Planning Ahead Is a Great Way to Keep the Season Bright

The holiday season may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it definitely has its stressful moments. If you or a family member have severe food allergies, it can get even trickier when traveling to visit Grandma in Michigan—or just going across town for a meal at a friend’s home. 

The key, of course, is to plan ahead as much as possible. Here’s a list of tips to make your seasonal travel plans go a lot more smoothly. 

Ask Questions 

What exactly will be on the menu? It’s okay to ask your host about the menu, and even for the recipes being employed. Try something along the lines of, “We are really looking forward to enjoying all your delicious dishes, and we’d like to know all the ingredients because we are dealing with a food allergy.” 

If you get pushback along the lines of “there’s no dairy/nuts/gluten (fill in the allergy) in any of what I’m serving …”, then you might want to explain that allergens are very sneaky and it’s taken you a long time to learn to identify all this particular culprit’s aliases—and you wouldn’t want your host to be responsible for any possible untoward reactions. (By the way, The Pickled Beet has compiled a handy list of hidden sources of gluten. Just visit ThePickledBeet.com to get your copy.)

When dealing with restaurants, it’s best to avoid discussing allergens with servers and instead ask to speak to the chef or cook directly. Create a card that you can hand over to them with a list of ingredients you cannot have. You’d be surprised at how many chefs don’t realize that soy sauce (with some exceptions) has gluten. Make a specific list and ask them to swap out cutting boards, utensils, etc.—anything that will come into contact with your food. 

Pack Food

Don’t just pack an allergen-friendly dish for the main holiday meal. If you’re spending a significant amount of time in a car or flying to your destination, it’s best to pack allergen-free food to eat along the way. The time spent in preparation is more than a fair trade off when it comes to reducing aggravation later. 

Some easier options include (as your allergy allows) granola bars, which provide a yummy blend of fiber and protein, as well as baggies of raw nuts, fruits, pumpkin seeds, kale chips, and hummus with crackers or mini pitas. If you have room for a small cooler or insulated bag, you have plenty of healthy choices available. 

If you’re traveling by commercial airline, you’ll need to keep security regulations in mind as well. Check out this information, straight from the TSA:

Solid food items (not liquids or gels) can be transported in either your carry-on or checked bags. … TSA officers may instruct travelers to separate items from carry-on bags such as foods, powders, and any materials that can clutter bags and obstruct clear images on the X-ray machine.

That means bringing a lot of food might cause an additional security screening, so factor in that extra time. 

For international travel, there are additional restrictions on produce and some meats. Remember that liquids always have restrictions, so stick to solids. If you bring along a powder, be sure to purchase bottled water after you clear security; the tap water aboard airplanes has been found to have harmful bacteria in recent months. If you want to bring baby formula or breast milk, “reasonable” amounts are allowed.

Expect The Unexpected 

Remember that holiday travel of all kinds is subject to disruption, from minor traffic jams to major flight delays due to winter storms. If possible, double or triple the amount of food you’re taking along. Research possible stops or the restaurants along your route so that you’re more familiar with the options available if the unexpected occurs. And make sure you have plenty of any medications needed in case of an allergic reaction. 

Heading out of the country? Here’s a guide to traveling with allergies broken down by country. 

Here’s to safe holiday travels!
The Pickled Beet can help make your holidays bright. All year long, we work with individuals, couples, and families to find meals that are flavorful, healthy, and best fuel the body—and we specialize in allergen-free diets. Contact us for a free consultation.

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