When I was diagnosed celiac, and then my son … summer travels seemed overwhelming. I wondered how we would eat out, go to BBQ’s, eat an ice cream cone, go on a road trip … it seemed very daunting and impossible. I thought we couldn’t do anything or participate in any fun things. Boy was I wrong!
Here’s Some Idea’s on How to Walk Through the Summer as a Celiac … Enjoying the Journey!
It is absolutely normal to feel overwhelmed. Thinking through a few scenarios can help. If you do some planning, then you can just have fun and enjoy the trip without worrying about the food. Or at least not too much! Over the years, I have told my son that, ‘YES, you can do anything! Let’s just figure out HOW!’ Sometimes that requires some creative thinking and planning! Here are some ideas that our celiac family do over the summer … hope it helps!
PLAN … and Then PLAN a Bit More!
If you are going out of town, check the reviews online for celiac safe restaurants, cafes, ice cream shops, hotels (with breakfast) etc and take lots of notes! If you take notes on your phone … then you can pull them up wherever you are on your travels (very handy!) Where do you start online? Here’s some ideas;
- Contact the Celiac Association in the town/city your are traveling to. They are usually a wealth of information. They usually have lists of places that are safe for a celiac.
- The APP ‘Find Me Gluten Free’ is very helpful. Be aware that not all reviews are from people who are worried about cross contamination … so I usually filter through and look at celiac remarks.
- TripAdvisor – I filter and use the words ‘gluten free’ and ‘celiac’ when looking for a hotel or restaurants in a city/town that we are going to. A lot of reviews usually come up.
- Call the restaurants/hotels etc ahead of time so you know how they handle food. It saves you time on your vacation.
- I do use the ‘notes’ APP on my laptop and write detailed lists. I can type faster on my laptop than my phone! Then I can automatically see the ‘notes’ on my iPhone. I also print and put my list into my purse incase my phone dies. Then I know I can find a place if we are out and about.
- If you are part of a social media group, try sending out a message asking if anyone has traveled to where you are going and ask for recommendations. Other gluten free people love to help each other!
What To Bring?
If you are traveling and all your planning doesn’t turn out as you had hoped and the places that sounded great really are not when you get there, you need to have a back up plan. It’s good to bring extra snacks and food to avoid starving! I’ve starved, and then I get a bit grouchy, and then no one has fun … so it’s best to have some backups for everyones sake! These are the things that I always bring (I can take them back home if we do not use);
- Gluten Free Loaf of Bread (like Schar that doesn’t have to be frozen)
- Box of Gluten Free Granola Bars
- A sleeve of Fruit Cups
- Box of Gluten Free Cookies (this is for my celiac teen. If his sister can have a treat out and there is nothing that is safe … sometimes it just ‘feels’ better!)
- Gluten Free Crackers that would feed us for every lunch while we are gone. This allows us to have lunch and not have to try to find something. It is easy to add cheese, tuna, veggies, fruit etc.
- Gluten Free Soup-in-a-Cup. I look for a kind that only needs boiling water added (not a microwave!). Then, if we can’t eat somewhere and we think we are going to starve 🙂 I can pull out a cup of soup and it saves the moment.
- If you are driving, you can cook or reheat a meal while you drive! If your celiac won’t be able to eat anywhere safe … you can plug in this portable ‘oven’ into your car and it cooks as you go. It is 11.5inch x 9.1inch x 5.5inch … so not very big. It amazes me what you can do these days!
I usually bring most of the above ingredients back home, but I usually need to use some of the items. For me, these are the essentials.
If we are staying in a HOTEL;
I read reviews and call the hotel about the ‘free’ breakfast. I have chosen to be happy with whatever we can have at the free breakfast, before we get there. If I can only drink coffee, I am thankful. I’ve tried to tell my son that they can’t cater to everyone’s issues … so find something that he can be thankful for. That was hard when he was little … watching his sister eat a pancake, waffle or bagel. But over time, we both truly are okay and have learnt to enjoy the adventure. Of course, there are times that we feel disappointed and that is absolutely ok and normal. We also get really excited when we don’t have to eat the things that we brought along! When we leave our hotel room to go for the free breakfast, I have a little bag and bring along the following;
- My gluten free loaf of bread.
