Traveling with Allergies
Hi there! Thanks for stopping by my page. If you read my info, you know that I am passionate about food and especially allergies. Living with allergies is a huge deal and can often feel like an inconvenience to other people. When I was nursing my son and I had to eliminate dairy due to his reaction through my breast milk, it made it very hard to socialize or go anywhere to eat. Everything has dairy in it or has cheese, milk or butter. (some people do not even realize that butter is dairy, it is made from the milk, that comes from a cow. It is mostly fat and people with lactose intolerance can often tolerate butter, but no always, and definitely not if you have an anaphylaxis allergy.)
My son is now 4 and anytime we leave the house, even just for the day, I have to make sure I have a cooler full of snacks and food available to ensure we don't have a cranky preschooler! My cooler usually contents are usually fairy simple like fruit like apples, bananas, oranges, berries and/or grapes. And then I will have baby carrot sticks, sugar snap peas to snack on. Then of course left over dinner in a glass container that I can throw in a microwave if available. And this is just for a day trip to the city!
This summer, we went on our first family vacation with our allergy kid. Before we started our family, my husband and I were very seasoned travelers. I used to work for an airline and my husband and I did the dreadful long distance relationship for the first year we met. Needless to say, we have been around a few airports in our time. And even though airports were my second home for 7 years of my life, airports are not a friendly place for someone trying to avoid foods. But it is doable! It's just a matter of planning.
We are taking 2 flights to get to our vacation, the first flight leaving at dreaded 5am in the morning (trust me, these flights are not any more fun for the crew working them than the passengers that have to be there!) So with my garbage disposal of a child (my son eats more than his 3 cousins combined!) It is essential that I come prepared for that day. I started by making sure I have his steel cut oats ready the night before. (3 cups water, 1 cup steel cut oats, simmered until water has been absorbed, stir in some protein powder to keep him full, and then some fresh or frozen fruit for complex carbohydrate and fibre) I will also be packed some apples, bananas in a lunch bag. All of this is safe going through security, just no liquids above 100 ml containers. I also be packed some farmers sausage from my local butcher that is dairy, soy, wheat and nut free. When dealing with allergies, it is always a good idea to double check with sausages of any kind because often the binder they use is either wheat based or dairy based. As well as some home made crackers and beef jerky (recipes will be on instagram soon!) And as long as all your fruit is consumed before you arrive at your destination and go through customs, you will be good to go! If of course you are going through customs (especially US customs) before you reach your destination, then the fresh fruit and veggies are out for that lunch bag. They don't like fresh food going through to other countries, but sometimes there are some customs agents that let you through with fruit if it has it's sticker on it (but that may have also been a crew exception, not sure...)
Once we got there, we stayed in a hotel with a small kitchenette so I brought a few things in my suitcase to have in our hotel room for quick and easy meals. I plan on bringing my steel cut oats and protein powder for breakfasts (my son is very particular with his morning routine.) I also bought a small magic bullet blender to have in my suitcase to be able to make smoothies in our room with the single serving cup for quick and easy snacks when I hear "Mama, I'm hungry!" Which is basically every few hours lol I stocked up on fresh fruit from a local market and have granola bars and fruit source bars as a back up plan.
The next challenge was finding restaurants that would accommodate allergies. Luckily, this trip was to the Grand Cayman so there wasn't a language barrier to worry about. The hotel restaurant had a continental breakfast so we always had fruit and raisin bran was a favorite since I don't normally buy that but it is allergen free. The restaurant had a few things on the menu that were allergen safe, one thing that was a big hit was lettuce wraps. Grilled chicken with bacon, tomato, onion, avocado and cucumber wrapped in a piece of lettuce. My son came out of the pool when I called him to eat saying "Yay! best day ever!" so it was a hit and we often enjoyed that for our lunch. The most challenging part of this vacation was finding affordable restaurants that had allergen safe, and healthy food choices. French fries are usually a safe choice but are deep fried in canola oil which is hydrogenated and not my first choice. However, when choices are slim and you are on vacation, you tend to bend the rules a bit haha.
We were very fortunate this year to go on a second vacation and this time we went to an all inclusive in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Now this trip I was a little less nervous than I was our first trip but still was extremely apprehensive about giving up the control of our food preparation to someone else that may not completely understand what I was asking. However, this resort that was chosen for us, as we were attending a wedding, was AMAZING when it came to food allergies. As soon as we checked in, they asked if there were any food allergies. I gave them my list of Dairy, Eggs, Sesame and Peanuts. Then returned with individual cards that showed in Spanish and English what foods needed to be avoided. I just presented them at the buffet or any of the restaurants that we went to and they were on top of it. They never made me feel like an inconvenience and were amazing at making my special requests. I think my son had a hard time trusting the food from someone else this time, he really didn't want to eat much at first. However, after a few attempts, we came up with a green smoothie that went down easy each morning and they made him his own dairy free oatmeal. The smoothie we created was a little apple juice for sweetness, an avocado (healthy fat), a banana and spinach(complex carbohydrates). The only thing missing was a protein, which in hindsight, I was contemplating bringing, but decided against it. The buffet told us that they normally only make smoothies in the morning for breakfast, but they made an exception for us and made one for us each breakfast and lunch ensuring that my son at least had some greens in him. We often ordered just plain chicken, rice and veggies, but they always come with a huge piece of meat, a good portion of rice and a couple of pieces of veggies. I guess most people don't think about making sure to get their veggies in them on vacation lol. Another option we had was spaghetti with tomato sauce. It was simple and it disappeared so fast! And once my son got sight of french fries, they made them special for him in a separate deep fryer to avoid any cross contamination.
As hard as it was to give up control of feeding my family to keep my son safe, these trips were very good for helping me get out of my comfort zone and have faith that with the right communication and little smile, people are often willing to help you accommodate food allergies. I am no longer afraid to travel and not have a kitchen at my disposal. If I were to travel to a place that there may be a language barrier and that I was not staying at a hotel that is as accommodating as ours was, I would suggest to just look up your food allergens in the language of the country you are traveling to and create a card saying NO DAIRY for example and then in the language needed, this way you have something to show the people preparing your food of the food you must avoid. I would pack my magic bullet, even if we were staying at an all inclusive with my protein powder. That way it would be easy to get fresh fruit and greens and make up a balanced smoothie to avoid being hungry. And just make sure to have dried fruit with you for an easy snack in your bag and customs shouldn't take it either! (depending on the day, they may decide dried fruit is't allowed to cross the boarder either, just be sure to claim it.)
Now I am sorry this is an extremely long post, but I hope that I have provided you with some inspiration to travel and some tips and tricks on how to travel with allergies and to eat healthy while on vacation. Thanks for reading!
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I'm Elizabeth and I love cooking! When my son was faced with many different food allergies, cooking became very challenging. Now I like to educate people about what they are putting in their mouth as well as inspire others that cooking healthy allergen friendly foods are easy and delicious. For recipes, visit my Instagram account @holisticmommabear