Air Travel with Celiac and Nut / Food Allergies

This is what a simple weekend trip away looks like sometimes for me, so getting trapped in an airport as someone with food allergies is a pretty big nightmare. You never know when a connecting flight will get cancelled!  It never ceases to amaze me how few choices exist, even in some fairly large airports!

GF short weekend roadtrip

As someone who not only has celiac, but also a nut allergy and some additional sensitivities, it’s no easy feat to have a long layover or face a potential unexpected stay in an airport due to delays, etc. Even a long flight presents quite a challenge (if your symptoms are anything like mine, no way you want to risk trusting airline food)! Bringing some chips, pretzels, or crackers that suit your allergies is a good start. Be sure to put them in a hard-sided case like Tupperware so they don’t crush. Also, homemade snack mixes or granola bars are good options. Some of my favorites are pictured below; but those are just snacks really, so what about covering one or more actual meals?

For me, I’ve found packing gluten free, nut free cereal in a Ziploc-type round container (seen below) is easy.  You can usually find milk to add while at the airport and cereal’s not a terrible meal. Just pack or find a plastic spoon and the Tupperware-type container can double as a bowl. It doesn’t need refrigeration or heating, so it’s good to have for any length of time. Glutino PopTarts are another hearty prepackaged option.  However, this doesn’t address much of a protein need.

For that, sunbutter is an option. Beef jerky can be a good option if you’re only on a domestic flight, but usually meats and fresh produce can’t be taken internationally. Likewise, the GoPicnic boxes may suit your needs (most don’t suit me now that they contain pumpkin seeds and the crackers have soy).

(P.S. With international travel, have a plan AND a back up plan. I learned in some places you pre-clear customs out of the country, so when I brought gluten free nachos to the airport in Canada from a safe restaurant out in town, I found out I had to clear customs at the same time as security.  So, I had to scarf down what I could before tossing it, which completely foiled my plan for a safe dinner before the flight and long layover!)

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                 Basic ice pack                     Photo credit: Alibaba

For planned long flights or layovers, I’ve found taking ice packs frozen solid is allowed through security, so sometimes I take frozen lunchmeat and frozen ice packs, plus some bread and make a sandwich. I also like to take cheese sticks using this method. This may only work on the flight leaving home, depending if you have a freezer at your destination, but at least it’s a solution for part of your trip!

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I always bring a few slices of gluten free bread (again in Tupperware-like container so they don’t get squished). In addition to other items I mentioned, if you can find hard boiled eggs in the airport and some mayonaise and mustard packets, you can make a fairly safe egg salad sandwich. Many airports also have tuna in a can or foil pouch, so you could make a tuna salad sandwich. You can also consider bringing your own pouch of pre-packaged tuna or chicken with you, unless international regulations will stop you from doing so. You might also enjoy the canned salmon and vegetable meal from St. Dalfour (I found these on Vitacost.com).

Smuckers individuals

I’ve also brought other bread items that don’t need to be kept super cold, like crepes or gluten free pancakes and can usually find some safe jelly packets or butter and syrup packets at a McDonalds or Burger King type restaurant. You can also consider getting some of these individually pre-packaged items (like hot sauce, jelly, ketchup, mustard, mayo, butter, syrup) by buying them online or at your grocery store or saving a few from your favorite restaurant and bringing them through security in your liquids bag! The environmental waste of individually packaged items is frustrating, but it’s important to stay safe, especially when traveling with food allergies, so give yourself a break and make up for it the rest of the time at home!
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Another option is the “just add hot water” macaroni and cheese cups, oatmeal cups, or cup o’ soup (if they make them for your allergies). If you can’t find them in the cups, just take the packets and a Ziploc-type container or use a coffee cup.  You can usually ask for a cup of hot water at any coffee place and mix away. Similarly, I’ve also asked for cups of ice after security to add to Ziploc-type bags to keep food cold. Sometimes it’s free, but even if you have to pay a little for it, it’s worth knowing you have options, right?

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I also always make sure to bring an extra set of clothes. This is good advice in general in case the airline loses your luggage (or you unexpectedly have to gate-check your rolling carry-on), but especially with celiac, if you should get sick unexpectedly, it’s important to have back up options!

