Following a gluten-free diet can make it hard to eat on the road. And no matter the time of year, we always seem to find ourselves on the road again. Gluten-free travel will require a little extra planning, packing, and precision.
The Do’s and Don’ts for Gluten Free Travel
Pack Snacks Ahead of Time for Gluten Free Travel
- Your favorite fruit with nuts or nut butter
- Trader Joe’s dried cheese puffs
- Trail mix with your pick of dried fruit, nuts, and chocolate morsels
- Pre-popped popcorn
- Roasted fava beans or edamame
- Roasted chickpeas
- Fruit and nut bars
Some convenience stores have more gluten-free options than others. For example at WaWa you can order a customized omelet bowl that can be made gluten-free. Wawa also has freshly cut fruit, boiled eggs, and carrots with hummus in their refrigerated case. But preventing cross-contamination may not be guaranteed.
Carefully Choose Snacks Along the Way for Gluten Free Travel
Check the refrigerated section for individual yogurts. Remember to check the label for the sugar content! A good goal is to pick a yogurt with less than 10g of sugar per serving. Try reading the ingredient label to pick out sources of added sugar. If an ingredient ends in an “-ose”, it is a sugar. For example, sucrose, fructose, sucralose, and dextrose are all sugars.
Gluten-free protein bars
A gluten-free protein bar can keep you full if you don’t have time to stop for a meal right away. Many gluten-free bars on the market now have “Gluten-Free” printed on the front of their package. So they try to make it easier for the customer. Try to select a bar that is balanced with fat, protein, carbohydrate, and at least 3 grams of fiber.
Be a Label Detective
Fresh food can be hard to come by on the highway. You’re more likely to find 24-hour convenient stores to be your main snack stop. Unfortunately, most of the food that you will find at these stops are processed and packaged and have wheat as the main ingredient. If convenience stores are your main source of quick-nourishment, you can use your food label detective skills to get through this trip gluten-free!
For example, here are a few examples of snack items that can be found in convenience stores. Let’s look to see if they are gluten-free…
This snack contains gluten! The first ingredient is wheat flour. This definitely would not be a snack you would want if you have to eat gluten-free. I also found rye flour listed as an ingredient, which also contains gluten.
Don’t forget the Allergen List!
You can double-check your detective skills by checking the allergen list. The allergen list is usually in bold type and under the nutrition facts. This snack has wheat ingredients!
This snack doesn’t have wheat, rye or barley in the ingredient list, and it says gluten-free on the allergen list. This is a safe gluten-free choice!
Gluten free travel reading tips
Also, look for other terms for wheat:
Don’t Forget About Hidden Sources of Gluten
Oats and oats products
Oats naturally do not contain gluten. But a lot of oats products can be cross-contaminated with gluten when they are harvested. It is safer to pick oats products that are clearly marked gluten-free. This will mean that the oats were harvested and processed in facilities specially designed to prevent gluten cross-contamination.
Malted Barley Extract
Malted barley extract is an ingredient popping up in a lot of granola bars, cereals, and candies. It is used in small amounts to add flavor to products. Foods that have malted barley extract and also claim to be gluten-free can be safe to eat for someone who has Celiac Disease. These products with the gluten-free claim have been tested to contain 20 parts per million or less of gluten, which is a safe level to eat if you have Celiac Disease.
However, if the item contains malted barley extract and is not labeled gluten-free it may contain more than the safe 20 parts per million of gluten. You would want to pick a different snack.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask Your Server Questions at Restaurants
Restaurants want returning customers. So they are willing to go the extra mile to make sure you have a satisfying meal. A lot of restaurants nowadays have separate gluten-free menus, and you just have to ask for them! You can also ask to substitute bread on a sandwich for a corn tortilla, or lettuce wrap, or get a side of fruit or potatoes in place of a dinner roll.
Are you planning to travel soon? Give our trips a try, post and tag us on social media showing us where you went!
Dietitian Allie works with clients on gluten-free cooking, sports nutrition, diabetes, kidney disease, and helping her clients grocery shop on a budget.