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.

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.

The Masters and Pimento Cheese Sandwiches

I went to the Tuesday practice round of the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, GA this week.  It was exciting to see a few of the players I’ve been watching on TV for years as well as the notable and beautiful golf course.

And I’d read and heard so much about the food.

You had to know this would be about the food and not the golf, right?

Concessions at The Masters

Augusta National is famous for its $1.50 egg salad sandwiches and pimento cheese sandwiches served at the tournament. (I wonder if they charge so little so you won’t feel so bad about forking over $100 for a golf shirt later on?).  Having celiac disease and being allergic to dairy, I knew I wouldn’t get to eat either of these sandwiches and I bought along my own gluten-free ham sandwich.

Here’s the thing that surprised me though: The only healthful and non-wheat food choices were bananas and fruit cups (and I couldn’t even eat the fruit cups because they contained pineapple!).  The one food I could eat was a trusty bag of Cape Cod potato chips with this impressive packaging.

The only food an allergic foodie could eat at The Masters

For Eaters of Everything, there were mini moon pies, cookie sandwiches with Georgia peach ice cream in the center, caramel popcorn, and lots and lots of candy.

Hard to eat at The Masters if you have celiac disease and/or food allergies

Yup, it was all junk food. (I’d use another word but my  husband is afraid we’ll be banned from future tournaments if I do.)

Doesn’t it seem odd that an athletic event only served junk? Even baseball and football stadiums are offering gluten-free hotdogs and buns and salads these days.

DSC00173

I’m guessing at Augusta National, it’s all about tradition. People expect the pimento cheese sandwich and the mini moon pies. I get it.

But at an event that requires miles of walking and hours of standing, most of the spectators could probably use a little protein pick-me-up instead of a sugar rush.

Here’s the other thing that surprised me: I didn’t feel like I was missing out–even when my husband said the egg salad was really good. The old me would have been sad and maybe a little angry that she didn’t get to taste it. The new me really could care less.

Somewhere along the way, a switch has flipped.

I’m okay with “missing out,” especially when I know the food will make me sick. Really, really sick.

This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have liked something besides a bag of chips.

After being a men-only golf club for 80 years, Augusta National invited two women to join, so maybe, just maybe, adding a salad with grilled chicken to the concessions isn’t too far off.

The Masters and Pimento Cheese Sandwiches first appeared at Adventures of an Allergic Foodie.

 

Not Your Average Airport Food: Hyatt in Orlando

I’m looking down from my hotel room in the Hyatt Regency, Orlando, Florida, watching people check in for their flights. I’ve never stayed in a hotel that’s actually inside of an airport, and I can’t help thinking about that Tom Hanks movie (The Terminal) where, because of immigration issues, he becomes stuck in the airport for months. When the poor guy runs out of money, he starts eating serving-sized ketchup and mustard between Saltines and bathes and shaves in the airport restrooms.

The only similarity to my staying here and the movie is that I haven’t left the hotel/airport since arrival. Except for when my husband and I got a rental car and drove it around the block to the hotel parking garage. (We didn’t know the hotel lobby was a five-minute walk from our gate. Guess we just wanted to pay the overnight parking fee.)

Hyatt, Orlando Florida

Unlike the character in the movie, my meals have been outstanding–and you know an allergic foodie rarely dishes out praise for hotel food.

Lucky for me, our hotel room is on the same floor as Hemisphere Steak and Seafood Restaurant. Lucky because when we walked to our room yesterday, I caught a glimpse of the menu with many “GF”s next to entrees. Always a good sign!

A few hours later, after my husband went off to a dinner meeting, I dined alone at Hemisphere. Of course, I am never really alone when I have Instagram, Twitter, and texting. Here’s the photo of my meal and view I posted to Instagram.

Hemisphere Restaurant in Orlando Airport

A moist Scottish salmon on lentils with a touch of cilantro. Delish. And the microgreens with beets and balsamic dressing that I inhaled before I could take a photo was wonderful, too.

Before I ordered, the pleasant chef came out to  discuss my allergies–kudos!!!–and though the kitchen staff got a little confused about the salad’s goat cheese (I can eat goat cheese but not cow cheese), I appreciated them leaving all cheese off because they wanted me to be safe. Besides, I took the goat cheese back to my room for an after-drinking apple and cheese snack.

