Gluten-Free Eating On-the-Go
Published April, 2021
A gluten-free diet shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying your favorite activities. Whether you are planning to travel, hike, go to the beach, or be on-the-go, your gluten-free needs don’t need to stop you. Here are some tips to help you plan and prepare gluten-free snacks and meals, and navigate eating out, so you feel empowered to continue with the activities you love.
Bringing Your Own Food
Preparing your snacks in advance of kicking off your travel or outing will remove the stress of last-minute decisions around what to eat or if you will find safe, gluten-free options. Ultimately, you will have more time and energy to focus on your plans and enjoy yourself.
While planning snacks or meals, consider the following:
Duration of Activity
How long will you be gone – hours, days, weeks? This will determine how much food you need to buy and prep. For a day trip, you may need to pack several snacks, or even a meal, depending on how often you are used to snacking and the type of activity you’re engaging in. Since activities like hiking require more energy than something low–key like lounging on a beach, you’ll want to adjust your food supply accordingly. If you will be gone for several days or even weeks, you may want to pack a larger supply of granola bars, or items like nuts and dried fruit that can be easily packed and hold up well.
The type of transportation and activity you engage in will determine what kind of food storage is feasible, and that will help you narrow down food options. For example, if you have access to a cooler, you can bring perishable items. However, if you are hiking or going to be outdoors for an extended period of time, it will be important to focus on lighter–weight and non-perishable items.
Cooler or insulated lunch box: Ideal for travel by car and activities in one location
Try individually packaged plain yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, sliced veggies (broccoli, sugar snap peas, carrots, celery, cauliflower) with hummus, bean dip, or fresh salsa. Remember to pack ice packs to keep your items fresh and safe.
Backpack: Ideal for hiking, parks, theme parks, carry-on luggage
Try gluten-free granola bars, nuts/seeds, dried fruit, corn chips, popcorn, rice cakes with nut butter or jam.
Pro Tip: Check out GIG’s product directory to find GFCO-certified gluten-free products to pack, and don’t forget napkins and utensils!
Balance and Simplicity
The possibilities are endless when coming up with gluten-free snack ideas, but it can feel a little overwhelming when you are just getting started. When brainstorming, it can be helpful to keep it simple and use gluten-free foods you’re already familiar with and enjoy. Once you‘re in your groove, you’ll likely feel more comfortable getting creative and exploring new items.
Focus on balance. This means packing things that will provide a balance of nutrients to keep you nourished while you are away from home. Balanced snacks or meals will help provide adequate energy, stabilize your blood sugar, and keep you feeling full. A good rule of thumb is to include a combination of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.
For example, instead of packing just a rice cake (carbohydrate) that will provide short-term fullness and energy, pair it with a nut butter (protein and healthy fat) to help balance blood sugars and sustain your energy levels.
More simple and balanced snack ideas include:
- Apple slices or celery sticks with peanut butter
- Gluten-free crackers with cheese
- Carrot sticks and gluten-free crackers with hummus
Keep it simple, and don’t overthink it. Be realistic in what you like, what fits in with your budget, and what will provide the nutrition you need. Find inspiration from your current favorites and from gluten-free blogs and cookbooks. Check out some of GIG’s helpful resources, like this list of Easy-to-Find and Easy-to-Fix foods.
While bringing your own snacks and meals may be the safest option, it might not always be realistic to rely on this alone. An extended length of travel, or unforeseen delays, could mean you will be eating out or shopping for groceries at an unfamiliar store. Whether you are preparing yourself for unexpected circumstances or looking for a fun, safe experience eating out, we have you covered! Here are a few pointers to help you locate safe, gluten-free options when you need — or want — to eat out.
Maybe you ran out of snacks or plan on putting together food at your hotel. You might need to run to the grocery store during travel. Locating items that you are confident are gluten-free can be a little tricky, so it is important to read food labels carefully to determine if the items you find are safe to eat.
When reading a food label, look for the following:
1. Products that are GFCO-Certified gluten–free
Look for third party certification, such as GIG’s Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) mark.
2. Products that are labeled gluten-free
According to FDA labeling regulations, products labeled “gluten–free,” “no gluten,” “free of gluten,” and “without gluten” should be safe to consume. *
3. Read the ingredient list
Some foods and beverages are naturally gluten-free but may not bear the “gluten-free” label or certification. For products that are not either certified or labeled gluten-free, it is always important to read the ingredient list of a product to make sure it is safe.
If a packaged food product has any of the following ingredients, it is not gluten-free:
- Wheat (including all types of wheat such as spelt)
- Oats (unless certified gluten-free)
- Brewer’s yeast
*For details and more information, refer to our article 3 Tips for GF label reading from GIG.
GIG offers a directory of restaurants that have been validated as Gluten–Free Safe Spots through our Gluten Free Food Service Program (GFFS). Go to the GFFS directory to see if there are validated safe spots nearby.
Eating gluten-free requires a little extra planning, but it is well worth it to continue to engage in the activities you enjoy. Whether you are preparing your own food, grocery shopping, or eating out, there are resources and support available so you don’t need to figure it out alone. For more information, resources, and support, explore our website and social media platforms.
Written for GIG by Mia Howell, Bastyr University Dietetic Intern (2020-2021)
Disclaimer: The information on this website is for educational purposes only. Consult your healthcare team when considering this information.
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