Traveling with Food Allergies - Tips For Eating Safely

Posted by Wendy Neal Friday, December 9, 2011 Bookmark and Share

First of all, I can't believe it's been over a year since I last posted to my blog.  Bad Wendy!  I really have no excuse of any kind to offer, so I'll just jump right into this post, and I promise to post more often in the future.

As mentioned in previous posts, I was diagnosed with multiple food allergies and sensitivities in January of 2010 - primarily dairy, gluten, and egg whites.  In addition I try to avoid soy as much as possible, and I avoid peanuts now as well.  Soy and peanuts did not come back positive on my allergy test, however I believe they are best avoided for me as I seem to be sensitive.

It would seem that this doesn't leave me a lot of options of stuff that I can eat.  Actually it's not as bad as it seems.  Yes, while there are probably tens if not hundreds of thousands of processed food items that I can no longer eat (because they contain soy, dairy, and/or gluten), this doesn't bother me really because why do we need that many choices anyway?  Plus most processed food is extremely unhealthy for you.  I do just fine with my limited choices, which consist of meat (usually either chicken, pork, beef, or fish), egg yolks, raw or cooked vegetables, fruit, beans, nuts, seeds, and non-gluten grains (usually quinoa or rice, and occasionally corn).

All is fine when I eat at home, as I cook all my meals from scratch.  But traveling can be difficult to say the least.  I've learned to pack as much food as I can take with me, but if it's not possible or feasible to pack enough food for the entire duration of my stay, I will locate in advance a nearby health food store at my destination so I can buy food that is safe for me to eat once I get there.

Following are a few tips that I've found helpful to me when traveling:

  • When flying, be sure to pack enough food for two meals in your carry-on bag.  You most likely won't be able to eat much at the airport or anything the airline serves, if they even do serve anything during your flight.  And I always take plenty of food in case my flight is delayed for some reason.
  • When eating at restaurants, be sure to mention to the server any food allergies that you have.  Even more helpful is a business-sized card that you can hand to the server that lists in detail what you are allergic to, and what is safe for you to eat.  The server can then deliver this to the cook, and they don't have to worry about remembering exactly what you told them, making sure that nothing gets lost in translation.  I always carry a backup supply of food to restaurants as well, just in case they don't have enough on the menu that I can safely eat.
  • Plan ahead for every meal you'll need to eat while away from home.  This is probably the hardest part because you really have to think about about every meal and snack in advance and bring enough food with you.  But if you are religious about this, then you'll never face the horrible dilemma of eating nothing vs. eating something you know will make you sick if you run out of food and can't find any safe food where you're at.
  • Don't be embarrassed or afraid of offending someone.  This one is tough as well.  At first when traveling to relatives' homes, I felt like I would offend my host if I didn't eat what they served, especially if they made an effort to accommodate my allergies.  What I found was that I was still feeling crappy the next day, either due to hidden gluten/dairy or cross contamination (let's face it, unless you have allergies you really don't understand the concept of cross contamination or all the hidden sources of food allergens and what names they go by).  Finally I just started bringing my own food to family gatherings and explained why.  I'd rather eat food I know to be safe for me, and not put the burden on the host to identify and prepare food that I'm able to eat.  Everyone has been very understanding of this and I've not gotten sick after dining with relatives since.
  • Purchase ready-to-eat (RTE) meals and snacks that you can quickly throw in a bag on a moment's notice.  I take these with me when I go to basketball tournaments, baseball games, when visiting relatives, all-day shopping trips or basically anywhere away from home where I will need to eat a meal.  A couple of these RTE meals that I really like are called GoPicnic and St. Dalfour's Gourmet on the Go.  See below for pictures.

I really like these items because they are gluten free and dairy free.  With the GoPicnic products, they are typically between 400 or 500 calories and don't have enough protein for me, so I'll also usually throw in a pouch of tuna or a protein bar as well and that makes a meal for me. With the Gourmet on the Go, these usually have enough protein but they're fairly low calorie, so I will throw in some nuts and fruit or other snack as well.  The key is to identify things like this that will work for you and have them on hand at all times, so you can just grab and go.

I hope these tips help you if you or someone you know has recently been diagnosed with food allergies.  Traveling can be stressful enough, but if you eliminate the stress of worrying about what to eat while traveling, it will be a lot easier.

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Disclaimer: The information provided on this website is for reference purposes only, and is not intended as medical or professional advice.