Brandy Morgan is a former software engineer turned mom who is a culture seeker, food lover, thrill finder, and travel buff. When her oldest son was diagnosed with a chronic allergic/immune condition called eosinophilic esophagitis, her well-traveled family had to learn to adapt their escapades to be gluten-free for his safety. Through travel, Brandy strives to show her children that “different” can be beautiful, and aims to inspire others living gluten-free to take that leap to explore. Brandy writes from Texas, when not accompanying the family on one of their worldwide adventures. You can read more on her blog Kid Allergy Travel.
Whereas the ‘before you go’ process of gluten-free travel with kids may be characterized by planning, the key to ‘on the road’ success is preparation. Sometimes, this phase of your gluten-free journey can present unexpected surprises. But, if you approach this part of your gluten-free family holiday with an optimistic spirit of adventure, you’ll quickly find yourself giving way to a more relaxed attitude that will filter down to your kids. The trick is to be over-prepared while on the road. Here are 7 golden rules to make gluten-free travel for kids a more positive experience all around.
When you arrive at your destination, find the nearest grocery store. Think beyond prepackaged processed foods like gluten-free crackers or bread. Naturally gluten-free foods like fresh fruits, cheeses, vegetables, and unseasoned meats will be easier to find if you’re in a rural area or a remote village. And, the market doesn’t have to be an organic health food store or ginormous supermarket like the one you might have at home. Small-scale operations can work just fine and will provide you enough to keep you going when you need it.
Always carry snacks
Remember all that investigative reporting you went through to find dining options that had a good track record for serving safe meals to those who live the gluten-free lifestyle? Don’t necessarily believe it will ring true when you and your gluten-free kids turn up. Allergen knowledgeable staff can change, food supplies that were originally gluten-free can be subbed, gluten-free ingredients can run out, or maybe you didn’t realize the only thing available gluten-free was a $89 rack of lamb that your toddler refuses to touch. Be prepared. After a long day of sightseeing or adjusting to a time change, your children will be less able to wait for nourishment and being able to provide a quick fix will make it easier for all involved.
Get a second opinion
When your child gets served his gluten-free plate make sure to do three things before eating:
1. Question the person who delivers your child’s meal to get a verbal confirmation that the plate is indeed gluten-free and free of cross-contamination. Don’t be afraid to reiterate the word allergy or “autoimmune disease” as this sometimes helps restaurant personnel take the situation more seriously.
2. Use your best judgment to feel out your comfort level with the staff and their understanding of preparing a safe meal for your child.
3. If you’re still feeling unsure and uneasy, use your Nima Gluten Sensor to check a portion of your meal.
There will be moments when your gluten-free child will not be able to participate in the dining experience no matter how methodically you’re prepared for his or her safety. Don’t give in to the temptation to overcompensate with sweets or unhealthy treats because of feelings of guilt. Fear of missing out shouldn’t control your actions while at home nor while on vacation.
In case your child does get glutened, make sure that you carry all necessary medications like EpiPen, kid-sized prescription proton pump inhibitors, and probiotics. Plus, make sure that your plans are flexible enough to work around a day or two of down-time to regain any losses in health.
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