TSA Took My Lunch! Airports and Food Allergies

As I watched TSA swab my jar of peanutbutter, I thought back to the good old days–not the days before Sept 11 when airplane security was less rigorous, but back to the good old days when I didn’t have food allergies and celiac disease.  My biggest concern before becoming An Allergic Foodie was what shoes to pack. Now, I begin hyperventilating while making an airline reservation. What will I eat it? Where will I eat? What if I have a reaction? Should I just stay home with the dog?

I made many ignorant mistakes in my early days of traveling through airports with allergies.  Let me share a few.

Mistake #1. “Surely, I’ll find something in the airport to eat.”

Wrong. I’ve wandered through some of the largest airports in the U.S. and come up with zilch. Too many times I’ve drooled over my husband’s burger or pizza slice while eating a bag of potato chips and an overripe banana. On occasion I’ve hit the jackpot and found a restaurant with a menu I can eat off, but this is like finding a four-leaf clover in a field of dandelions.

Now I always carry a lunchbox with me and keep it by my side as if it’s full of diamonds. The plastic salad bowls with built-in ice packs are great for chicken salad and quinoa salad. I fill snack-sized bags with carrots, sliced peppers, and apple slices to replace the standard airplane pretzels.

Snacks for the airplane

Mistake #2:  “Peanutbutter is not a liquid.”

My husband travels every week for business and he even thought peanutbutter wouldn’t count as a liquid.  But it did.  Because it was the only protein I had with me, we allowed TSA to swab a spoonful. Now I know that if  I want to take peanutbutter, or applesauce, or yogurt, it must be under 3.4 ounces and placed in a plastic bag.

Mistake #3: “I’m starving! I’ll take a chance.”

It was midnight and there was only one restaurant open. Having to use sign language wasn’t making me feel too confident that the waiter understood “no dairy, no soy, no wheat.”  In retrospect, being hungry for another few hours would have been better than what happened next.

Mistake #4: “It’s a short trip; I’ll eat when I get there.”

Yeah, how many of your short trips have turned into 12-hour ordeals? And being irritable from low blood sugar and a grumbling stomach does not help one negotiate with the ticket agent. Don’t just bring one ham sandwich on gluten-free bread–bring two.  Statistically, you can pretty  much count on a flight being delayed.

United Snackpack

Snackpack from United Airlines: The only food An Allergic Foodie could eat was the hummus

Mistake #5:  “I ordered a special meal.”

We were going to Italy and I ordered a gluten-free/lactose-free meal, thinking there’d be something I could eat. What I didn’t know is that airlines can only put one code in for a meal: GFML for gluten-free meal and NLML for non-lactose meal.  There may have been a vegan option too, but those always scare me because I’m allergic to tofu (soy).

Somehow I got neither meal–maybe the two codes cancelled each other out? The flight attendants felt horrible and kept bringing me apples and bananas.  Fortunately, I had frozen some allergy-free turkey and ham with me that I nibbled on throughout the long flight. Beware:  You’ll have to throw away any food you take with you when you enter another country so eat it before you get off the plane.

Mistake #6: “Sure, I’ll have a second glass of wine.”

Hey, I got upgraded and the wine was free. I just couldn’t eat any of the foods in the snack pack. Actually the hummus was allergen-free for me, but my seat mate gave me the evil eye when I tried squirting it into my mouth. Eating wine on an empty stomach is never a good idea.

I’ve been traveling for six years now with food restrictions and it has gotten easier. Airports are offering healthier options including gluten-free menus, though I’m not sure how confident I am about the service folks being aware of  cross-contamination issues. Allergy-friendly snacks have started appearing in the convenience stores, too.

At the recent Food Allergy Research and Education conference, I had the opportunity to hear Kim Koeller of  Allergy Free Passport, share some tips for airline travel, staying in hotels and dining out with dietary restrictions.  She says, “There are three keys to safe travel and dining out: education, communication, and preparation.”

To learn more about traveling safely with celiac disease and food allergies, visit Kim’s website: Allergy Free Passport and check out her popular series “Let’s Eat Out Around the World Gluten and Allergy Free.”

TSA Took My Lunch! Airports and Food Allergies first appeared on Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Sorry, Took a Few Sick Days

I came back from the 2014 Food Allergy and Research Conference armed with so many blog topics. I even started a post on the airplane ride home. I just couldn’t wait to share all the information from the presentations and the new products and resources from the vendors.

Then I got sick.

