We all have to go on road trips – some are shorter, like less than 2 hours, and some are longer, like greater than 4 hours. With celiac disease, these trips can be more challenging. With limited fast food options and boredom setting in, you have to have a variety of options.
I want to say this first, understand that all restaurants have the potential for cross contamination. They all have disclaimers and unless you find a special certified gluten free restaurant it will always be a risk. I do my best to minimize cross contamination risk, but there is always a risk. Most of the time I’m fairly safe. I do get sick occasionally.
Also note that restaurants are changing the way they talk about gluten free options. Now, restaurants are all calling their options “gluten friendly”. They are no longer calling them “gluten free” because “gluten free” has a technical definition according to the FDA. “Gluten free” according to the FDA means that an item contains less than 20 ppm of gluten. Can a restaurant guarantee that an item is less than 20 ppm? I dunno depends on the place and the precautions they take. Could it be? Maybe.
Also, I’m going to call my celiac disease an “allergy” often in this post and when dealing with people at fast food restaurants. They know and understand the word and I don’t want to get into a long diatribe about celiac. It is a quick and easy way to communicate.
So, are you the kind of person that packs all of your food and brings it with you? Great. Then this may not be the best article for you.
I am the kind of person doesn’t. I should be but most of the time I’m not prepared enough to have enough food. Also, my family is not gluten free, so they want to stop and eat. So, I’ve come up with some things that I do.
For those with a leisurely timeline, stopping and eating a meal is a real option. Outback Steakhouse is always a great option, but this article is not about the leisurely timeline travelers. This is for the hardcore road warriors that want to get to their fun or home as quickly as possible.
Because I live in the Southeast, Chick Fil A and Zaxby’s are real options. More information regarding what is gluten free and what is not at these restaurants is here for Chick Fil A and here for Zaxby’s. Chipotle, Moe’s, and Willy’s are all burrito places that offer quick service gluten free options – just make sure to tell them about your allergy and they will get fresh food from the back. Five Guys Burgers and Fries is great – as long as nobody has a peanut allergy! Five Guys also has a dedicated fryer for the fries and a only one person making the fries, so it is all good there!
But sometimes, these options are few and far between. For me, I can even make a “meal” at a gas station. I’ve been known to get an apple wrapped in plastic wrap, a bag of chips, and a pre-packaged protein drink. I’ve had a bottle of juice, cheese cubes, and a bag of popcorn. I’ve eaten a Chobani yogurt, an orange, a bag of Cheetos, and coke. Some places have grapes in a plastic cup which is another great option. I do love peanut M&M’s, popcorn, and cherry Coke. Sometimes, they even have bags of nuts that are marked gluten free. I always enjoy a Blow Pop on a road trip too!
One more thing, make sure to get some protein in your gas station meal. It will keep you full longer. Also, if getting a juice, make sure to blunt the sugar rush with something high in fiber to go with it. Trust me, it will make a difference in how long you can go between stops.
For me, getting a gas station “lunch” is just a bridge until I can get someplace with more options. This gas station meal isn’t my last meal and probably won’t be my last gas station meal on the trip. I’ve even run into this problem when out running errands and having to get back to someplace at a certain time. I have been known to often run in and get a juice and a popcorn to tide me over until I can sit for a real meal. But at least I can find something so I don’t get hangry.
I’ve learned these tricks, because I’ve had to. I’ve been on the road in the middle of nowhere Florida coming home from Disney on a Sunday. Since Chick Fil A isn’t open on Sunday it was Zaxby’s or bust. We didn’t find one for over 100 miles and I hadn’t eaten since an early dinner the night before. I was really, really hangry and my husband made us stop. He was tired of my bad mood. I made my first gas station “lunch” that day and have never worried about it since.
I’m not going to say that this is an ideal way to eat, but it certainly beats torturing your friends and family with a bad mood. So, don’t freak out too badly if you run out of meals along the way – there’s always the gas station lunch!