Picky or painfully necessary? Dietary restrictions and travel

Breakfast bagel loaded with decisions (courtesy kasiaflickr at Flickr CC)“We never used to have all of these picky eaters with their food allergies.”

As a thrifty child of the Depression, my Mom has no patience with people who won’t just shut up and eat. I get that, and until recently I’ve been able to eat pretty much anything and so has my family, so I agreed with her.

Now, however, my teen daughter is tussling with some digestive issues and has become lactose-intolerant.

We spent a few weeks figuring out which fake milk tasted best and didn’t have a weird taupe color (winner: the H-E-B grocery chain’s Mootopia) and suddenly, I’m having to think about dietary restrictions in a way that I hadn’t before, including when traveling.

How Some Travelers Handle Food Restrictions

Here are some thoughts and resources….

From travel photographer Alison Cornford-Matheson:

“This is a hot topic for me right now as I just learned I may in fact have to go gluten-free. I’m experimenting with it now as I wait for a diagnosis. I live in Belgium and food and dining out is a big part of my life. It’s starting to be more recognised in Brussels at least but still not easy. Bread and pasta free Europe… not so fun.”

From writer Lanora Schoeny Mueller:

France + Italy + LactAid = dairy-free tragedy averted.”

From entrepreneur Shennandoah Diaz:

“I was born on a dairy farm and have to take my own food with me to visit my parents. If I eat gluten or dairy it’s bad for me. Just suffered in Cancun – everything had gluten, dairy, sugars, etc. in it. Should have packed more food! I took gluten-free snacks, nuts, dried fruit, tea, Kashi instant oatmeal, snack bars and Splenda, but everything they made had dairy in it, even the vegetables. I wasn’t prepared.”

Shennandoah also told me that she wishes she’d checked luggage so that liquids restrictions wouldn’t have applied and she could have taken some almond or soy milk.

Pigs prepared for roasting, Hanoi, Vietnam (courtesy flydime at Flickr CC)

From traveler and author Aline Dobbie:

India is [a good] country for gluten problems; they even have other breads made from chick pea or corn flour (but glorious rice is the answer.)”

Extended world traveler Jeanne Dee of SoulTravelers3 fame has been dealing with recent severe dietary restrictions lately (not sure why, she jokes that she, “Must have eaten the wrong Indian food while in Penang,”) but here’s how she’s handled it in remote areas:

“…had to carry a whole bag of herbs and medicines…but I managed quite well. I did miss out on some great food, but I enjoyed some special things too, since I could have bread and simple soups. Bhutan was harder because I cannot have any spice and the food tends to be very spicy. Jordan was fairly easy as I can have bread and hummus. I carried seaweed and miso in my bag too so that I could make a soup out of hot water if nothing was available that I could eat, but didn’t need to use it too much. I could only drink warm water, so that was a challenge, but I managed with a small thermos.”

Jeanne had all of this written down by a doctor to make airport security checkpoints do-able.

Some Resources for Travelers

**  Debbie Dubrow has a series of posts about food allergies on her Delicious Baby family travel blog.

**  Tripbase has a post telling you how to say “I’m Allergic to Peanuts” in 45 languages.

**  Celiac sufferers can get language cards on Celiac Travel that explain their situation.

**  Katie Aune launched a whole blog called Globally Gluten Free travel resources.

Since this is all new to me, I’d love to hear more comments and feedback below about how you handle dietary restrictions while traveling. Thanks so much for your thoughts!

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