Monday, December 9, 2013

Five Tips on Balancing Your Career and a Gluten Free/Dairy Free Diet

Since I had to travel overnight for work regularly for five and a half years, all while trying to maintain a gluten free diet, I've learned a lot about WHAT NOT TO DO. This is a list of what TO DO to help other gluten free people in a demanding career that requires overnight travel.

1. Bring Your Own Food

It's better to BRING YOUR OWN FOOD and not eat it then to NOT HAVE ENOUGH.
After a rough first couple of years, I learned to bring a large cooler with healthier food, such as soy milk, salad mix, fruit, homemade bread, beans, hummus, and smoked salmon. Just relying on the "free breakfasts" in the morning and whatever I can find through the day is PLANNING TO FAIL, and it meant I fought hunger and fatigue all day long.

For travelling on an airplane, pack a bunch of food in the checked baggage. DO NOT try to rely on finding a grocery store nearby your hotel! While in an unfamiliar town, it can be stressful to rush from one meeting to the next all day, then try to find a grocery store near the hotel. It also may be more expensive at a random store than the discount products you're used to buying online or at your usual grocery store. It takes extra personal time up front to buy food and pack, but it's best if you have everything you'll need already with you.

Pack extra protein bars and be sure to pick foods without any or hardly any sugar since that will just make you hungrier. Remember not to eat sugar before going to bed and to limit it at breakfast for the same reason. I would pack some healthy foods like beans, fruit, and nuts to balance my diet out because I find most restaurants who serve gluten free meals can only do white rice or potatoes, meat, and vegetables.

2. Request a Room With a Refrigerator and a Microwave

Do this when you make your hotel/motel reservation several days or weeks before your trip. Don't make the mistake of showing up and then asking - many establishments won't have any to offer.

3. Pack a Microwaveable Bowl and Silverware

If you plan to eat a bowl of soup or cereal, using the plastic cups in the room can be annoying and they tip more easily. Plus, there aren't always plastic utensils offered in hotel rooms. Bringing your own is well worth the trouble.

4. If Possible, Find Restaurants That Can Serve Gluten Free Ahead of Time

This can be risky, depending on how sensitive you are and whether you're celiac, sensitive, or allergic. If eating out is a constant worry, you may want to try the Fearless Gluten-Free Dining Course.

I have found in most urban areas, gluten free, dairy free meals can be found at a few restaurants. It was only when I went to southwest Virginia or southern Virginia that I was in trouble. I could sometimes find an Outback Steakhouse or a sushi establishment off a major highway.

Nonetheless, if you are going to a large city, check for restaurants with a gluten free menu or gluten free options. Call ahead to check about cross-contamination and the kitchen cleaning practices.

If you're going to a conference where there will be food provided, it's best to call the conference center AHEAD OF TIME to see how GF friendly they are and give them a heads up about the times you will be eating there. I've seen a huge change over the last few years, so don't automatically assume you can't eat ANYTHING. Usually, I can get a special plate, though be sure to ask a server before you sit down for this so everyone else at the table doesn't have to wait. At a formal setting, most people will, despite all the prodding you can muster, wait for you to be served.

5. Pack Snacks!!!

This is a big one for me, since I like to eat small snacks throughout the day and it helps keep my energy up. I've found the most important time for me to snack is when I'm often not hungry - between 10 and 12 a.m. That's when I eat a high-protein Kind Bar, nuts, or a hard-boiled egg. If you eat dairy, plain yogurt, kefir, or cheese can be a great way to add calcium and protein. For other snack ideas, please see my post, "Five Gluten Free Foods to Eat When You Get the Munchies."

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