 

(As always, check the labels of items to ensure they’re safe for your allergies. I did not receive any compensation for the brands mentioned, they are just based on my personal preferences or experiences!)

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We made our visit to Halifax, Nova Scotia at the end of July/beginning of August, which was accidentally perfect timing for Natal Day. It’s the birthday of their city and a bit like a mini 4th of July here in the states. There were musicians, performers, and food stands along the water front which made it a great time to visit! The weather was perfect, while the rest of the US and most of Canada was roasting in unusually high summer heat.  Aside from the tourist recommendation, I know this is a blog about food. That said, Natal Day comes with many restaurants closed and limited menus at others, so this is what we were able to find for dinner at Murphy’s, which was right along the waterfront and was one of the few that I was able to read about beforehand that had gluten free options.20160801_204206

As one might expect, the menu is seafood heavy. I wasn’t starving so decided an appetizer might be best. Appetizers marked gluten free for Natal Day were:
Bacon-wrapped scallops, Mussels, Lobster Dip, and Seafood Chowder.

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I choose the lobster dip and it was a large portion and delicious!

 

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Dinner options include: Nova Scotian whole lobster, Molasses Salmon, and BBQ Chicken Supreme.

Dessert included a chocolate torte that was gluten free, but I couldn’t get a straight answer about if there were nuts or nut flour, so I opted to try one of the ice cream stands we had seen.

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Imagine my surprise when one of the ice cream stands (Black Bear, I believe it was called) had gluten free cones! Even a brand I knew–Edward and Sons. Unfortunately, there servers didn’t have a lot of knowledge about which flavors were gluten free and they weren’t marked, so I stuck to vanilla and chocolate.  They graciously cleaned scoops for me, so all in all it was a good, sweet ending to our first Natal Day!

Gluten free at Boston Pizza in Halifax, Nova Scotia

I apologize it’s been a while–I thought I had covered the rest of the Halifax restaurants completed, but I had not. Another restaurant we went to while in Halifax (Nova Scotia, Canada) was Boston Pizza. It was not a planned place to eat, but we walked past it hungry after we arrived in Halifax proper from the airport.

Boston Pizza is a chain and we had eaten at one in Niagara Falls safely a few years ago, so I stopped in to ask if they had the same gluten free options and they did. They have oven baked gluten free wings and delicious Kinnikinnick gluten free pizza crusts–one of the very few I’ve found that aren’t thin and crispy.  I often use these at home in fact for pizza since discovering them in Canada (they’re available at my Kroger in Virginia).

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While I have to say this location was less well versed in gluten free than their Niagara Falls counterparts, with careful questions and guidance, it was suitable for a convenient meal and delicious! It’s just around the corner from the main bus stop getting into town, and a block or two away from the Marriott waterfront, so a great location.

The Wooden Monkey: Gluten free in Halifax, Nova Scotia

As I said in my other post, recently we made a trip north to Canada–more specifically to Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Now, Halifax may not be a gluten free paradise like some cities or Disney World, but it can hold it’s own for a small city/big town! It’s also beautiful, here’s a view of the waterfront from a boat:
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There were a few places on the water with safe options for lunch and dinner, but having done my research before I came, I saw there was a gluten free bakery (that I’ll cover in another post) and a celiac-friendly (not just gluten free, celiac-friendly!) restaurant called The Wooden Monkey.

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The Wooden Monkey has two locations–one in Halifax a few blocks uphill from the waterfront boardwalk area and one across the water at the ferry landing in Dartmouth, near Evan’s Fresh Seafood. The one in Dartmouth was closed on Mondays when we wanted to visit, so we went to the one up the hill in Halifax.

They are focused on local and healthy, they don’t even have a deep fryer, but they do have safe fries that are baked and delicious! They have lots of vegan and vegetarian options in addition to gluten free and their menu has entrees with nuts, soy, and dairy marked on the menu.