But not from food! Just a summer cold. But one that knocked me off my feet for three days. Have you noticed since food allergies/celiac disease that your autoimmune system doesn’t fight those germs off the way it used to?

It’s so hard to find cold medicine without gluten, dairy, egg, soy and corn, too.

Because I strive to be a helpful blogger and not just a whiner, here are two helpful websites for allergy-friendly medicine:

Gluten Free Drugs

Corn Free Drugs

The problem I have, like many of you reading this, is I have other allergies–soy, dairy, and egg–too. Couldn’t find lists for those; if you know of any, add them to the comments below.  I have to read the tiny labels on the back of the bottles–and when your head’s pounding like a Congo drum reading 4-pt type is impossible. The clerk at Natural Grocers was helpful at first, but then she kept backing away every time I sneezed. 

I came home with some weird sounding “meds” with even weirder sounding ingredients. I was so loopy from my cold that I drove into the garage door (don’t tell my husband). Guess I can get “brain fog” without ingesting gluten.

Anyway, the weird herbal stuff upset my stomach. So I sipped my Ginger tea with honey and that seemed to help.

And I slept and slept and slept. In between napping, I caught up on Orange Is the New Black, so my time wasn’t completely wasted. I can now admit I love Orange Is the New Black because Katie Couric says it’s one of her favorite shows, too.

My mom kept telling me to eat chicken soup–but our refrigerator was empty because I’d been at a conference all weekend! Where’s Mom when you need her? In Vermont, thousands of miles away.

I’m feeling much better today. So don’t give up on me–I’ll be sharing all that great info in the days to come.

I just needed a few sick days. Plus, as my husband likes to remind me, a few days off isn’t going to impact my paycheck. What a funny guy.

Sorry, Took a Few Sick Days first appeared on Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

 

The Allergic Foodie Rap

The Allergic Food Rap

 

See those  girls at the bar banning gluten to look fit?

They’ve got no clue how rye and wheat make a celiac sick.

They sip their Skinny Girl martinis and Omission beer,

Feeling like Gwyneth Paltrow when it was cool to be her.

Even Dr. Oz can’t decide if gluten-free is good or bad,

But smart chefs sure know how to profit on a fad.

Every corner restaurant got wheat-free spaghetti,

Even the waiters say no bread’s made them skinny.

“Well good for you,” An Allergic Foodie wanna say,

“I haven’t lost a pound since eating this way.”

Neither can the girl eat dairy, corn and soy–all make her sick.

Ah, yes dude, take out your pen and pad–this isn’t a trick.

This girl’s diet has nothing to do with the media craze,

For most, this gluten-free thing is just another phase.

But after the gluten-free menus are long gone,

A.F.’s need for A.F. food will still be goin’ strong.

So treat her right–don’t give that girl food without checking

That nothing she eats will be a reaction in the making.

Your tip will reflect the attention you’ve given,

To make sure that girl leaves your restaurant livin’.

But see those girls at the bar skippin’ the crackers?

They don’t get how for celiacs gluten-free matters.

At the end a meal, celiacs will pass on the cake.

But NOT  the girls at the bar cuz their GF diets are fake.

(C) Amy E. Tracy

The Allergic Foodie Rap originally appeared on Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Cookies from Goldilocks Goodies

An Allergic Foodie Finds a “Just Right” Cookie

It’s not often an allergic foodie gets to eat a treat. Not often at all.

If I’m eating out, a restaurant may offer me sorbet–please no mango or pineapple or I’ll break out in hives–or a bowl of berries. A dessert cup of berries costs more than a pint at the store, so I usually smile sweetly and say, “I’m too full for dessert.”

I am never too full for dessert.

So imagine my happiness when these allergy-friendly cookies arrived on my doorstep!

A Sweet Treat for an Allergic Foodie

They arrived two weeks before my birthday, so I decided to save them for a birthday treat.

This was hard. Really, really hard.

But here’s the thing. Not only do I have celiac disease and allergies to dairy, soy, and corn, I also cannot eat vanilla, nutmeg and guar gum. Oh and yeast seems to be a problem lately. (Actually, yeast has been a problem for a long time, but I have a tiny bit of a problem with denial.)  All these allergens are common in gluten-free and “allergy-friendly” processed baked goods.

For an allergic foodie, the words “No Top 8” does not mean the cookies are “Allergy Friendly.”

Goldilocks Goodies Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip cookies have FIVE ingredients. FIVE!  I didn’t have to scan the package for words like “maltodextrin” or “food starch.”  (Do note, however, if you have a peanut allergy, these aren’t for you.)

