On July 3, my grandfather passed away after a six year battle with dementia. Right before the funeral, my aunt called to ask me what I could eat because she was trying to plan a menu for post-funeral dinner.
Typically, I am excited when family members are willing to include something I can have on the menu. But, I am also used to it being my boyfriend and my parents when we’re dining. I told my aunt not to worry; that she should focus on getting something that 15 people would like to eat and I’d take care of myself.
After hanging up the phone, I faced the realization that this would be the first out-of-state trip that I have taken since being diagnosed with food allergies.
On the trip down, breakfast consisted of pure Greek yogurt with organic cherry granola, fresh strawberries and skim milk. For lunch, I ate tuna salad (made by my mother) served on a whole grain bun with apple juice, organic veggie straws and some Raisinets.
My meals while in Florida were made up of salads, grilled fish or turkey burgers. I think the worst meal I had was at some local dive called a diner that my grandmother wanted to eat at for breakfast. It was the type of diner where everything came pre-packaged or was made from a packet. It was also the type of place where it didn’t matter what I ate, I would still get sick, and I did.
Continental breakfast at the hotel was a nightmare; it consisted of cereal with corn syrup, apple sauce with yogurt, yogurt with corn syrup, pre-made eggs, juice that could have had corn syrup and bagels/bread that had no labels. I had to settle on pancakes and I used my own pure maple syrup that my parents had packed.
Food allergies can make traveling a drag.
About.com lists some necessary essentials that you should carry for yourself or someone else when traveling such as:
– Epi-Pen (or other medication prescribed by a doctor)
– Safe foods
– Cooler (if traveling by train or car)
– Contact information for allergist
In my case, I was traveling by car. So, I was able to carry a cooler with foods (such as the yogurt, strawberries, granola, tuna and maple syrup) that I could consume safely. Also, before I left on the trip, I went to the store and purchased snacks I knew I could have and measured out a few serving sizes of each snack.
The article on About.com also talks about etiquette for social events. Heck, it even mentions funerals! It states:
“For a short-notice gathering like a funeral, the best rule of thumb is to assume that food is unsafe. If you must eat at this sort of event, single-ingredient foods like fruit, vegetables, and cheese are the safest bets, assuming they themselves are not allergenic.”
Since the event that I was attending was short notice, I stopped by a grocery store and purchased lunch meat and bread that I could eat. At the dinner after the funeral, I built my own sandwich and nibbled on a fruit/veggie tray my aunt purchased. I stayed away from pre-packaged desserts, condiments and didn’t eat the subs on the party tray.
My best recommendation for anyone traveling (that has food allergies or is with someone who has them) is to RESEARCH. If you know where you are going, look at local or chain restaurants. Look at the menu, study it. Don’t wait until the last minute and hold everyone else up. Also, check with your hotel to see what they include in their continental breakfast – that way you can pack anything you might need.
I have included some related material and articles about traveling. Some of the articles talk about how to handle travel via plane/train. I thought it would be nice because I have not traveled by plane yet with my food allergies so I can not include a personal experience.
Check out Allergy Safe Travel. It was created by a journalist-turned-mom who’s 8-year-old girl has peanut allergies. She tried to compile places such as hotels and restaurants across the nation that cater to food allergies (or at least offer alternatives).