How to Be Prepared For Any Gluten Free Situation (Which is hardest for you?)

Have you ever been in a situation where you were too busy to make a meal? Have you been out and about, in between meetings, classes, or some sort of time contingent situation where fast food is the only option? Perhaps you have a child who plays sports and it's hard for them to have food before practice or after school activities. There are so many situations like this where finding food should be easy, but for those of us who are gluten-free, it's not that simple. We can't just grab fast food when on the road. We can't just quickly make a meal in between breaks. Cross contamination is too risky and let's be honest, our food takes much longer to prepare anyways.

For those of us who are gluten-free, most situations on-the-go or away from home just aren't that easy. I've spent the last few years in situations where grabbing a quick fix of food wasn't an option. As much as I travel, I've had to learn how to be prepared for any gluten-free situation. That's why I'm here to share some tips based on what I've learned over the years with a little help from my friends at Enjoy Life Foods!

How to be prepared for these gluten-free situations:

Traveling on a plane
Always, always, always bring your own snacks onto the plane! It is very rare that the plane will have food that is gluten-free. Even the peanuts contain gluten so bring your own gluten-free snacks to stay safe! Typically, airports will not have safe restaurants but there will be many gluten-free bars that you can get in the airport before your flight. My favorite bars as of late are the Enjoy Life Foods Chewy Bars...especially the Carrot Cake flavor! Explore all the Chewy Bar flavors, here.

Traveling on a road trip 
Before your trip, research the restaurants along the path you will be taking to your destination! The best restaurants to look for along the way are Chipotle and Chick-Fil-A. Those will commonly be found on any road trip and they have some fairly safe options too. Either way, bring some snacks and possibly a cooler for pre-made food just in case. Enjoy Life Foods Grab & Go Packs are a great option for on the road. Learn more.

Some of the Enjoy Life Foods Products that I take on-the-go when I travel!

Breakfast for a busy morning 
The easiest way to be prepared for breakfast is to make some muffins, pancakes, or reheat-able options for the week. That way you can easily have something ready to go for any busy morning. Again, Enjoy Life Foods has a Pancake + Waffle Mix that is very easy to make and top 8 allergy free! Make these ahead of time so you'll have something to reheat in the morning. If you're too busy to even do that, have some meal replacement bars readily available instead.

Lunch for kids / teens 
Use Sunday to lay out the weeks lunches for your child. Have a collection of snack bars to include, a selection of sides such as fruits, veggies, nuts, etc. to select from, and a few main dishes to swap out in the week. I recently did a blog post on this providing many gluten-free lunch ideas, here! It has tons of information to help.

Lunch for adults 
I like to make my own wraps or sandwiches then pack them for the day. You can make a wrap, add turkey meat, veggies, and mayo, then wrap it in aluminum foil to make it compact and sealed. That's my favorite along with some chips and fruit in zip block bags. Just remember that eating something is better than nothing at all!

My favorite snack to get me through my errands...ProBurst Bites!

Running errands for a few hours 
I always bring bars to store in my bag when running around. I never leave the house without a snack because you never know how long you'll be gone! Chick-Fil-A is usually a safe option if you need something quick. But having snacks on you is key to helping you get through your few hours of errands. As for specifics, Enjoy Life Foods ProBurst Bites are my go-to since they are full of plant based protein. Learn more.

Going to a social gathering or get together 
If you're going to a restaurant, research their menu beforehand and plan on what you're going to order before you show up. I'd even recommend calling the restaurant to make them aware of your food allergies before you arrive. This will let you know how careful you should be and it can help avoid any difficulties at the time of the gathering. There are apps like the Find Me Gluten Free app that make it much easier. I'd recommend it to help!

If you're going to a party, cookout, or social situation that is not a restaurant, talk to the host beforehand. This can be a good way to figure out what food will be available and what you have to plan for. Be careful of chip dips or any foods that may cross contaminate. Even bring a few of your own dishes to keep safe if you'd like. Usually there will be some options that are safe but you can never be too careful.

