Travelling with Kids on Special Diets

by Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom on December 29, 2008

Since we are travelling and we are on a special diet, I thought I’d share my 5 cents worth on the topic.

The boys are on a GFCFSF (gluten free, casein free, soy free) diet. This diet is very restrictive, but it is possible to travel and still stick to it!

1. In the airport or while “moving” from place to place. Take food with you. Don’t rely on any restaurant to have food or snacks that will accommodate your diet. We did stop at an airport restaurant and I ordered a fruit cup for the boys. Thinking it would be fresh fruit. Nope. Canned mandarin oranges and canned pineapple. These are OK for them to eat, but I would have preferred fresh fruit. I learned that there is little that they can eat from restaurant menus.

2. Upon arrival at your destination. Before your trip, kindly ask your host/hostess if they would be willing to purchase a few items for you to have on hand upon arriving. Assure them that you will reimburse them (or thank them if they resist!). Send a detailed list with brand names, product names and store names, if the item is obscure and can only be found in specialty stores. (We have to get some things at Whole Foods because my mom’s grocery store doesn’t have some of our favorite snacks.) Make a quick run to the grocery store as soon as you arrive to pick up any other products that you might need.

3. Eating out. Make friends with your waiter/waitress. I found that they were very helpful after I briefly explained the diet and asked about ingredients. One waitress even went to the kitchen to read a label for me. Very kind of her to do. When choosing a restaurant, ask your host/hostess about ones that use fresher ingredients, like a small cafe or deli. These smaller restaurants are more likely to change recipes or leave out ingredients, to suit your dietary needs than those larger chains with “premade” foods and dishes that can’t be altered.

Having children on special diets is a challenge. Travelling with children on special diets is really challenging. With a little planning and help from your host/hostess, your travel experience will be a little easier. Your kids will stay healthy and you will enjoy your time away.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

momstheword December 29, 2008 at 11:54 pm

Although my kids do not need a special diet I think this is good advice for any parent. When they were little we had a “picky” eater and there were some items that were just good to have on hand. Especially when you’re at someone else’s house.

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Mistress December 30, 2008 at 12:04 am

This is a great post. My son is lactose intolerant. It is not just milk. We have to do everything. Traveling when he was younger through airport security was really hard. One thing I did was bought his milk and left the seal on. I also did this with his yogurt as well as some of his snacks.

I only had a problem coming back into California and they took us to secondary. I did not mind as it was worth it for him not to have a tummy ache!!!

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Myglutenfreeboy December 30, 2008 at 9:36 am

We got the same drill down as my son is on a gf/sf diet. He seems to do fine with small amounts of dairy so that makes things a little easier. We are moving across the ocean in a little over a week and I plan on packing lots of snack foods for my son :0) .

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Stephanie December 30, 2008 at 9:49 am

My sister’s son is on the same diet as your children’s. Having someone in the family with this diet restriction is a challenge for her and we do try to adjust our menu planning when we have large family events. She knows all too well that eating out is not a convenient option. This is a wonderful post. I know she follows your site as well.

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Your Frugal Friend, Niki December 30, 2008 at 12:18 pm

We have a son who needs a special diet and it is a real challenge. Thanks for all your tips!

I am one of your contributing writer teammates from H2B@H, and I enjoy your blog and look forward to checking out your contributions over there.

Happy New Year!

:)

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Susan of Very Pretty Things & Pink Portuguese Roses December 30, 2008 at 3:59 pm

Several years ago the DR’s thought my daughter had Celiac’s. So I did the GF diet. It was really hard. Back then they didn’t have allergy warnings like now.

If there is an Outback steak house near you or where you are visiting…They offer a GF menu. The wife of the man who owns the Outbacks has Celiac’s. And he has instructed all the resturants to be very careful with that menu. They even have a different kitchen area to cook the GF meals.

I created several menus for her/us from back then…Please let me know if you are interested in those. I would be happy to pass them along.

Susan

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Mel December 30, 2008 at 8:17 pm

Thanks for sharing. It’s nice to see how other people handle special diets. My daughter has a milk allergy and I’m afraid to order her anything when we eat out. I just bring her food. I’d be interested in further posts on this issue! Thanks!

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Paula December 31, 2008 at 3:41 pm

Yes, I agree. Most all restaurants now have a gluten free menu. If they do not, then they usually have something they can print out from their main site. You can also search online for GF restaurants in the area you are visiting. My son is allergic to the top 8. Yes, that makes things EXTREMELY difficult as you have to cross check 8 different menus. LOL! My other three daughters are all GF.

I also wanted to suggest checking out the vegetarian restaurants in the area. They are usually MUCH better about having menus for children with allergies, or at least modifying a meal to be GFCFSF). I know that Chick-Fil-A is our preference for fast food as they will GRILL the chicken nuggets for their kids meals! (The breading has egg, casein AND MSG in it! Their oil is peanut not soy or corn and so far my son seems to do well with it.)

Also, we got to a LOT of buffet places. Makes it easier to pick and choose. If it is a Pizza buffet place, I have noticed that some places now carry GF dough! If not, we usually ask for a discount. My daughters get an all you can eat salad buffet (with fruit and dessert) for $2.99 at our local pizza buffet place!

We also check out the health food stores in the area online before we leave. We have been able to find some AWESOME discount health food stores (avoiding the way overpriced Whole Foods) by just taking the time to do the search.

Also, join a food allergy group (I really like Terrific Kids With Food Allergies – it is a yahoo group). You can ask online about the city you are going to visit. Find out good and helpful restaurants and health food stores.

I also wanted to ask you if you have looked into baking with coconut flour? It beats having to buy the pre-made stuff (way costly), the mixes (not as costly, but still more than my budget can handle) or buying all the specialty flours and binders (where to store everything when you are stockpiling?) :D. I am just learning about it myself. The bread tastes great and not coconutty at all. It does have a different texture though. Plan on trying cookies sometime soon. I would be interested to hear your take on it.

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TBG January 1, 2009 at 5:00 am

growing up 3 out of 5 of us were allergic to Peas, Peanuts, Soy, Milk, Strawberries, Tomatoes, Oats, Wheat, Rye, & Eggs. We traveled all the time my mom would pack lots of things we could eat in a suitcase. We were able to eat meats and most vegetables. It was a challenge to say the least because health food and organic was not as big 30 years ago as it is now.

I really enjoy your site. Thanks for all your tips.

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