Posts tagged ‘travel’
The following guest post is from National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) volunteer, Candice Clifford of Embrace G-Free.
What does, “expect the unexpected,” mean to you? This was an exact interview question, which was given to me during my international service trip (ISP) interview. As I heard these words I felt both fear and a thrill of excitement. However, as I thought more about this central ISP theme, I began to realize this phrase could describe my life for the past eight years.
I don’t understand why certain events have happened in my life, but I certainly know that each hardship has taught me valuable life lessons. While dwelling on the “why question” was a part of my grief process when I was first diagnosed with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (‘gluten sensitivity’), I quickly realized this was not going to help me live my best life.
As Robin Roberts of “Good Morning America” says, “make your mess your message.” Whether big or small, we all have our own challenges. In the end I truly feel that you will not be defined by your “something,” rather people will remember you for what you did with your life after you faced adversity.
After I was diagnosed, I was full of fear. Food, going out to eat and getting sick again were fears hat controlled my life. However, in 2011 I made a choice to make a change by starting my blog, Embrace G-Free. Not only did this help get me back cooking in the kitchen, but it also empowered me.
Empowerment is one of the words which is continually tossed around in my counseling classes. However, I truly believe empowerment is a concept that you can’t fully understand until you personally experience it. As a future counselor I feel blessed that I will have the opportunity to help my clients become empowered. However, it is possible to discover self-empowerment without the guidance of a professional.
One of the best things you can do to achieve self-empowerment is set a goal; big or small, size doesn’t matter. What makes the difference is your attitude. Throw the self-doubt out the door. “I can’t” isn’t an option. By no means am I saying you will achieve all your goals. I for sure haven’t; failing is part of life. It is possible you may discover a barrier which prevents you from achieving your goal. However if you take all the proper steps and know you did everything in your power to try and achieve your goal, consider it a success. In taking action rather than letting your dreams pass you by, you will begin to feel more empowered.
If you haven’t picked up on it by now, self-empowerment is something I am so passionate about because becoming empowered has moved my life in such a positive direction and has provided me with experiences which I am forever grateful for. Finding empowerment through my diagnosis was one of life’s “unexpected” moments, eventually leading me to achieving a goal which I was ready to give up on. However, a long-term college dream was achieved this past May when I was blessed to go on an international service trip to El Salvador.
It was a long process to see if this goal could even be achieved. I started back in April 2012 and continued when I returned to school in September to make sure the sites could accommodate my needs. It was one thing to want to go on an ISP trip, but I needed to ensure I could do it safely. Patience, diligence, determination and an incredible program director helped me get through step one. Once I got the green light, it was onto getting over the hurdles of application selections and an interview process.
I will never forget the day I received the e-mail notifying me that I was selected to travel to El Salvador. I cried and would have screamed if I wasn’t at work. The planning process was incredible and in May 2013, my group and I were ready to head off to El Salvador.
While many people see a service trip as a way to serve others, I can honestly say that the people and experiences I had taught me more than I could ever give to the people I served. Although I felt empowered prior to ISP, this experience truly allowed me to take my feeling of empowerment to a new level. Not only was I faced with the challenge of new food allergy diagnoses a month before the trip, but while in El Salvador all my fears that I had prior to leaving happened. Despite this, I was OK.
I truly believe it was my individual choices, which helped me overcome the challenges I faced. For example, rather then crying when I walked in the first night and realized I couldn’t eat the main meal, I took a deep breath to calm myself down, told myself it was going to be OK, and made an almond butter sandwich. Overall that was one of the only meals I couldn’t eat and when I was unsure, I did without and turned to a safe option I brought with me.
After going on this trip I really began to realize even though food is our medicine, it doesn’t have to make or break our experiences. Of course enjoying some of the cultural dishes was wonderful and delicious, however, when I look back 20 years from now, I will not remember the foods I ate. Rather my memories will be of all the wonderful relationships I built during those 7 special days in El Salvador.
Food is our medicine, but don’t let it stop you from achieving your goals. Become Empowered!
About Candice Clifford & Embrace G-Free
Visit Embrace G-Free where you can find empowering tools to live your happiest and healthiest gluten-free life! Browse through great recipes, product reviews and helpful resources. Candice Clifford started Embrace G-free in January 2011, after being diagnosed with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Follow her journey as she rediscovers her passions for baking and cooking. Candice shares her story with others to spare them from years of misdiagnoses and to inspire hope.
Follow Candice on Twitter (@CandiceRose90) and like Embrace G-Free on Facebook.
The next few days will be particularly busy for our president, Alice Bast. She’s speaking at two conferences – the School Nutrition Association (SNA) Annual National Conference and the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting and Food Expo – in the course of 48 hours.
The two audiences are vastly different, but they both play critical roles in keeping our community safe. School nutrition teams are key advocates in coordinating gluten-free school lunches for children with celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders. Food technologists make sure we have gluten-free options in the first place, spending months testing new formulations and making adjustments to create gluten-free products that are tasty and safe.