So I thought, how can a cookie stay together and taste good with just five ingredients?

I ate one. Okay I ate them all–it was my birthday. OMG, these are so gooooood.  I’m a Vermont girl, so I love the maple syrup flavor. The Himalayan sea salt gives the cookies a grown-up taste. Of course, I don’t know any kids who wouldn’t like them, too.

Lately, my husband has been into eating chocolate bars with almonds and sea salt while I drool, so I am really thrilled to now have something I can moan over and not give him a bite (we have issues; see my last post).

Besides having awesome cookies and other baked goods like Whoopie Pies, Goldilocks Goodies is a really cool small company. Emily Robins, the chief baker and founder, comes from a long line of bakers including her grandmother who singlehandedly rolled out nine pie crusts during harvest season to bake pies for the farm hands. Wow.

A Sweet Treat

Founder and Chief Chef of Goldilocks Goodies Emily Robins (right) with her mother

Emily went gluten free six years ago to help with the symptoms associated with Lyme Disease (celiac disease also runs in the family).  While going gluten free helped her feel better, she couldn’t find a cookie that wasn’t “grainy, too processed, and full of artificial ingredients.”  Like Goldilocks, Emily searched and searched for a cookie that was “just right.” Emily and I have a lot in common.

Discouraged, Emily began baking her own gluten-free cookies. She says, “My passion for baking was started because of my love of eating.”  Did I mention Emily and I have a lot in common?

As an allergic foodie, I believe it’s important for those of us with food restrictions to support the small companies like this one who are dedicated to making food we can eat safely. Without them, there’d be no cookies for an allergic foodie, and that would be sad. Really, really sad.

You can read all about Goldilocks Goodies here. The business is in Lancaster County,  PA but baked goods–did I mention they have WHOOPIE PIES?–can also be found in Virginia, Maryland and the DC area.  Some baked goods can be ordered online, too.

An Allergic Foodie Finds a “Just Right” Cookie originally appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Why He'll Never Suggest Lettuce for Lunch Again

Why He’ll Never Suggest Lettuce for Lunch Again

We’d been driving for a day and a half and were only halfway home. The high winds across the Kansas plains and the oversized trucks creeping into our lane forced my husband to keep a hands-of-steel grip on the wheel while I kept eyeing the sky for a tornado.

An Allergic Foodie and her husband don't always agree on where to eat

We were a little on edge.

And we were hungry.

When we finally decided to stop for lunch, we began quarreling. For us, quarreling involves a lot of silence.

Husband-Who-Can-Eat-Everything wanted to stop at Taco John’s. With my soy, dairy, gluten, and corn allergies, I didn’t even want to breathe the air in Taco John’s.

Besides, Husband-Who-Can-Eat-Everything knew I wasn’t looking forward to the three-day-old tuna and garbanzo beans I’d packed for myself. He knew this because I kept opening all the apps on my iPhone–Allergy Eats, Find Me Gluten Free, YoDish–and reading the reviews.

Still, he said, “Taco John’s has salad. Did you bring salad dressing?”

“Yay, more salad,” I said.

“The lettuce looked fresh last time.”

“How would you like a bowl of lettuce for lunch?”

Silence.

I pulled up Taco John’s list of allergens on my iPhone. Just about everything has milk, wheat and/or soy.

Except maybe the lettuce.

“I just thought you ‘d want to order something while I ate,” he said.

“Lettuce?”

More silence.

Food Allergies and relationships are a difficult journey

A few exits later, my husband of 20+ years tried to explain how he thought he was being thoughtful. Almost six weeks ago, on the drive out, he’d gotten Taco John’s to-go and taken it to Subway; a food-allergy app had given the Subway salad bar a good review.

While standing in the salad line, I watched the worker make pizza with gloves, then dip the same gloved hands into the salad ingredients. Even if he changed gloves, the tomatoes and lettuce and cucumbers were already contaminated with wheat.

I passed on the salad. My husband ate his tacos and I ate my fruit and almond-milk yogurt in one of the Subway booths.

It was a little weird. But if  an employee had said anything, they’d get an earful about how anyone with celiac or a gluten intolerance would get sick from Subway’s unsafe practices.

So this time around, my husband didn’t want me to feel uncomfortable by eating outside food in a Taco John’s booth. That’s how he was being considerate. To me, suggesting we go to a grocery store and picking up food we both could eat would be considerate. But that’s just me.

