Traveling Gluten-Free in America: What You Need to Know

A recent diagnosis of Celiac left me reeling with two questions:

  • How would I survive without my favorite foods in the world (bread, bread, more bread, with a side of bread)?, and,
  • How would this affect my travels?

The good news about traveling in America right now is that gluten intolerance is the new sexy food trend. This means most grocery stores and many popular restaurants are upping their gluten-free game, so there are more options available than there were even five years ago.

Here are some tips I learned on the road, gluten-free:

Use Apps

I think most people with Celiac would agree that one of the major inconveniences is how much time it takes to find somewhere to eat. Looking up menus and placing calls can turn what once was:

“Hey, where do you want to eat?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Let’s go to this random and nearby place!”

Into:

“Hey, where do you want to eat?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Hold on for a half hour while I explore the area on my phone.”

Apps can dramatically cut down the amount of Googling you have to do. Some of the most popular include: AllergyEats, Dine Gluten Free, and Find Me Gluten Free. The last one is my personal favorite, because it’s so easy to see others’ reviews and the restaurants’ menus.

Even still, some prep work won’t hurt. If you know what area of town you’ll be visiting during the day, look ahead of time to make sure there are viable options for necessary meals. Then it will be a little less stressful when you’re tired and hungry!

LDprod / Shutterstock.com
LDprod / Shutterstock.com

Tell Your Waiter

If you’re a well-adjusted individual, it might not be a big mark of courage to speak up to your waiter. If you’re petrified about being a bother and hate to seem complicated, this is less fun to do. However, it is important to inform the waiter of your dietary needs before you place your order.

Normally a restaurant that has gluten free options also has a fairly informed staff (though you will get a sense of that from the reviews you read in your browsing). So far, I’ve always had good experiences with my waitresses. Most are very friendly, and some even ask about my level of gluten sensitivity (so that their kitchen staff would know how to prepare the meal).

However, be forewarned–I’ve had quite of few of them talk me into some delicious gluten free desserts!

Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock.com
Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock.com

Carry Alternatives

Sometimes when you need it, there just aren’t options. I find this is most commonly the case when I’m on the run from one place to the next. A normal person might just grab fast food, but when you’re gluten free this becomes more difficult.

That’s why I always carry a supply of protein bars in my purse. I’m a big fan of Luna bars, but NuGo Dark (especially the pretzel flavor) are also amazing. For an emergency, these fill me up long enough to get me where I’m going. They’re also easy to bring along and some (like NuGo) aren’t too crumbly.

Maridav / Shutterstock.com
Maridav / Shutterstock.com