According to a 2015 Gallup poll, one in five Americans is currently eating gluten-free. And whether that’s due to celiac disease, dietary need, or just personal preference, there’s no denying it—gluten-free as a food choice is here to stay. The problem is that the same study found more than half of the population just doesn’t think about gluten in food when purchasing, preparing, or eating it. And that can spell disaster for business travelers who want to avoid the stuff. In order to make your gluten-free business life easier, we’ve put together a survival guide to traveling for work with a gluten preference.
Request a special meal for your flight.
Most airlines are required to provide alternate meal options for travelers with dietary restrictions. When you have to take a long-haul for business (or any other flight with a meal), make sure to go to the airline’s website first and order your meal special. As a fun bonus, this usually means you get served first.
Research restaurants before you go.
Likely, you’ll be too busy on your trip to do more than either eat at the hotel restaurant or head somewhere nearby. Do your research in advance, looking up local menus to see which places have gluten-free options. You can also plan your meal locations in advance and call the restaurant to ensure they’re aware of your needs. A number of websites allow you to search for gluten-free restaurants in a certain area, as well.
Come prepared to a foreign country.
So your trip is taking you somewhere you don’t speak the language? Bring along some dining cards about gluten allergies. These are downloadable cards in several languages that you can hand to a waiter so they can properly inform the chef of your dietary restrictions. You can find them online or at your host country’s celiac support organization, if it has one.
Get a kitchenette.
If you can cook your own meals in your own hotel room, you’ll feel much safer and more at ease with food choices. Talk to your travel manager about getting a room with a kitchenette.
If all else fails… bring your own food.
Group business trips often mean catered group lunches at meetings—and some company restrictions say that employees can’t be reimbursed for food if the meal is already provided. But that’s not such a great thing when the food is pizza, or pasta, or sandwiches. If your company won’t reimburse you for an alternate lunch or you can’t claim celiac as a disability, just bring your own food (or ship a box to your hotel ahead of time) or hit a grocery store once in town. That way you know what the ingredients are and can be 100 percent sure it’s edible for you.