I’ve had the privilege to work on both presentations, gathering facts, creating slides and rehearsing with Alice to make sure we are delivering the most up-to-date information and explaining why this topic is so important. With so much attention on the gluten-free “fad,” we believe it’s more important than ever to emphasize the medical necessity of the gluten-free diet and the serious health concerns associated with that need.
Alice will not be alone in sharing this information. She’ll be joined by some incredible people who are leaders in their industries.
At the SNA Conference, Alice will be presenting with Gabriela Pacheco, RDN, LD, SNS, a school nutrition consultant with a keen interest in accommodating special dietary needs. You may remember Gabriela from last year’s Back-to-School webinar; she served as our panelist and shared a number of helpful tips that parents can use when working with school nutrition teams.
At the IFT Meeting and Expo, Alice will be presenting with Jennifer Williams of Penford Food Ingredients, which produces the gluten-free starches found in many of your favorite gluten-free foods. Penford is constantly developing new ingredients to help manufacturers improve the taste, texture and nutrition of gluten-free products. It falls under the category of “things I never knew existed before I worked at NFCA,” but it’s a critical step in making sure your gluten-free food is not only safe, but also something that you’ll want to eat.
Giri Veeramuthu of PacMoore Products, a contract manufacturer that works on gluten-free products, will also share his insights during the presentation.
Our trade show presentations are one of those behind-the-scenes functions that make a big difference in our mission to increase diagnoses and improve quality of life. It’s our chance to bring the voice of all people affected by celiac disease and gluten sensitivity to the forefront, and we wish we could bring you all along to see the education in action!
What are you interested in learning about the trade shows that NFCA attends? We are interested in hearing your thoughts, so leave a comment below!
I’ve become quite an expert at traveling. As Director of Gluten-Free Industry Initiatives for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA), I’ve visited over 25 cities and worked in a dozen or more states within three years (my latest NFCA trip was to Atlanta, Georgia two weeks ago for the KeHE Summer Selling Show). I can maneuver through airport security with ease and efficiency, flipping off shoes and jackets and pulling out bags of liquids and my laptop in seconds. And since I have celiac disease, traveling means “always being prepared and aware” so I’ve created a list of “must-haves” snacks, which airports have safe choices and how to find gluten-free friendly and not so friendly restaurants anywhere in the country. (I use the Find Me Gluten-Free app to sort out potential eateries. This is a dining locator not an endorsement of gluten-free options. You still need to investigate by reading the reviews, making a call and asking questions.) I’ve also had to be proactive and advocate for myself and others with gluten-related disorders when it comes to attending business dinners, conferences and events by identifying my dietary needs on conference registration forms, plus notifying event coordinators, hotel hospitality and general managers.
This is all part of trip preparation. It takes a bit more time but I always feel it’s important to be an advocate for not only myself but for all people with gluten-related disorders. And while I’m traveling around the country, I feel it is my job and honor to be the voice for people with celiac disease everywhere by spreading education, awareness and understanding. (You may not want to sit next to me on a plane…you’ll get an earful.) I have learned that if we don’t politely ask, people may not think our dietary needs are necessary. If we don’t carefully express our needs, many may not think there are any. If we don’t calmly mention the mistake, serves and restaurants will never know there is a problem. If we don’t ask if they have completed NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens gluten-free training program, restaurant operators, chefs and servers may not think they need it. But, if we remain patient and plant the seed, the growth will come.
Here is my list of must-have gluten-free snacks to take with me on the go:
- KIND bars
- Gluten-free crackers (If you keep these in a tin, they’re perfect for packing in a suitcase)
- Individual servings of hummus and nut butter
- Jerky sticks
- Cheese sticks
- Mix nuts, dried fruit, gluten-free pretzels or chocolate chips
- Go Picnic boxes (Not everything by Go Picnic is gluten-free, so be sure to check before purchasing)
I’m always looking for new travel-friendly gluten-free foods. Comment below with your go-to travel snack to give me some fresh ideas!
[You learned how to cook gluten-free. You found local restaurants that serve gluten-free. Now, you have to travel gluten-free. Heading to an unfamiliar area can be intimidating, but fear not! Frequent flier Gluten-Free Mike has 5 tips to prepare you for any upcoming trip.]
Let’s face it, we’ve all had that moment of initial panic when we first received our celiac diagnosis. Speaking from personal experience, I know I was completely caught off guard and quite honestly had not even heard of celiac disease before I actually found out I had it. Sounds familiar, right?
Well, that was more than 10 years ago when the gluten-free landscape and celiac awareness were indeed at a very different place than they are today. Fast forward to today and awareness of and catering to celiacs has come a very long way, and perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than in the travel and hospitality industry.
I have been globe trekking since before I could walk, and when first diagnosed thought that celiac disease would throw a wrench into my love of travel. To be honest, it did at first. My diagnosis came at a time when there were few good gluten-free products and they were difficult to source. Most restaurants had no clue what I was talking about and going abroad seemed to only magnify the confusion. I slowly but surely got back on the proverbial horse when I realized that celiac need not be limiting and that I needed to take control of the disease and live my life on my terms.
