Tips for the Gluten-Free Road Warrior

 Road Warrior

Corporate life and frequent travel can make it really difficult for those of us who want to be healthy. It can be challenging for those of us with food allergies and sensitivities to take care of ourselves while on the road.

As a former road warrior and sales executive, I continually refined my skills for eating well while traveling. Healthy eating can be a commitment of its’ own, but, as in my case, avoiding dairy, gluten, and grains, processed sugars and legumes while traveling is an art that requires planning, preparation, creativity, and flexibility. My health journey over the years has involved following a vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, and paleo diet. Currently, a strict grain-free, plant-based paleo diet helps me feel well and balanced. Following your own nutrition needs while on the road can be done. Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way.

Planning & Preparation

Set Your Intention

As we are all unique individuals, our bodies have different requirements. Learn about yourself and explore what works for your body. Maybe you need to follow a strict grain-free or paleo diet (avoiding legumes, dairy, processed sugars, and all grains) diet while on the road or maybe you just need to avoid excess alcohol or sugar. Many people feel better avoiding gluten entirely, but do not need to avoid all grains. Others can allow some gluten, but only a few times a week. It may take some trial and error to figure out what works for you. I recommend you set your intention and goal for your “diet style” before you travel so that you do not have to make a game-time decision that may be stressful.

 Do Your Research

Research the restaurants and grocery stores in the area that provide meals that fit your needs. I always research restaurants in the area that provide gluten-free or grain-free options prior to my trip. I find Yelp to be of great help to do so. Take a look at the menu. If you are like me, everyone you travel with knows that you have diet restrictions and often turns to you when deciding where to dine out. It will help immensely to have a few ideas in your back pocket in case you get asked this question. If restaurant options are looking slim, look for a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods near your hotel and map out the location. Call your hotel and discuss your options: Can they provide a microwave and/or refrigerator in your room so you can keep snacks or other foods you buy at the store? Do they offer room service and does it provide grain-free or gluten-free options? Ask for the menu prior to your arrival.

Plan Your Agenda

Once you have identified your resources and options you can outline what will work for you on each specific trip. For example, if possible, I would choose a hotel that provided a refrigerator and be close to a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s in case I was not able to eat at the restaurant my client or colleagues chose. I would plan my calendar and flight itinerary in a way to make time to go to the store before the conference or meetings began. At times, this required flying into a city the day before an event. If I was traveling to an area without a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s I was usually able to talk to the hotel and determine some in-room dining options that I could work with.

Creativity & Flexibility

 Pack Snacks

Traveling requires a lot of creativity and flexibility, especially when you are in a sales role and busy with clients. Often you are not able to control where you eat when you eat and you do not have time to go to a grocery store, even if there is one. For this reason, I recommend packing various snacks that will help you out while on the road and at the airport. I usually packed a variety of the following depending on the length of the trip:

Sweet potato chips

Raw unsweetened almond butter (travel size packets)

Raw almonds

Raw cashews

Fruit leather

Protein bars (gluten or grain-free)

Dark chocolate

Beef jerky

Organic baby food (travel pouch)

**I will be outlining the specific brands of Paleo and grain-free snacks that I like to buy in a future post.

At the Airport

I found the airport to be the most challenging situation while on the road. I know there are a few airports that are starting to have “healthier” options, but these often are still quite limiting for those of us following a grain-free diet. Most of the time I would stick to the snacks I packed with me while at the airport and try my best to manage my schedule so I was not starving once I got there. Otherwise, look for a deli and see if they can wrap their turkey wrap in lettuce or look for a more upscale restaurant and request a bun-less burger with no cheese (add avocado and tomato) and a side of steamed veggies.

Just In Case

Regardless of the amount of planning and preparation you may still come into contact with gluten or grains, especially if you are dining at restaurants often. Pack digestive enzymes that specifically break down gluten proteins (and casein if you are sensitive or intolerant) and take the recommended amount with each meal. You can find a few good brands on Amazon. I would also pack probiotics and various other herbs and supplements that would help keep my immune system in balance while on the road and eating differently than I would at home.