Just a tip...I sometimes eat a little bit before the social gathering if I'm not too confident in the gluten-free options that I will have there. Just go with your gut! (pun intended)

Coming home after a long day / too tired to cook 
Always make sure to have a few ready to eat options in your kitchen at all times. Whether it's a frozen pizza, microwaveable meal, leftovers, or whatever. There's nothing to be ashamed of if you just don't have the time or energy to cook a whole meal for yourself. Eating an easy to prepare, not so healthy dinner is way better than no dinner at all. Sometimes being short on time is just how life works. Make the most of those days and always have something quick to cook in your kitchen. My favorite is a pizza for the week using Enjoy Life Foods Pizza Crust Mix since it creates a large pizza that is easy to reheat. Learn more.

An easy pizza crust mix that only needs 2 ingredients added to it!

Final tip:
As you saw throughout this post, my #1 tip is to always have food on you at all times. I can't tell you how many times I left the house without food only to realize how scarce the gluten-free options can be when on-the-go. I seriously never leave my house without a Kind Bar, Enjoy Life Foods Chewy Bar, ProBar, or any other sustainable bar now. Carrying bars with me has allowed me to get through my days no matter how busy they get. At the very least this can hold you over until you get your next meal when you finally get home. It took me years to figure this out even though it's so simple. Just give it a try, know that planning ahead of time is key, and I can promise that you'll figure it out too. If there are any situations that you've dealt with that I forgot to cover in this post, comment below and I'll be happy to share my advice!

Disclaimer: I have been compensated by Enjoy Life Foods for promoting their brand in this post. However, I have loved their products since I first got diagnosed with celiac disease in 2010 and I'm proud to support their brand :)

Which one of these situations is hardest for you? Is there any I missed? Comment below!
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  1. Yes, I do always have a couple bars in my purse for emergencies. Yes, all your advice is good: I especially recommend the eating a little before going to a social gathering where there may not be much or anything you can eat. I'll also bring my own to a social gathering---either a sandwich just for myself, or a dish to share (and then educate about cross-contact). is a great source for checking on restaurants in the US. I use that one and Findmegf all the time. There are very few Chipotle restaurants near me and no Chik-Fil-A: chains are regional, so better advice would be to encourage newly-diagnosed people to research, talk to doctors and knowledgeable friends, about chain restaurants (or otherwise) near them that tend to be safe. You might also tell us where you are (I think you're in FL?) so that we would now know, if we were traveling in that area, to look for Chipotle and Chik-fil-a. I'm often hospitalized for asthma: that can be a difficult situation. You'd think that a hospital would be totally down with restricted diets, but they're not. My emergency bars in my purse come in handy for the first meal or two I need there. After that, I do a combo of having my family bring me safe food and teaching the hospital staff what I can/can't eat, and especially explaining about cross-contact. There is often a surprising ignorance of safe food prep protocol among the kitchen staff. You do a great job of writing for people who are newly-diagnosed, Tyler.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Jeanne! Tampa Bay, Florida is where you can find Chipotles and Chick-Fil-A's. They can be commonly found throughout the entire state. As for hospitals, that is definitely a tricky one I'm all too familiar with. It's crazy how unaware the staff can be and how sick you can get in the place that's supposed to help you get better!

  2. I totally agree about hospitals. Once when my father was in, I was taken by surprise when I went to the cafeteria for supper and there was nothing gluten free. That time I went home to eat (the hospital was only 5 mins away). But after that, I brought my own food.
    I am also allergic to flax-which most gluten free food has, and oats. The hardest is knowing what to do with friends at parties. one time I provided my own gluten free ingredients for the party host to use. She did make gluten free food but did not use what I gave her. I did not know until I arrived that she had switched food brands on me, and I didn't know what to do. It didn't take long and I found out the hard way that hers had flax in it. Several days later I went to her store just to double check, and sure enough what she had used had flax in it. I still don't know how to handle parties very well, as I can't read labels usually. But I am learning to bring my own foods.

    1. Parties are super difficult! Even if the people there are sympathetic, it can still be hard since they may not be educated enough in what's safe. What you mentioned about bringing your own food if often best. But these social situations just take practice and time the more you get to spend time with the same group of people. I'm sorry to hear you've gotten sick from that but I do hope it continues to get better for you! Let me know if there's anything I can offer to help!