When I travel, I ALWAYS, ALWAYS take along a package of Main Street gluten-free instant oatmeal for breakfast.  No need this time–this Hyatt actually has gluten-free muffins! Honestly, these are the best GF muffins I’ve tasted.

GF Muffins at Hyatt

What’s wrong with this picture? Yes, the GF muffins are served next to the gluten-laced muffins. However, the server went back to the kitchen to get me non-contaminated ones–along with a few extras for a midday snack.

As I waddled out of the restaurant, I asked the hostess if all Hyatt Hotels were so allergy-friendly. I didn’t mention that I ‘d stayed at a few in the past that weren’t.

She mentioned Hyatt’s new global initiative: “Food. Thoughtfully Sourced. Carefully Served.”

Kudos to Hyatt.

Marriott: I hope you are reading this!!! I have NEVER EVER ate breakfast at a Marriott, unless you count a brown banana and a handful of walnuts breakfast.

The pleasant hostess also mentioned the kitchen has rice and soy milk available for those of us with dairy allergies. Now it would have been nice to know this when I said I had a dairy allergy.  I also had to ask a lot of questions about the buffet line food. Are the potatoes cooked in butter? What’s in the sausage? Is the bacon cooked on the same grill as the pancakes?

If Hyatt truly wants to “carefully serve,” I suggest management comes up with an Allergy Menu including at least the top 8 allergens. While the staff today was top notch, a little more training could make them exceptional.

Still, if I had to be stuck in an airport for months, this is definitely the airport (and hotel) I’d want to be stuck in.

Not Your Average Airport Food originally appeared at Adventures of An Allergic Foodie.

An Allergic Foodie: What Restaurants Did Wrong in 2013

What Restaurants Did Wrong in 2013

An Allergic Foodie’s Top-Ten List

Whittling down my worst restaurant experiences in 2013 wasn’t easy. This says a lot about the restaurant industry not meeting the needs of those of us who require extra help ordering off a menu and some special food prep back in the kitchen.  Here’s hoping 2014 will bring more attentiveness from wait staff, restaurant owners and managers, and chefs!

Drumroll, please . . . 

10.  Halfway through eating our gluten-free meals, the waiter says to my son and me, “The stewed peaches were cooked with flour—that’s why we served them on the side.”   —Urban Grub, Nashville, TN

9.  After clearly explaining my allergies—no gluten, dairy, soy, corn—the waitress returns to the table and says, “Is it okay to cook in butter?” (To be fair, the chef did come to my table later to confirm my allergies.)  —Craftwood Inn, Manitou Springs, CO

8.  The “gluten-free” oysters are delivered with saltines on top. When I explain I cannot have any wheat touching any food due to extreme sensitivity, the waitress says, “We’ll just take them off then.” (The oysters came back from the kitchen way too fast so I didn’t eat them.) The Famous, Colorado Springs, CO

An Allergic Foodie: What Restaurants Did Wrong in 2013

 7.  I order a salad sans the cheese, croutons and candied walnuts and ask to substitute veggies for all the ingredients I can’t eat. I am charged extra for the veggies. –Every Panera Bread I’ve eaten in and most chain restaurants

6.  I order an Iced Coffee at McDonald’s. I explain I have allergies and therefore do not want cream or flavoring. The cashier charges me for an Iced Latte. I ask her to charge me for a regular coffee because that is what I get–a regular coffee with ice. The manager says they can’t do that. –-A McDonald’s somewhere on the highway between Kansas and Georgia

5.  After ordering a dairy-free sauce, I rave over the delicious gluten-free pasta and veggies. “It’s the cream that makes it taste good,” says the waiter.Eden Inn, Positano, Italy (This really happened in 2012, but it still haunts me!)

