In this post I want to help you by providing 8 Tips for eating a Paleo and gluten free diet while traveling. Many people follow Paleo and gluten free diets because they have health issues that are exacerbated by eating gluten which makes traveling a challenge. The reason I am careful is because I have an autoimmune thyroid condition that is flared up by eating gluten, meaning my body attacks itself which makes eating on the road a challenge. I am very careful to follow a grain free not just gluten free diet at all times to lower risk and enhance my health. It is also important to pay attention to food quality (as much as possible) to keep your tummy happy. Sometimes ordering at a restaurant with gluten intolerance can be a stressful experience. By pre-planning you can enjoy your travels and stay healthy on the road.
8 Tips for Eating a Paleo and Gluten Free Diet While Traveling
Plan Ahead and Be Aware:
1. Research the restaurant: Alert the management of your gluten allergy before you go. Calling ahead can help the staff prepare. Using the Open Table App can be helpful because there is a note section to send to the restaurant. Call ahead and also write a note in the Open Table app. You can also look online at Celiac forums to see if a restaurant is gluten free friendly. I use yelp to read what other dines have said about the restaurant and I plug in the search terms, gluten free, organic, even grass fed.
2. Check current menu: Be aware of current changes or the status of the gluten-free menu at the place you are eating. Some restaurants have a whole section of the kitchen that is dedicated to gluten free but at some places the gluten free menu is little more than lip service.
3. Help to Educate your server: Be friendly and help your server understand what gluten is (the hard to digest in protein in wheat, barley or rye and contaminated oats). Your server is your ally to make sure the kitchen staff uses fresh gloves, bowls and utensils for serving or preparing your food. Also check if they have a dedicated fryer (ideally avoid fried foods because of rancid oil-See #6). Be aware of gluten crumbs falling into big containers of lettuce, cheese, or salsa for example. Mustard, ketchup, and certain types of vinegar can also have hidden gluten (and sugar) so ask to read the labels. Gluten Free Card is a helpful tool that you can show your server to help them understand in almost any language.
4. Gluten free grains are still problematic: Just because something is gluten free does not mean it is healthy. Grains are very hard to digest because they contain toxic molds and have mineral binding phytates which can further irritate a person with gluten intolerance or autoimmunity. Ingredients made with grains are much more likely to be contaminated with gluten. People with celiac or autoimmune diseases usually have nutrient absorption issues and an inflamed small intestines. Continuing to eat grains further aggravates the gut lining preventing a person from getting adequate nutrients from food to rebuild their health.
5. Food quality matters: Corn-fed beef is more likely to be contaminated with E-coli has an imbalanced ratio of inflammatory Omega-6 to beneficial omega-3 fats when compared with grass fed beef. Factory farmed chicken/beef is likely full of pesticides and antibiotics which can make us sicker and fatter. Pesticides and fungicides on fruit/ vegetables can build up in us causing hormone disruption and weight gain. Beans (including soybeans) are also a problem because they have anti-nutrients that can be extremely hard to breakdown causing more digestive issues. People with gluten sensitivity are usually stressed out and depleted meaning lower quality food can exacerbate their health issues. Hear a great podcast about this issue here.
6. Toxic seed oils: Another important concern when eating out is avoiding vegetable oils such as corn, soybean, canola, safflower and cottonseed oils which are heated/oxidized during processing which causes inflammation in the arteries and small intestine when eaten. These are also made from genetically modified crops that have never been proven safe. These tainted oils are commonly used in restaurant cooking because they are so cheap. It is common to find rancid oils (and GMO sugar) in mayo (even the brand with added olive oil, Kraft), salad dressing and sauces. Get a good guide to which fats to eat here. I try to ask my server if they can cook my food in real butter or get it grilled. For grilling ask them to wire brush the grill first and ask about the gluten on the grill policy.
7. Get your own kitchen: While traveling I try to rent a hotel room with a kitchen or stay in a rental from Airbnb or VRBO so I can cook for myself. Also Residence Inn by Marriott has nice fully equipped kitchens. You can shop at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s or eatwild.com to find good farmers markets wherever you are.
8. Listen to you intuition: If you do not get a good feeling about their adherence to gluten free safety guidelines head for the door. If the server is treating you like your are from outer space that is strong signal. I like to just go to the grocery store and make a picnic.
Bonus:Pack a cooler recently my little brother and I drove across the country in big truck. We had a bog cooler with us so we just put together food from it on the way. It was super easy and a time saver. We stocked up on lots of shelf stable items such as canned seafood and gluten free jerky. I had kale chips and jars of pickles too. If we started to run low we stopped in at Sprouts, Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods on the way. I know we saved money by not stopping at greasy spoons looking for something decent.
The thing is not to be too stressed or let yourself be a shut in. Do the research before you go and plan ahead. Make your own food or find some gluten friendly restaurants online. Have a great trip and enjoy your life!