Here’s the thing: I GET IT!  My food allergies are not only a pain in the butt for me– but for him, too!

After a long difficult drive, he wanted tacos. He didn’t want to have to drive around looking for a grocery store or a safe place for me to eat–and allergy-friendly options are limited in Colby, Kansas.

Still, if he’d just said, “I’m sorry you can’t eat tacos or burritos or nachos, but do you mind if we stop at Taco John’s?” I would have been okay with it. Sometimes I just want confirmation from my husband and others that they get how food restrictions make life’s road bumpy.

Just don’t tell me to eat lettuce for lunch.

Why He’ll Never Suggest Lettuce for Lunch Again first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

Chocolate! Allergy Friendly! FREE!

If that headline got your attention, you’re probably a chocoholic like I am.

Did you also say this mantra when being tested for food allergies? Please don’t let me be allergic to chocolate. Please don’t let me be allergic to chocolate. Please don’t let me be allergic to chocolate.

Ha! You ARE a chocoholic like me!

Fortunately, to my great relief, I am NOT allergic to chocolate!

Unfortunately, I AM allergic to dairy, eggs, soy, gluten, corn and vanilla–all ingredients that are typically found in most chocolate.

For a long time, I was sad. Very, very sad. Especially during Valentines Day and my birthday. And maybe also Thanksgiving and Easter . . . and all the days in between.

But now I’ve recently discovered Amanda’s Own Confections. Actually they discovered me (thank you! thank you!), and it just so happens the month of April is both my celiac college son’s and my birthday month. Yes, I know the lemon in the sunglasses looks way too young to have a kid in college (or perhaps that’s why An Allergic Foodie uses a lemon for a Gravatar! LOL!).

Chocolate Bar Giveaway. Enter to win by Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 5 PM EST

Chocolate Bar Giveaway.
Enter to win by Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 5 PM EST

Anyway, back to chocolate. To celebrate our birthdays,  Amanda’s Own Confections wants to give one lucky person a present–a box of chocolate bars! That’s right! An entire box. TWELVE BARS OF GLORIOUS CHOCOLATE.

These chocolate bars make me close my eyes and moan–maybe that’s too much info?–and there are only three ingredients: Cane sugar, unsweetened chocolate, cocoa butter. So this makes them free of dairy, nuts, gluten, eggs, sesame, and fish/shellfish. (Why any fish would be in any chocolate is incomprehensible, but I’m told it happens.)

Here’s what you need to do to enter (you only have to do one, but if you do all I will do a happy dance and post it on You Tube*).

  • Write a comment below telling me how much you love chocolate (and my blog, of course).
  • Follow @anallergicfoodie on Instagram and like one of the pictures of Amanda’s chocolate bars. I’ll be posting several.
  • Follow me on Twitter–that 2,000 rule is killing me!–and tweet this blog post  with hashtag #amandasown
  • Like my Facebook Page and give a thumb’s up to one of my posts mentioning Amanda’s Own Confections.
  • Pin this blog post on Pinterest.

The contest will end on Tuesday, April 22, 8 PM EST. Must live in the U.S. to enter.

Ready. Set. Go!

I hope you win!

*I won’t really do a happy dance on You Tube because my sons, and maybe my husband, would be mortified.

Chocolate! Allergy Friendly! Free! first appeared at Adventures of An Allergic Foodie.

Doesn't always pay to be polite when you have food allergies

The Evolution of An Allergic Foodie

Lady in food counter overhears An Allergic Foodie regurgitate her litany of allergies and says: I would just die if I couldn’t eat cheese!

An Allergic Foodie smiles politely because her mother taught her if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.

Waitress at upscale restaurant: How do you not eat bread and butter?  (She may have really been thinking, You look like you eat a lot of bread and butter.)

An Allergic Foodie smiles politely because her mother taught her if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.

Cafeteria server during son’s college tour: Lady, you sure are picky.

An Allergic Foodie smiles politely so as not to embarrass teenage son and because she taught him if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.

Waitress at Japanese Restaurant: You can eat the tofu (I’d just told her I was allergic to soy).

An Allergic Foodie smiles, stands up, loudly tells the waitress that tofu is soy, tells the manager he needs to train his staff, then stomps out of the restaurant because her mother never had to cope with food allergies or celiac disease.

If you don’t have anything nice to say, LEAVE THE RESTAURANT.

The Evolution of An Allergic Foodie first appeared at Adventures of An Allergic Foodie.