For most of us with food issues, managing them has become second nature. It takes some getting used to, but we put together a routine that involves specific grocery stores and restaurants that we trust. When we travel, all of that goes out the window. We must plan, we must research, and we must cross our fingers and hope for the best that we can stay healthy on the road.
As a health coach, I spend quite a bit of time helping others figure out what to pack when they travel. I practice what I preach, as I currently react to gluten, dairy and eggs, as well as any migraine triggers such as vinegar (salad dressing), soy sauce, citrus and processed meats. When my family travels anywhere, even for a few days, I spend most of my packing time and energy on food. Food for the road or plane, food for the hotel or house where we are staying, and things to keep in my bag for an emergency. (On one trip, I was so wrapped up in packing my food that I forgot to bring my wallet and pajamas.) After doing this in my own life for some time, and helping others as a health coach, you would think I had this down pat.
I guess not. For a recent trip to Boston, I packed a bag with almonds, gluten-free bread and almond butter, fruit, vegetables, crackers and many other snacks. Our first stop was Bob Evans, and I was able to assemble a decent lunch of grilled chicken, hash browns and broccoli. I was feeling quite smug. If I could eke a decent meal out of a Bob Evans, I could go anywhere on this trip and eat well.
Reality hit when we arrived in Syracuse. My daughter found a healthy-looking restaurant that seemed to be perfect: wraps, smoothie bowls, lots of healthy options. As I looked further at the menu, it seemed that all of their meats were soaked in soy sauce. They did not offer plain grilled chicken…everything was “pulled.” I could hear Dr. Sprecher’s voice in my head “If it tastes sweet, it is dessert!”, so no smoothie bowls for me. I sat with a bottle of water while my daughters ate, and my husband and son ate at a nearby sub shop. I was quite hangry and defeated by the time we got back to the hotel, where I ate my soggy bread with some almond butter on it.
The bread was also my breakfast the next morning. I was desperate, DESPERATE for some real food by the time lunch rolled around. Unfortunately, we were on a long stretch of road with only rural exits and infrequent rest stops, which featured McDonald’s and a pizza place. Every time a sign would pop up for a new stop, I would get my hopes up, only to be shut down when I saw the McDonald’s/pizza signs. EVERY SINGLE ONE WAS THE SAME! We managed to find a Wendy’s (the only fast-food restaurant I trust) at about 3:30 p.m. By then, my husband was threatening to send me home on a plane because he couldn’t stand driving with me when I was hungry.
We rented a home with the kitchen, and stocked it immediately upon our arrival. We ate at home most of the time. I used my trusty app “Find Me Gluten Free” when we needed to eat out, but even that was not foolproof. We had a lunch where the waitress said anything on the menu could be adjusted to be gluten-free. “Do you have a gluten-free pizza crust?,” I asked. “No,” she answered. “Do you have a gluten-free bread for the sandwiches?” I asked. “No,” she answered. “Do you have gluten-free pasta?” I asked. “No,” she answered. So they really couldn’t adjust ANYTHING on the menu to be gluten free. I had a salad with no dressing.
The only win came on the last day, when we found a Pizzeria Uno where we had a FABULOUS gluten-free pizza. Down the street was a Ben and Jerry’s with dairy-free ice-cream. My daughter and I finally got to enjoy “vacation” food, and boy, did we enjoy it.
I guess the moral of the story is to never get too complacent when you are on the road. Always, always have a meal on hand or at least something to keep you satiated if you cannot find something to eat. My husband said he expected Boston to be more progressive with its food, and truthfully, I did too. Thank God we had a place with a kitchen. On the way home, I packed a cooler with enough food to get us through the ride home without stopping. And I was SO happy to come home to my kitchen, my Heinen’s, and all of the places I know and trust. There is no place like home!