How to Avoid Gluten when you are eating while traveling
If you’ve had celiac disease for a while, you already know how to avoid gluten. Accidentally ingesting gluten could be a sign, however, that you’re not being as careful as you should be.
So, what should you do to avoid another accidental ingestion in the future? Here are some simple steps to start implementing now, if you haven’t already:
All Food is NOT Created the Same. Your favorite pre-packaged snack in the United States or Canada may not have the same ingredients in Germany or Mexico. When traveling internationally, NEVER assume the ingredients are the same in different countries, unless the packaged item you are eating is from a company which creates EXCLUSIVELY gluten-free foods.
Always check food labels. First look for the label “certified gluten free”. Products with the certified gluten-free label are safe to eat for celiacs. FDA only allows packaged foods with less than 20 parts per million of gluten to be labeled as certified gluten-free. Here is a reference for helping you understand what to look for on a label. Some sneaky gluten ingredients are: MSG (monosodium glutamate, modified food starch (unless it says corn or potato, assume its gluten) and maltodextrin (a modified food starch)
Keep a gluten free kitchen. You may need to keep separate utensils and cookware to avoid cross-contamination at home. You could also ask your travel companions to eat gluten-free the entire week so as to avoid cross-contamination if you are using a shared kitchen when you are on vacation.
Label food packages. If some of your family members don’t follow a gluten free diet, make sure everything is labeled so they know what they can and cannot touch. Items such as toasters, cutting boards, pots/pans, and other kitchen utensils need to be kept separate at all times. An easy way to do this is to
purchase neon stickers, such as the stickers used for pricing items at yard sales. Pick a color to represent gluten-free food and put that color sticker on all packages which are gluten-free to easily identify the food. I use neon green in my household, which is easily seen against the various food packages. This makes it especially easy for little ones who are gluten-free to find foods they can eat without hassle.
Be proactive. When you go out to eat, be proactive about choosing a restaurant that offers gluten free options and follows precautions against cross contamination.
Speak up. In addition to finding a restaurant with gluten free options, talk to your server and to the manager about how to avoid cross contamination. Ask your server to check with the chef, confirm your food is gluten-free when it arrives. Tell your server you have an allergy (even though we really know we don’t have an allergy, but we need to speak to the unknowing sometimes) and eating gluten-free for you is not a choice, you will be extremely sick if you eat gluten. Make sure to say ‘extremely’ before sick. I noticed this ups the level of concern with your server to get your food order correct.
Walk out. If your server is not concerned, or at any time you don’t feel safe eating at a restaurant, just walk out. It’s not worth the risk to get sick, especially when you are traveling. Don’t worry about the feelings of the people at the restaurant. When the servers and staff of the establishment aren’t concerned about your health, that is not a place you need to be.
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