For their starters, they have lots of gluten free options, we opted to order the nachos and a side of their version of fries, called “Roasties.” It was a large order, flavorful, and plentiful. Truth be told, this with an order of their fries would have been enough food to skip an entree and then have dessert.
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The entree menu is entirely gluten free but largely seafood based, as many menus are in this fishing town, but as I don’t love fish, I opted for the braised beef with mashed potatoes. It had good flavor though a little strong on the onion flavor, but it was too heavy for me to finish after the hearty appetizer. They also had gluten free pizza and buns which sounded great, but they had sorghum (which I also can’t tolerate). The full menu can be viewed on their website.
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Dessert holds two gluten free options–tofu pie and local, organic dairy ice cream. While the Tofu pie comes highly recommended, I avoid most forms of soy and the crust is made from nuts, so I simple had the ice cream which was good.

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I’d recommend the Wooden Monkey to anyone visiting Halifax or Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, but especially anyone with food allergies or dietary restrictions, as they know their ingredients and mark the top 8 allergens, too!

(I was not compensated in any way for this post, just trying to share what I know to help others with food allergies enjoy their trip more!)

Boston Pizza – a celiac gem in Niagara Falls!

Boston Pizza

Located right in heart of Clifton Hill, Boston Pizza is your best bet for good gluten free food in Niagara Falls on the Canadian side.  The picture below is from the SkyWheel. Boston Pizza is also conveniently located across from the Clifton Hill stop on the red line of the tourist bus system (WeGo).
Boston Pizza area

As you can see below, they had a VERY large menu. Their servers also were very knowledgeable.  After the other difficult venues, this place was such a gluten free heaven that we had a few meals here.

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Over a few visits, I had their oven baked wings, a salad, and their gluten free pizza twice. The pizza was the Kinnickinnick brand and extra yummy! (If you’re not familiar with this brand, first is one of the only soft gluten free crusts out there. It is also nut free, soy free, dairy free!)  All was delicious and safe! Also some yummy cocktails available. The gluten eaters in my party enjoyed their gluten pizzas as well.

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Be prepared to wait for a table since this is in a busy area (worth it for good gluten free food though!) and service in Canadian restaurants in general (like Europe) was much slower than in the USA, just be prepared for that almost everywhere.

Hard Rock Cafe in Niagara Falls, Ontario – fell flat

Recently we went on a road trip: Niagara Falls, central Pennsylvania, and Washington DC. I wanted to share the good and the bad from the places I ate with regards to celiac / gluten allergy (I also don’t eat pork, pumpkin seeds, or nuts).

Hard Rock Cafe –
Sadly, this place was the worst of our Niagara Falls trip in every way, despite a decent selection on the menu:

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The setting: This is one of the smaller Hard Rocks I’ve been to and the atmosphere itself just wasn’t as impressive as usual, but to make matters horrific, the speaker system went out while we were there and there was a constant LOUD buzzing for almost 10 minutes! I have no idea why it took customers trying to walk out before they at least turned it off!
Also, getting there with any disability would be impossible unless you wanted to eat outside in the heat at street level!  I could not find an elevator and the escalator up was hard to find but existed, while the escalator down was not working (my bad ankle was acting up at this point in the trip).

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We obviously went there for the gluten free menu, which seemed to have a lot of options: burger, steak, grilled salmon, grilled shrimp, ribs, grilled chicken sandwich, but it was very small when eliminating the fried items and what was celiac-safe after asking questions! Even then, they didn’t take it very seriously. They first brought me fries as a side with my burger even though they were not safe gluten free and not what I ordered (mashed potatoes).  Then they re-served the same burger with mashed potatoes put where the fries were. It also had the lettuce, tomato, and onion, and mayo on it–which I asked for none of!  The prices were outrageous and that is accounting for high prices that are normal in Niagara Falls, these were doubly ridiculous compared to any rational price.

The food was terrible: the two “normal” people in my group said the food was bland and had less than no flavor (one got chicken macaroni & cheese, one got a burger and fries).  My gluten free burger was just so-so for flavor and the mashed potatoes were flavorless!

By this meal, we had gotten used to the slower pace of service, but this server was terrible. He forgot half our items (literally, didn’t bring some of our drinks until asked twice AND forgot specifics on food), didn’t check back, didn’t top off any empty drinks!

(As always, I was not compensated for this review in anyway.  This is merely retelling of my personal experience to help others with allergies.)