4.  The waitress, who says she has extensive allergies herself, arrives with my salad topped with cheese. I tell her the kitchen made a mistake and send it back. She leaves, turns back, and says, “Well, the dressing has cheese in it, too. Does that mean you don’t want the dressing?” Walter’s Bistro, Colorado Springs, CO

3.  Finding ordering difficult and not confident in the waiter’s understanding, I ask to speak to the chef. I am told the chef is too busy to leave the kitchen. Too many restaurants to list

Restaurants and Food Allergies

2.   During the last bite of my gluten-free and diary-free salad, I bite into a big chunk of blue cheese.  Seasons 52, Kansas City, MO

 1.  Watching a basketball game with my husband at a local sports bar, I’m excited when the bartender hands me a large gluten-free menu. I ask about the first item on the menu: Buffalo chicken wings. “Oh, you don’t want those,” she says. “They’re cooked with all the other fried foods.”  Then why are they on the gluten-free menu? “Some people just like to think they’re eating gluten-free.” Flatirons American Bar and Grill, Colorado Springs, CO

Related Posts from An Allergic Foodie

Working Together to Avoid an Allergic Reaction

Get Rid of Tipping? Those with Food Allergies Will Suffer

Food Allergies: Don’t Let Your Guard Down

What Restaurants Did Wrong in 2013: An Allergic Foodie’s Top-Ten List originally appeared at www.adventruresofanallergicfoodie.com.

Easy Holiday Chicken Salad

Easy Holiday Chicken Salad

My gluten-free college boy is home!  I’d planned on making him a smorgasbord of gluten-free meals, which he doesn’t get in school, but I haven’t.  It’s unseasonably warm here in Colorado, warm enough for walking under blue skies in Garden of the Gods.

Garden of Gods in Colorado Springs

Who can blame me, right?

But today I decided to make something for lunch other than gluten-free microwaved burritos.  Chicken Salad. Which I named Easy Holiday Chicken Salad because it has green apples and red dried cranberries, and it takes minutes to prepare.

An Allergic Foodie’s Easy Holiday Chicken Salad

2-3 cups chopped chicken (I’m lazy, so I chopped up Costco‘s bagged rotisserie chicken)

1 cup Earth Balance Mindful Mayo (use more or less depending on how much mayo you like)

2 small peeled and chopped organic Granny Smith apples

1 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans. If you’re allergic to nuts, use celery)

1 cup allergy-free dried cranberries

I didn’t use any seasoning because the rotisserie chicken already had a lot of flavor.

Toss, chill, and serve.

I ate my chicken salad on a bed of baby greens. Steve ate his on a gluten-free baguette.

Holiday Chicken Salad

Then we went for a walk.

Gluten and Allergy Friendly Bakery and Cafe

An Allergic Foodie’s Pick: New Day Gluten Free in Ellisville, MO

I just couldn’t eat another order of Chick-Fil-A French fries and fruit bowl. Don’t get me wrong–this allergic foodie is thrilled to get any fast food while on the road, but after two days in the car, I was craving something more.

Thank goodness for gluten-free/allergy-free iPhone apps!  I searched a few for the of St. Louis area.  One cafe/bakery kept popping up: New Day Gluten Free.  With a little whining and a lot of begging, I convinced my husband to pull off the Interstate and head for Ellisville, MO.

No Gluten and Allergy Friendly Bakery

New Day Gluten Free Cafe and Bakery in Elliston, MO

We found the bakery in a nondescript strip mall and parked.  When I saw the sign on the front door,  I knew I’d found the perfect lunch spot!

No gluten or allergens

No outside food allowed at New Day Gluten Free!

Once inside the small crowded cafe, I grinned from ear to ear.  Shelves were lined with not only gluten-free but allergy-free bake goods: breads, cupcakes, cookies, and so much more. I filled my arms with dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, egg-free treats–foods I hadn’t tasted in years–and headed to the busy counter to order lunch.

I always have trouble ordering in any restaurant, but this time it wasn’t because of my food allergies but because there were so many selections to choose from!  Check out the menu.

This is what I ate.

Boar's Head California Turkey Melt

California Turkey Melt without the gluten or allergens

I even bought a sandwich with homemade chips to take with me for the next day’s lunch.

When I told the owner, Kelly Patrick, how much I enjoyed my meal, she said New Day Gluten Free is the restaurant she dreamed of when she was newly diagnosed with celiac disease.

Believe me when I say New Day Gluten Free  is the restaurant all of us with celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and food allergies dream of!

I know I’ll be dropping by the next time we are in St. Louis.  I recommend you do too.

Visit my Pinterest Page for more gluten-free and allergy-free restaurant suggestions and iPhone apps.

An Allergic Foodie’s Pick: New Day Gluten Free in Ellisville, MO” originally appeared in Adventures of An Allergic Foodie.