Over the years I have developed a few tips and tricks particularly when it comes to traveling with celiac disease, and I am happy to share some of them with you here:
1. All Airlines Are Not Created Equal.
If you are going to be flying, particularly long-haul international, check out a few carriers’ websites to see whether or not they offer a gluten-free meal option – some even provide samples of what they’ll include. This will depend on length of flight and class of service, but most airlines will have a gluten-free option if your flight has meal service. Yes, some airlines do gluten-free better than others, and I have had some amazing gluten-free meals over the years – some even included a fresh gluten-free roll – can you imagine? Will the gluten-free meal knock your socks off? Likely not, but at least it is safe option to tide you over until you land.
The most important tip I can give when flying is as soon as you board, ask a flight attendant if your meal has been loaded BEFORE departure. Oftentimes if there is a problem they can deal with it while on the ground vs. not being able to do anything at 35,000 feet. On a recent flight, my gluten-free meal was even noted right on my boarding pass – nice! Another trick I use is when flying in a premium cabin to check out the airline’s online menus for the route. Most airlines have monthly menus for specific routes and these can be accessed online. I scan the menu to see if any of the “regular” options will work for me and more often than not there is something I can have. I have also seen more and more gluten-free snack item choices making their way on board shorter flights, which is always good to see.
2. Do Your Homework.
This sounds like a given, but just getting a feel for the area you’ll be visiting can help you enjoy your vacation (or business trip) a bit more. I like to go online and look at the immediate vicinity around where I’ll be staying. Where is the nearest supermarket? What dining options are around? Is there a local celiac group site that gives tips and advice for the area? If a restaurant piques your interest, check out their menu or give them a ring to discuss whether they will be able to accommodate your needs. There are even an increasing number of hotel chains that now that cater to a host of dietary restrictions and food allergic travelers. The more leg work you do before departure, the less stress you’ll have at your destination.
3. Speak the Language.
Okay, this might be easier said than done but there is an easy solution if you find yourself in a country where you do not speak the language. Printable food allergy cards that you can either buy or download for free online. My recent trip to Peru had me a bit leery as I do not speak Spanish. Before I left, I printed out and laminated a few double-sided cards that had both a celiac disease explanation and shellfish allergy notation that called out what I could and could not eat in detail. Let me tell you that these were a lifesaver because each time I presented them, the server read them and could immediately tell me what would work for me on their menu. If I was in a location where I thought the cross-contamination from shellfish could be an issue, the servers actually brought the cards back to the kitchen for the chef and kitchen staff to read. I had zero issues or reactions on my most recent journey, which was the first time I have brought such cards along with me – and best of all they were available free online.
4. Pack Accordingly.
No, I am not talking about what clothes to bring – though that is sometimes equally as important. When I travel, be it by car, train, plane, or horseback (okay, that last one is a bit of poetic license) I always take along what I call my Gluten-Free Contingency Pack. Depending on the length of my journey, I always carry a bag of nibbles so that I have something to nosh on if I find myself delayed or not having any gluten-free options readily available while en route.
So what’s in my contingency pack? Well, I am glad you asked. I typically include a few gluten-free snack items like chips, pretzels, cookies, or snack mix along with a couple meal replacement bars or snack bars. Okay, and maybe there might be a chocolate bar (or two) in there. A just-add-water type noodle snack or dry soup is also great to toss in your carry-on and I typically will carry those for ultra long-haul flights of 14 or more hours. I also like to toss a few snack items in my checked bag so I can have a snack at my hotel without having to pop-out to a supermarket right away.
5. Be Flexible.
Flexibility is really key. You might find yourself in a situation with limited knowledge of or availability of a host of gluten-free options. Don’t panic. Regardless of the situation (and some of mine have been less than ideal) I have never gone hungry while on the road. Sure, you might not always be able to have exactly what you want, but there will be something – trust me. I have always been amazed at how far people are willing to go to accommodate my dietary needs while on the road. Also, a little education goes a long way. I cannot count how many times I had someone on the road say “I had no idea that contained gluten” or “I have heard of celiac, but never knew why you couldn’t eat gluten.” Just think, the more people become exposed to celiac disease, the less bumpy the road ahead becomes for all of us.
Perhaps the most important thing I have learned since my diagnosis is that I will not let being celiac define who I am or dictate what I can and cannot do, and you shouldn’t either. Life does in fact continue and it’s for the better because I now know why I would get sick after certain meals and in retrospect, pre-diagnosis was actually more limiting than I have found celiac to be.
It’s a great big gluten-free world out there so please, get out there and enjoy it. Oh, and there will be hiccups along the way – it’s just inevitable – but when they happen, look at them as learning experiences and not roadblocks. They happen to all of us, gluten-free or not.
– Michael De Cicco-Butz