I have posted before about snack foods, and what to look for, and I’ve posted about going out to restaurants and how to figure out what to eat. I’m going to say it all again, with some additional information about what to do when you’re far from home, far from your comfort zone and away from everything you know. What to do when you’re traveling if you have celiac disease, food allergies and specialized diets?

First things first. You’re on vacation, do you give up your “healthy diet” for junk food, do you cheat while you’re way from home, because “chillax man, I’m on vacation!”? Emphatically, NO! You’re away from home, you’re on vacation, or traveling for work, away from your support circle, this is the LAST place or time you want to trigger a flare of your disease that’ll lay you up in bed stuck in your hotel, or end up in the ER with anaphylaxis! This is when you have to be MORE diligent with your health! So you can ENJOY your trip and not have to remember it in horror later!

So, what do you do? Remember, fail to plan, plan to fail. Just like any other day, week or month of your life. You prepare. For myself, I traveled by train to Ottawa. It’s not far from home really, but far enough. I took the first train out in the morning at 6:40 am. I had to take 3 buses to get to the train station because the subways are not running yet when I had to leave. I prepared myself for the trip by shopping around for easy to carry, and healthy foods that I could eat on the train (the snack service had nothing for me to eat…I checked ahead) and while the hotel I was going to has free buffet breakfast, I also couldn’t count on there being anything I could eat there either. And all of this I had determined a couple of weeks before I was going.

I like to travel as light as I possibly can, and didn’t now if there would be a fridge in the room, so didn’t want to bring anything that would spoil. Normally I stay away from packaged foods, but in this case, and for camping or backpacking, I do make an exception. Notice I said “packaged”, NOT “manufactured”! The foods I brought with me were all “real foods”, they just happened to come neatly packaged for convenience. Plus, some hardboiled eggs, which come in their own convenient little packages. I bought some freeze dried tangerines.  Very yummy! I was surprised by the texture, and how they just kind of melted in my mouth, almost like Pop Rocks. Without the fizzle and popping and crackling. I also bought some powdered coconut milk, that doesn’t contain carageenen or other gut damaging gums, although it does have sugar esthers, so it’s not something I would be eating every day, or even on a regular basis, as I really don’t know what it is or how it affects health. Both of those items I found at Winners store believe it or not! Winners (and probably Marshal’s and Homesense and TJ Max in the US) is a great spot for packaged paleo snack foods. Sounds crazy, but go check them out! It’s my favourite spot to get the deelish chocolate covered coconut chips.

I also grabbed myself a couple packages of jk gourmet grain free granolas. I took the fig and apricot with me on this trip, and also bought black cherry and apple for my next trip when I go back to Ottawa for Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations.

These are “paleo” snacks but definitely NOT AIP! ALWAYS read ingredients labels carefully if you are following AIP, have food intolerances or allergies!

What do you do when a snack is just not enough, and you need a full meal, but don’t have a full kitchen in your hotel room, or even a microwave (yes, I use microwaves, and there’s nothing wrong with that) Well, you head out to a restaurant of course!

Near our hotel was a couple of chain restaurants, one of which I already knew had items on the menu that I could eat, and every location I’ve been to has been helpful whenever I ask for substitutions. So don’t be afraid of big restaurant chains. We went to Lone Star my first night there, after a *very* long day (which for me had started at 4:50am!) of shopping for provisions for the year. (my friend lives in Nunavut, and does most of his grocery shopping once a year in Ottawa and then has it shipped up).  I ordered a burger, naked (no bun, though they do have gluten free buns if you want ‘em) with a salad instead of fries. The burger was listed on the menu with BBQ sauce, but when I inquired about the ingredients, we discovered soya sauce, so I asked for no sauce. ALWAYS ask! I sometimes forget to get to the niggly details like what’s in the sauce, and does it come with condiments already on it, or can I do that myself, and I’ve ended up with ketchup and mustard and other things on it that I didn’t want. Always ask! It was a fairly enjoyable meal, considering I hadn’t eaten since about 7am, and it was now about 7pm!

