Celiac.com 05/08/2008 - I am here to help you with your needs as you travel, and to be able to keep the "Gluten Monster" away, so you can enjoy your trip.

When getting ready to fly you have to expect long delays.  As a celiac that means you have to try to find food.  If you haven’t traveled by plane before you will be in for a big surprise.  The restaurants that are in the airports are always busy.  This means that it is like going to a restaurant at peak time, and, in my opinion, that is not the best time for celiacs to eat in restaurants.  You might want to try the fast food places that are chains if they are in the airport.  The usual method is to try to get the manager to help you.  Give the manager a fresh plastic fork to retrieve your meat or chicken so they don’t use gloves that have bread crumbs on them.  Ask for catsup or mayo packages so you can read the ingredients.  You can ask for them to make a fresh salad if that is what you like.  One of the good things about most of the restaurants in airports is that at many of them you will be able to see the cooks prepare your food. Never be afraid to say “I saw you put my food on the table and bread got on it” and ask for a new meal.

If there are no chain restaurants at the airport go to one of the restaurants where you can watch your food get made.  Some of the restaurants have the cooking grill right in front of you.  See if they can cook the food (hamburger, chicken) on the grill.  You have to determine if they put the buns on the grill. If they do grill the buns on the same grill where they cook your food there is a good chance that crumbs are there and you should stay away or ask them to clean the grill with the razor blade tool.  You have to determine how busy they are and if they are too busy don’t ask for something like that.  Sometimes I ask for my food to be covered and microwaved.  This is a very safe way to have your food cooked and if it is busy in the kitchen, your food is well protected.

You still need to be careful with the salads in these types of restaurants.  Remember that these places are usually busy and crumbs fly around everywhere.  If they are slow ask if they can open a fresh bag of processed salad for you because you get very ill from the smallest crumb.

What Chef Daniel does when Flying
When I fly I always have a plan B.  I bring a carry on bag with some gluten-free food that is in a clear plastic bag.  This is food that if security says throw it away, I do.  So far all the times I have traveled by air I haven’t been asked to throw anything away. I bring food that can last all day without spoiling.  I bring food that if it gets hot and melts it is still good to eat.  I like ham, pepperoni, cheese, vegetables, peanuts and some candy to keep me going. Just remember to tell the security that you have a special diet in case they ask, but don’t offer the info unless they ask.  You need to be truthful and most folks are going to understand.  Let the security know that you are unable to eat in the local airport restaurants and you have a long day ahead of you. You don’t want to cause any trouble in an airport so be willing to throw it away the second they ask.  You could pull out your chef Daniel restaurant paper to show them how serous you take eating and by providing your list it will show them that you are very serious.  It is just a way to show security how serious you take your health.

Now you should be ok if you got through security and when the flight attendant comes around offering food, especially if you are on a flight for a long time, you have some food that will carry you over.  Most airlines will take special requests for meals but you are taking a huge chance on eating that food.  The caterers who do these meals for the planes do thousands and thousands of meals.  I don’t take the chance of eating such a meal.  I get way to sick if there is any contamination. When I call in for a special request for a meal I ask for whole fruit or whole vegetables, anything I know that hasn’t been on a cutting board.  

I usually ask for carrots or other vegetables or fruit that I like.  I am scared of being sick so I will cut or break my food then eat it.  Even at restaurants I ask for whole vegetables for me to cut myself.  If you read my last article about my salad with croutons coming to me you can see why I am so scared of restaurants. Once you are burned you never forget...but you do learn.

If you call ahead to the airport to ask for a special diet request make sure you are thorough with your request and tell them how sick you can get.  Ask the airlines if you can send a request per email or snail mail with your directions in how to prepare your meal.  I would ask the caterer to tape your request right to your plate so when you board the plane it will be easy to see.  As you board notify the stewards you are the special meal request.  Be sure to have a plan B. Look at your meal carefully when you get it and determine if it is up to your standards.

I believe this article can help you travel gluten-free on board any airline.  There are always little stops where you can buy a piece of fruit or packaged products but if you want something more like a hot meal you will need to follow my advice to stay safe.

Gluten-Free Air Travel Hints:
  • You should always try to get the manager to help you.  In any restaurant they have the most time to help you and they will help you because they typically care more than the regular workers (today’s restaurants have employees that come in one day and are gone the next.help.  It is sad but that is the way it is so at least try to get the manager.
  • Don’t be ashamed to ask for anything. If you want a hot dog or the chips they put on the side of the plate ask for a bag with the product inside.  Take out your safe and forbidden lists if needed and look at them to see if you can eat a product. 
  • Always have your Chef Daniel's restaurant paper with you in your wallet or purse.
  • Always have a copy of your safe and forbidden lists with you in case you need it to read ingredients.
  • Always have a gluten-free restaurant card in the language you need.
  • Cross contamination is the greatest risk for a celiac when traveling.  Cross contamination can happen and you would never know it, such as when the chef uses a knife to cut a piece of bread, and then they use the same knife on your vegetables, or when the chef uses a pair of tongs to flip a breaded chicken and then uses them to flip your sauté chicken.There are too many other ways to mention, but the main thing is that gluten could be on the tool before it is used on your meal, and it doesn’t matter how safe the chef thought he was because you got one crumb and you are sick for days and that ruins your vacation.
Chef Daniel

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