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On the Road Again…

I know what you’re thinking: I wrote two entries, exhausted all my wisdom, and abandoned you to figure out the allergy world on your own. Have no fear: I just went to Rhode Island to chaperone a weeklong service camp. I’m back and ready to share.
Now I know this post is a little out of order but since it’s more timely, I’m going to share some tips about venturing out into the world of vacations and road trips. If you’re anything like me, it takes awhile to even feel safe in your own kitchen again as you navigate the inevitable pitfalls of allergy-proofing (Did you buy a new toaster? Cutting board? Replace those ancient scratched-up pots and pans??). Then just when you’re feeling good and confident in your own kitchen, someone says the word that brings those butterflies back to the pit of your stomach: VACATION. Days and days away from the kitchen where you finally feel safe, surrounded by unfamiliar restaurants where servers may not know the difference between gluten and bread crumbs. The plus side: you finally realize that living with an allergy in your own home suddenly seems doable; the downside: that “it’s not fair…now I can’t even go on vacation anymore” feeling starts to sneak in. Take it from me: no need to panic. Yes, you can go on vacation. Yes, it will take a lot more planning than it used to or than it does for your other non-allergy friends and family members…but trust me, in the end it’s worth it. You’ll be healthy, happy…and honestly, you’ll probably end up saving yourself some money in the long run 🙂
Planning for the Road:
1)   Make a List of Meals You Need: I knew I was leaving bright and early on a Sunday morning and coming home late on Friday night. That meant all 3 meals for 6 days. Here’s my loot from my grocery store run before the cooking marathon began!
Lots of delicious/safe food for the week ahead!
2)   Be Redundant: No need to stress yourself out by trying to plan/cook/pack 6 different creative dinners. I bought 1 box of Rice Chex and 2 boxes of blueberries to cover all my breakfasts for the week. Lunch was salad everyday so I just seasoned some chicken, threw it on the grill pan, and within minutes, I had everything I needed to make a delicious, hearty chicken salad for each day of camp. I also sautéed an absurd amount of spinach and red peppers to ensure I had a vegetable side that would last the whole week for dinners.
3)   Food Spoils…Plan Accordingly: For dinners, I decided to make a few different things to liven up the monotony of my breakfast and lunch routine. I decided on easy to make/easy to pack/easy to reheat entrees: salmon cakes, hamburgers, tilapia tacos, and coconut shrimp. Now of these 4, hamburgers have the longest fridge-life so I saved that for Thursday night dinner. The shrimp had to go first and the salmon and tilapia filled in the middle.
4)   Do some research: This one is especially important if your child is the one with the allergies. Imagine you’re sitting at camp and everyone is diving into delicious ice cream sundaes…while you’re sitting with your dessert of the day: a bland rice cake. Chances are you’ll feel pretty disappointed. But what if instead, you were diving into your own gluten-free brownie sundae with dairy-free coconut milk ice cream! Suddenly you feel like one of the crowd: none of those “Poor me, I’m different from everyone else” feelings. For example, at the camp I was going to, Tuesday is famously known as Taco Tuesday. Not wanting to feel left out of the festivities, I planned to have my tilapia tacos (wrapped in lettuce of course) on Tuesday night. Call ahead, whether it’s a camp, a cruise, or just a family meal plan, try to find out what might be served so you can prepare something close for you…or especially for your child!
There’s even a Taco Tuesday hat…what would I have done if I didn’t make tacos for my Tuesday dinner??
5)   Don’t Skimp on Dessert!: It may seem like one more thing to do before you leave but trust me, don’t listen to that voice that says “Oh, it’s just a week. You can live without dessert”. Well, sure, you can. But WHY?? I baked one batch of almond flour chocolate chip cookies for the week and enjoyed one every single night. This made it much easier to sit amongst the teenagers devouring cookies, brownies, carrot cake, etc. each night…some of them were even eyeing my cookies. Especially on carrot cake night. Always pack some extra too. I brought 9 cookies for a 6-day trip. I’m telling you right now if I didn’t have that leftover cookie to comfort me on our 10+ hour drive home, the traffic would have made me far more ornery 🙂

Thank goodness I saved some of these for our 10+ hour drive home 🙂
6)   You Have a New Best Friend…Named Aluminum Foil: Now as much preparation as you can do at home, do it. However, there will be things (such as slicing up a red pepper or celery for a daily snack) that you may want to do later in the week to prevent spoilage. However, remember you will be in a foreign kitchen where the cutting board can have decades of crumbs/allergens hiding in it. Now of course you can bring your own…but I have found that aluminum foil provides just the perfect shield. I lay a piece down on a regular old cutting board, pull out my own knife (yes I packed my own…you just never know what a foreign kitchen will have), and safely chop away. Granted, I know this is not an environmentally-friendly option. I can assure you for shorter trips I would bring my own cutting board…but no one wants to be the girl who shows up to service camp with 2 extra bags filled with cooking supplies.
7)   Accept it- You’re a Little High Maintenance: Prior to 3 years ago, I was never a picky eater. I consider myself to be rather low-maintenance in pretty much every aspect of life. So imagine my discomfort when I’m suddenly forced to be “that girl” at every party, barbecue, dinner, etc. Yes, it’s been humbling to say the least. One of the hardest things for me to do was to accept that suddenly I was going to have to be high-maintenance..at least as far as food preparation is concerned. No, it’s not easy…but it is your health after all. It’s OK to be a little high maintenance, provided you go about it in the right way. Call ahead. Ask if you can have a small corner of the refrigerator and freezer for the week. Make sure there will be a place to reheat food safely. Ask to see a box to verify ingredients. Offer to cook your own meals, provide your own foil, ask if you can watch them grill your burger on said foil to ensure it’s safe. Just do all these things with a smile, an explanation…and if you’re like me: excessive amounts of thank yous. You’d be surprised how accommodating people will be when you’re kind about it…and they realize you’re not being a pain by choice- it’s your life on the line.
8)   Try EVERYTHING before you leave home: Nothing will spoil your vacation like realizing that your carefully-scheduled food plan will no longer work. Somehow you reacted to a new spice in the salmon cakes or the sautee in the spinach. You’re far away from the comfort of your own bed, your own bathroom, and (in the worst case-scenario) your own doctors/hospital, and you find yourself glutened, caseined, soy-ed, corn-ed, etc. Not good. Again, don’t worry…this is easy to avoid. Just make sure to sample every single thing you’re making (and yes I mean EVERYTHING) before you pack it. That way you’ll know without a shadow of a doubt that all of it is safe. Now this is a little more difficult than it sounds. You can’t just sample everything in one day or you’ll never know which food you reacted to…and then you’re left with nothing to pack! Make a schedule for that too. The week before I left, I tried my lemon coconut flour muffins one morning, the chicken for lunch, a salmon cake for dinner, then the remaining dinners throughout the course of the following day. You know how long it takes you to react (for me it’s about 90 minutes-2 hours) so spread out your tastings accordingly. Then once everything is cooked and tasted, pack it up, grab a cooler and you’re off for a week of fun!

Delicious Lemon/Coconut Flour Muffins. I even left a few in my freezer at home so I’d have breakfast waiting when I got back! BEST. IDEA. EVER.
Now I know this seems a bit overwhelming….especially because I haven’t even mentioned packing clothes, toiletries, etc. but that you’ve had down to a science for years now I bet. Before you know it, your food-packing plan will be the same. And don’t forget: unless you’re vacationing to the deep woods or maybe the Arctic Circle, there will be grocery stores nearby. If you run short on snacks, just go shopping. Let yourself eat ice cream for dinner. It is vacation after all 🙂

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