2021 has been such an interesting year for us. Blogging fell to the sidelines as we dealt with job changes and new health concerns. However, now we are back and we have been traveling! All the way from Florida to Maine with a side trip to Iowa and Wisconsin. (Yes, we know those aren’t anywhere near each other.) We can’t wait to tell you about some of our great new finds, but today’s entry is about our new travel challenge: eating gluten-free on the road or #WilliamswithoutWheat.
After six months of weird symptoms and misdiagnoses, Anna was identified as having a gluten sensitivity. For those that may not know (because we sure didn’t), a gluten sensitivity includes anything with the gluten protein in it. Usually from wheat, it also includes barley, rye and triticale. Anything including one of these ingredients can cause a variety of symptoms from gastrointestinal distress to fatigue to body aches and pains. Gluten can also be found in some weird items, like Twizzlers and soy sauce. Depending on your sensitivity level, you may also have to watch for items created in facilities that process wheat as well. Rolled oats are often a problematic item in this category.
While not a full allergic reaction or autoimmune disorder like Celiac disease, the side effects of ingesting gluten for someone with a sensitivity are still enough to interrupt plans and make travel difficult. Over the past three months, the Williams family has become novices at checking ingredient labels and googling restaurant menus before stepping inside. Here’s a few of our favorite tips we’ve learned so far:
1.) Don’t just have a good cooler, have a GREAT cooler! Gluten-free pre-packaged items come two ways: 1.) frozen or 2.) shelf stable until opened – and then needing refrigeration. Fortunately, on our major summer trip we were pulling a camper with complete fridge/freezer setup.
But for a second road trip with just the car, a cooler and dry ice had to suffice. This is where a high end cooler becomes invaluable. We invested in the Yeti Roadie because it was the right size to fit in our car along with suitcases and other equipment. Ten pounds of dry ice from your local grocery store and our cooler stayed cold for an entire week at summer camp.
2.) Become a supermarket tourist. Part of the fun of our trips this summer was exploring different grocery stores across the country to see what was in their gluten-free selection. Wegmans, Stop & Shop, Market Basket, Trader Joes, Food Lion, Shop & Save, Hy-Vee – we visited them all!
Our favorite discoveries included some amazing gluten-free Snyder’s of Hanover Honey Mustard pretzels and basically all Schar bread products.
3.) Research your restaurants before you get there. Thanks to sites like Find Me Gluten Free and Yelp, you can find reviews and menu images for almost every restaurant before you walk through the door. You’ll also find honest reviews by other gluten-free people and possibly even a few tips.
Although most restaurants are aware of their gluten-free options and are starting to train their servers, not all restaurants are created equal. A gluten-free burger at Five Guys consists of a meat patty wrapped in a piece of lettuce, while the same item at Red Robin includes a gluten-free bun and fries cooked in a separate kit to limit cross contamination. Some restaurants will also indicate their gluten-free items directly on the menu so you don’t have to ask.
As the Williams family continues to adventure on, we plan to add to our blog tips about great gluten-free finds. Are you dealing with a gluten sensitivity and love to travel? We would love to hear your ideas and solutions as well. Please comment below!