disney’s restaurants have separate kitchens to prepare food for those with allergies- very impressive! She was so relieved to be able to safely eat her way around the “World”!
So that’s how those with food allergies can protect themselves while on vacation- and enjoy themselves in the process! And for those over 21, remember that some alcoholic beverages contain gluten, for example beer, whiskey, vodka and some brands of rum and tequila. There are some gluten free versions of these alcoholic beverages available, check with your bartender or liquor store first. With the dangers of mixing and cross contamination though I’d opt to stick with wine- it’s always gluten free! 🙂 Avoiding food and beverages that can make you sick and miserable will allow you to enjoy your vacation and live a life of vitality-with Valerie!