By Katie Stewart |
After many years of battling weird symptoms and unexplained pains, I finally took a gluten-free lifestyle seriously, and miraculously it “cured” all of the strange struggles I had been dealing with. If I had insurance, I would have gladly gone to a doctor much sooner. I was so amazed at the results. Along with all my other resolved symptoms like swelling and joint pains, I was no longer feeling extreme fatigue and bloating. It was amazing. I had the renewed feeling of being alive.
What I wasn’t amazed by was my new struggle: eating gluten-free on the go. I traveled around Texas playing music for a few years, so I had to become resourceful if I wanted to respect my body and continue to feel healthy. I learned quickly that a gluten-free lifestyle wouldn’t survive on highway food.
My first secret is not new in any way but actually very simple: dried foods. I would head over to H.E.B. and hit up the bulk foods aisle. My gluten-free go-to’s are dried raisins, dried apricots, plantain chips and dried fruit medleys. I try and stay away from medleys that aren’t explicitly gluten-free. Other great dry foods are nuts, bananas, apples and avocados. They’re perishable if left in your car during a Texas summer, but if you keep them close to room temperature, they’ll definitely last a while on the road. If you have to bring a small cooler, it will be much better than going hungry. These dried fruits and nuts are also a great trick if you’re flying somewhere. I took a short trip to Colorado and didn’t want to check a bag. These foods are so compact that you shouldn’t have any issue making room for them.
Rice and beans
Another trick is a good old rice and beans-based meal. Many cultures have some kind of rice and bean as their staple like Americans has potatoes or bread. You’ll still get your carbs, but you won’t get them as an order of burger and fries through the drive-thru. Sometimes I used to travel about two and a half hours away from home, and assuming it’s not 114 degrees in Texas, your meal will be just fine at your arrival. A few of my favorite options are quinoa, basmati rice, jasmine rice or brown rice. You can cook it the night before you leave or right before your departure. A few great protein-packed beans are kidney beans, aduki beans and navy beans. If you’re taking a road trip, this is a great way to get your protein without having to oddly pick apart a meal at a restaurant—and you’re saving money. Yes, please.
One thing that has changed since 2012 when I went gluten-free is that a lot of restaurants are aware of the struggle. McDonalds, Whataburger and Taco Bell don’t have it down just yet; however, there are larger chains that are taking note of the struggle to find gluten-free options.
BJ’s Brewhouse, Torchy’s Taco, Jimmy John’s, Olive Garden and the Egg and I are a few large chain restaurants in Waco that offer gluten-free options. Along with a black bean and rice combination dinner, BJ’s Brewhouse also has salads and pizzas that are gluten-free, and they’re really delicious. Torchy’s offers a gluten-free corn tortilla, which you would be surprised to know that not all corn tortillas are created equal and gluten-free. Jimmy John’s offers all of their sandwiches “unwich” style which is a lettuce-wrapped sandwich. (Side note: It’s not easy to eat while driving!) Olive Garden has a variety of dishes that are gluten-free, and they even have gluten-free pasta options. Missing those pancakes? Don’t worry, the Egg and I has got you covered, too.
The thing to realize about being gluten-free on the go is this: you have to ask. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed. I know early in my gluten-free journey I was apprehensive about asking the servers. I was afraid to be labeled as, “Oh, she’s one of those people who doesn’t actually have to be gluten-free.” But, on the contrary, I know my body and I aim to respect it. Don’t be nervous. When you know it works for you, stick with it. It’s up to you to ask the server if their restaurant offers a gluten-free or gluten-sensitive menu. Like BJ’s, a lot of restaurants have changed their menu so it’s already listed for you.
If you’re new to a mobile gluten-free lifestyle, don’t feel inhibited. There are always ways to remain strong in your lifestyle. You might just have to plan a bit more and get creative.