- Individual peanut butter and jams OR my own little peanut butter jar.
- Toaster Bags. IF the hotel has a normal toaster, then we can toast our bread. If it has the kind that goes around in a circle … I don’t even try as I think it would be high risk for cross contamination. If we can’t toast, then we just eat the bread and peanut butter.
BONUS – IF we can eat anything… we are happy! Sometimes my son and I just don’t feel like asking questions and are happy with our bread. If we choose to ask some questions on how the eggs and bacon were cooked …and it is safe … then I have a very happy celiac teen! I think at that moment in time he feels like his day is complete, when he can pile on the bacon and eggs! The hotel usually has fruit and yogurt, as well. So, I find even if the hotel doesn’t cater to gluten free or celiacs … you can make it work!
If we are staying at a AIR B&B;
I would bring the same things as a hotel. Yet, I would also bring a flat cutting board, as they have a high risk of cross contamination. I just put my flat cutting board in my suitcase and then I can cover any surface in the Air B&B and cut our food safely. I also throw in a roll of parchment paper or aluminum foil in, as it can cover a baking sheet or any cooking surface and make it safe.
What About the Ice Cream Shop?
I grew up with parents who took us for ice cream regularly, in the summer. My parents believed that an ice-cream cone on the beach was an expectable lunch. After all, we were full of calcium! I agree, YET I wondered, how my celiac son would ever be able to have a hard ice cream cone.
After celiac diagnosis, when we went to an ice cream shoppe, all I could see was the cones everywhere and the scoops dipped into the same water over and over. I am pleasantly surprised, that it is not as hard as I thought to have hard ice cream! The only issue, is my son and I don’t really like asking people to do something extra for us … we both find it awkward. BUT we both LOVE ice-cream. So usually one of us gets the gumption to ask some questions when we are on a road trip and see an ice cream shoppe.
First, we ask to read the ingredients on the bucket (ourselves! not trusting that it doesn’t have gluten). Then, we ask if they have any buckets of ice cream that have not been opened, and if they are willing to scoop from the unopened bucket with a clean scoop. It’s amazing, but most people are willing! My boy has never loved cones, and is happy with a cup. In the past I brought gluten free cones, and you could dump your cup of ice cream into a cone and walk along a trendy avenue with!
Going to Backyard BBQ’s
If I know the person well, like my sister who understands cross contamination, I trust her and just eat off her BBQ! You will have to decide on each event, what to do. Here are a few situations that we encounter in the summer, as a celiac family. Hopefully hearing how my family handles different situations, gives you some ideas of your own.
Each year we go to a big family reunion where food is flying. We bring a small BBQ that easily sits on our truck bumper and my husband kindly BBQ’s my son’s and my meat on our own grill with our own BBQ tools. In this setting, there are many people and it is not awkward.
If I was going to a friends house, I would bring the BBQ mat below and cook my son’s and my meat on it. Remember to ask them for separate tongs or a flipper, to make sure the meat is not cross contaminated. The mat leaves grill marks and the meat tastes great. If your child is going to a BBQ, you could have the meat pre-cooked and just get your child to warm it in a microwave in it’s original container.
Last year, we met a group of families by a river for a BBQ. Our family offered to bring our tailgate BBQ and hamburgers/hotdogs and asked everyone else to bring salads. I don’t think anyone knew ‘why’ we wanted to cook .. they were just happy that we had a BBQ on our tailgate!
When possible, host! That allows you to have peace of mind and know the food is safe! Whenever I go to a backyard BBQ, I always bring a salad. This way, I know that my son and I will be able to eat one dish with our meat. Then, we just enjoy!
If we are CAMPING;
Click photo for ideas for camping with a celiac (previous post … so thought I wouldn’t repeat myself!).
Wherever your road takes you this summer, I hope you enjoy your loves and each and every day! Time with the people you love is a gift. The things that I’ve shared with you, that my family does, hopefully will give you a few ideas of your own. Enjoy!
Check out my homemaking gluten free video demo’s. You can watch whenever it works for you and they remain on your dashboard.