Anyone with celiac disease can tell you that we get “hangry” when we travel. Airport and rest stop food is challenging enough to stomach for those who aren’t limited by a frustrating autoimmune disease, but when you can’t eat gluten, you have few options when you’re on the road.
Granted, there are myriad foods that are naturally gluten-free, but with my busy work schedule sometimes a girl’s just gotta have something quick and easy to grab on her way out the door, or shove into an already tightly packed carryon to fend off snack attacks during a five-hour flight.
At this year’s Summer Fancy Foods Show, I perused the aisles from a very personal place: as someone with celiac disease who wants some no-muss, no-fuss substantive snack options when she’s away from home. They had to fit into one of the compartments of my work bag, or the outer pocket of my carryon. The packaging had to be simple and convenient, but most important of all: The food had to taste good. Bonus points if it came from a local company. Here are the standouts:
Go Picnic: Six out of the nine Go Picnic ready-to-eat meals are gluten-free, and they’re quite good. They company is smart about balancing sweet and salt in their snack box offerings, and they don’t use products with artificial anything. No trans fats, MSG or HFCS, either. They’ve slimmed their packaging to be more travel-friendly and environmentally sound.
Justin’s Nut Butter: I used to cram peanut butter into a Ziploc and squeeze it into my mouth as I sat on the Acela on my way to New York. Now, I can class it up a bit and take advantage of the mini squeeze packs of Justin’s honey peanut butter or maple almond butter. They also carry gluten-free dark chocolate peanut butter cups that will bring you to your knees. Lots of regular candy is off-limits to people who can’t eat gluten, so my hat is off to Justin’s for making candy that handily bests a traditional peanut butter cup or Snickers bar any day.
Numi Tea: Believe it or not, not all teas are gluten-free. Many contain or are processed with barley, which is not something I can have. Numi teas are not only gluten-free, they’re individually packaged, travel well, and they taste great. I’m becoming addicted to their Moroccan Mint and can’t wait to take a few packs with me on my next trip to Chicago to help settle my stomach after a long night of restaurant-hopping.
Snyder’s Pretzels: I grew up in York, Pa., eating our hometown Snyder’s hard pretzels, so it was music to my ears to learn they’ve set up their processing practices to be able to make safe, not-cross-contaminated gluten-free pretzels. Finally, I can eat the “pretzels of my people” once again — on the beach, listening to cheesy ’80s music while seagulls squawk overhead.
Route 11 Chips: Founder Sarah Cohen’s significant other can’t eat gluten, so she has dedicated some serious time and effort into making nearly all her potato chip offerings gluten-free. Potatoes, themselves, are sans gluten, but spices, seasonings and other flavorings are what make things tricky. Route 11 chips, headquartered in Mount Jackson, Va., are a new travel favorite of mine. . .particularly the Dill Pickle chips in the small, 2-ounce bag.
Mrs. Crimble’s: Moist, flavorful, chocolate-dunked macaroons individually packaged for travel? Yes, please. I like my sweets to have a little texture to them, and these cookies far exceeded my expectations. They’re imported from the United Kingdom, where Mrs. Crimble’s marketing director Gareth Toms tells me companies are finally paying serious attention to people with celiac disease.