Eating out with food restrictions is stressful AF! The potential for gluten cross-contamination is always there. Couple that with multiple food allergies/sensitivities and the fact that canola (my kryptonite) is the most commonly used oil in restaurant kitchens, and my options for eating out are pretty slim. If I can avoid it, I do…but sometimes I can’t. Think birthdays, vacations, work trips/functions, parties… LIFE!
Eating out with celiac disease
Eating out means doing my homework. Whether I’m calling restaurants/venues in advance (some places can’t accommodate me!) or spending time with servers/event organizers to ask questions about the menu. I’m that person. You know the one. The person asking a million questions at the table (aka “grilling the server”) or sending a laundry list of dietary restrictions/special requests before the event. Yep, that’s me! I hate it, but it needs to be done. My health and well-being depend on it.
Gone are the days of simply ordering off a menu. I use menus as a guide to create my own dish. My meals usually consist of a grilled protein with sautéed/steamed veg or a big salad. I steer clear of dressings and sauces – olive oil, lemon, and salt and pepper for me please! Nice and simple….and in most cases, fool proof.
If I don’t get the warm and fuzzies from the restaurant or venue, I do one of three things: don’t eat, bring my own food, decline the invite.
Finding my tribe was so crucial to my healing. They’re the people who have made every effort to make me feel included. From working with me to design a “Shauna-safe menu” to suggesting I choose the restaurant to guarantee there’s something for me to eat. Those are my people, and I’m so grateful for them.
If you’re constantly made to feel like a burden, then you may need to re-evaluate your circle. I get it – working around food restrictions can be a pain, but you know what’s more painful? Seeing someone you care about suffer and isolating themselves because the only place they feel safe to eat is at home.
Celiac disease is not some self-imposed diet fad. It’s an autoimmune disorder and life-changing diagnosis. Surround yourself with peeps who get that and watch how quickly you thrive.
Travelling with celiac disease
When I travel, I stock my carry-on with snacks and an insulated cooler bag with a home-cooked meal. Ice packs are a no-go in your carry-on because they turn to liquid once they defrost. I learned that on a work trip to New Orleans in 2017; thankfully, the baked chicken, pasta salad, and sautéed kale I packed survived both flights and looked way better than anything the airline/airport was offering. 😉
Apart from soups, stews and FISH, there’s really no right or wrong food to bring with you. Whatever you like, and whatever will keep you full for the duration of your flight(s). Prepping a protein, veg (or two), and a grain usually does the trick. I’ll pack more or less depending on where I'm going. The last thing I want is to be hungry on a flight or in an airport with nothing to eat! Packing a few sandwiches is another quick and easy option – if you’ve found a gluten AND corn-free bread, PLEASE let me know.
Here are my go-to travel snacks:
Hardboiled eggs (peel them at home)
Fruit (bananas are the easiest)
Veggies + hummus
Nut butter on rice cakes
Protein powder + shaker bottle
Quinoa flakes (I can't tolerate oats)
This is definitely not an exhaustive list. There are tons of gluten-free snacks on the market but I find that they're often loaded with more crap than their glutenous counterparts. No thanks! I feel my best when I stick to whole foods so I look for snacks with an ingredient list I can actually pronounce.
Additional travel tips
Bring your own portable cutlery set and travel mug
Pack your food in clear containers so you breeze through airport security
Contact the hotel to confirm there's a mini fridge in your room (if applicable)
Use Find Me Gluten Free to research celiac-friendly restaurants
How do you navigate restaurants/travel with food restrictions? Got any tips/tricks to share?