How to Do Wheat-Free Travel - dummies

By Rusty Gregory, Alan Chasen

Eating wheat-free and traveling can be difficult without planning. At first, traveling to a foreign place and eating different food in unfamiliar restaurants seems like an impossible task. However, planning ahead can make the impossible possible.

Having a plan in place rather than leaving your meals to chance helps you to stay on track with your wheat-free or grain-free diet. Too many people throw in the towel and say, “When in Rome… ,” with the intention of resuming their diets after they return home. Your efforts must be intentional. A healthy wheat-free lifestyle doesn’t just happen.

If you find chain restaurants that work for you, you’ve overcome a huge obstacle of wheat-free travel.

Traveling with a wheat-free mindset

Traveling brings a welcome change of pace, but it can be stressful at the same time. You leave behind daily routines and familiar locales. Many of your everyday conveniences aren’t at your fingertips, so sticking to your wheat-free diet can be difficult.

Vacations tend to promote an attitude of anything’s fair game. People often say, “Well, I’m on vacation and I’ll eat whatever I want,” or, “One of the reasons I’m going to that part of the world is for its fantastic food.” People complain about gaining weight on vacation because they end up blowing their diets. If you’re eating wheat-free, sticking to your guns while on vacation can be particularly challenging.

Business trips, on the other hand, don’t tend to encourage that caution-to-the-wind mindset as much. Most people are more likely to continue their normal eating habits (good or bad) while away on business, so there’s less temptation to go crazy with food choices if you eat well at home.

Going prepared to eat wheat-free

Whether the nature of your travels is business or leisure, you must consider beforehand how you want to address your dietary needs. A lack of preparation is sure to send your well-intended wheat-free diet reeling. Here are some things to think about when considering your food options for traveling:

  • What’s your level of wheat/gluten sensitivity?

  • How important is it to you to stay wheat-free while you’re traveling?

  • What’s your level of commitment to your wheat-free lifestyle?

  • After your diet plan is in place, what are some obstacles that could interfere with it?

  • What’s your plan B if your initial plan fails?

  • How much prep time do you have before leaving on your trip?

  • Are you flying or driving to your destination? What are your food options while on the airplane or in the car?

  • How long will your traveling take?

  • Where’s the nearest health food grocery store where you’re staying?

  • Are you staying in a hotel, with a friend, in a tent or no-frills cabin, or in a rented house or condo?

    • If you’re staying in a hotel, will you have access to a refrigerator?

    • If you’re staying with friends, how accommodating will they be to your dietary needs?

    • Will you have access to a kitchen or other cooking equipment?

  • Will the restaurants available at your destination cater to your wheat-free needs?

  • How long will your trip last?

How you answer these questions depends on your level of wheat sensitivity and your commitment to the wheat-free lifestyle. If you have celiac disease (can’t tolerate gluten) or are highly sensitive to wheat or other grains, you must plan your food intake very carefully.

If you have some flexibility with how you eat, your trip may be a little easier to manage. However, remember that tightening up your diet when you return home is much more difficult than simply sticking to it on your trip.

The following tips include options for easier access to wheat-free foods when you’re traveling. They can help prevent you from getting stuck without a wheat-free option:

  • If you’re traveling on business, identify where your meals will take place before you set sail. Will they be on your own in restaurants or in a hotel, or will they come in the form of buffets and sit-down dinners at a conference?

    If the food is being provided for you, contact the person in charge of food planning to make sure she’s aware of your wheat-free needs. Make sure you have plenty of wheat-free snacks available in case of an emergency.

  • If you’re going camping or staying in a rented condo/house, take your own food. Include whole food items such as eggs, proteins, fruits, and vegetables. You’ll have 100 percent control over what you’re eating. You may want to take your own eating utensils as well if you’re not sure what will be provided for you; that also helps eliminate any chance for cross-contamination.

  • If you’re staying in a hotel, you may also be able to bring a lot of your own food. Call the hotel to determine whether your room will have a refrigerator and/or whether any cooking facilities will be available to you. If a fridge isn’t available, stick to non-refrigerated items.

  • If you’re flying, eat a low-carbohydrate meal prior to take off so that you’re less likely to become hungry during the flight. Pack snacks such as nuts and seeds in your carry-on and stash several small bags of snacks within your larger bag so you can have snacks throughout your trip.

    Depending on your destination, you may be able to bring a small cooler as a carry-on. In that case, you can pack refrigerated items such as fruits, vegetables, and proteins. Check with your airline (and your country of destination if you’re going abroad) for guidelines on packing a carry-on cooler.

  • Before leaving on your trip, search for health food stores located near where you’re staying. You may find that healthy, wheat-free options are just around the corner if you’re in a pinch.

When traveling internationally, be it business or leisure, additional challenges arise. The most glaring one may be a language barrier. Confusion often results when you’re trying to convey your desire for a wheat-free meal to someone who doesn’t speak your language. Finding restaurant employees who can understand you is vital in these circumstances. If possible, seek out these restaurants before you leave on your trip.