The following morning, I checked out the breakfast buffet and found only some ham and fruit that I could eat, the “omelette” looked suspect, and I couldn’t find the breakfast lady to ask if there was pancake batter in them (which is common in some breakfast restaurants! Always ask!) Ham is usually full of nitrites/nitrates, which I generally try to stay away from as much as possible, but on occasion, you do what you gotta do!

Lunch that day was at St. Hubert’s near Montreal. We used to have St. Hubert’s in Ontario, but they closed them all quite some time ago. I figured they’re pretty much like Swiss Chalet, so I could at least eat the chicken, coleslaw, and a salad. I skipped the dressing on the salad, as they usually have soya oil and canola oil in them (mass produced salad dressings all do, read the labels and always ask what they use in every restaurant, or just go without!). The coleslaw obviously had sugar in it, but not a whole lot, and didn’t have oil in it, so wasn’t too bad.  Again, you do what you gotta do, and overall, do the best you can, while still having an enjoyable vacation and not getting sick.

Dinner was at the Aulde Dubliner, an Irish Pub in the Byward Market. I had a cider braised salmon with a salad and apple and cucumber slaw which was really really tasty! The hostess didn’t seem very knowledgeable about gluten free, but our server was very helpful and the kitchen had no problem making substitutions for me.  Then we headed into Sugar Mountain, where I spied an old poster of Linda Carter as Wonder Woman, and I bought myself some Marvel themed Pez dispensers. I’ve never liked the candies, but I love the dispensers and have quite a large collection. Because I’m a geek!

The next morning the only thing on the breakfast buffet I could eat was the fruit, because they had sausage patties instead of ham, and the suspect omelettes again. Mass produced sausage very often has gluten in it, as well as other offensive ingredients, so I never even bother to ask in restaurants if it’s safe to eat, I just steer clear. Instead I had some of the fruit, and some of the jk Gourmet granola with the coconut milk. Not ideal, but it kept me going until lunch time.

We headed downtown again to the Canadian Museum of Nature, which was a lot of fun, and we learned some new things. I also got to touch a polar bear pelt, which is really a lot softer than I ever imagined! I thought it would be coarse. We also saw some monstrously large bugs that I wouldn’t want to have crawling on me in the night while I tried to sleep! *shudder*

There’s a café in the museum, so we headed n there to see what they offered. The menu sign says to ask staff what’s available to be made gluten free daily, so when I did, the guy behind the counter started to panic, saying “NO I CAN’T! I can’t guarantee anything!” to which I replied, “that’s fine, I didn’t ask for guarantee, I asked what’s available to be made gluten free, like the sign says”. He continued to panic, which didn’t leave me feeling very secure, so we left and kept walking until we found something. We finally saw “The Captain’s Boil” checked the menu on the door, and decided it looked safe. I got a bag of garlic butter mussels with some broccoli, which they boil all in the same bag, and it was a lot of fun to eat. I was stuffed, and quite impressed. I will definitely be going there more often, it is also a chain, with locations all over Ontario, and a few in other provinces as well. 

My train home was over the dinner hour, and again, there’s nothing offered on the train I can eat, so I had snack foods. Not ideal, but …

Other options while you’re away from home is to make sure there is a fridge and a microwave in your room (if they’re not standard in your hotel, just ask, they probably have them and can put them in your room for a small fee). Head to the nearest grocery store and stock up on foods you know you can eat, so you’re not caught staring at the breakfast buffet with your stomach grumbling and nothing you can eat. A lot of grocery stores will have ready made foods, including hardboiled eggs, that you can keep in your room for when you’re feeling peckish. Always read ingredients, and always stick to food that you know aren’t going to make you sick and ruin your holiday. Can you relax just a little bit, and have some ice cream, even though it’s not paleo? Absolutely! IF you don’t have lactose intolerance or problems with whey! The 80/20 rule is just as appropriate on the road as it is at home. You don’t need to feel deprived, but you do need to be healthy, otherwise your vacation will be ruined. Can you have a margarita while you lie by the pool? Sure! Can you have a bit of popcorn while you watch a movie in the park? Yes, unless corn is cross reactive for you. Be smart. Be diligent. Be adventurous. And have a good time! You’re on vacation!

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