Attending a conference is an exciting adventure. Not only do you get to meet a bunch of amazing people in your field and learn a ton of new information, but the food that is served is usually delicious. From buffets to free samples, you are spoiled with a scrumptious array of food to pick from. Unfortunately now that I’ve been diagnosed with Celiac disease, I have to be very careful and very choosy when it comes to eating food that I haven’t personally prepared myself. Gluten hides everywhere! You have to be very informed about alternative names for gluten and unthinkable places they may hide (i.e. Worchester sauce).
When I attended my first conference, I was terrified. I mean who wants to spend an entire conference doubled over in pain or rushing to the bathroom every five seconds. To calm myself down, I went with the presumption that there would be nothing I could eat. Knowing that the conference provided breakfast and lunch and I was to provide my own dinner, I felt confidence that I could survive the conference pain free if I was very prepared.
Key steps for attending a conference with a food allergy
1. RESEARCH – The most important thing when attending a conference, business trip or dinner out is to research where you are going. Its very important to learn if certified gluten free is assessable and where you can get it. One great thing to look in to is if the hotel or conference itself caters to food allergies. I was pleasantly surprised when I mentioned to the director that I was gluten free and I was provided entire gluten free lunch!
2. PACK YOUR OWN FOOD – You want to make sure that you 100% safe, bring your own food! Cereal bars, fresh fruit, raw veggies, etc., are easy to travel with, provide excellent nutrition and allow you to ensure that you are going to feel 100% and able to get the most out of your conference. By throwing a couple of granola bars in your purse, you can enjoy a snack at break time when everyone else is gorging on cookies. It allows you to feel included and part of the group.
3. READ LABELS – As in every other aspect of your life with Celiac disease, it is very important to read the labels of everything before you attempt to eat it. Remember labels change! Just because last time you ate a certain yogurt it was gluten free, you may be surprised to find that they have changed their production line and now it not 100% gluten free.
4. ASK QUESTIONS – This is one of the toughest things for me to do. I hate asking! I hate bothering people and I hate being a nuisance, but I have learned through my many stomach attacks, that asking to read the labels on the spices they add to my dinner or asking a waitress to double check with the kitchen if a certain item is gluten free, is much healthier for me then live through a stomach. The funny thing is most times they are only too happy to help!
If you are attending #BlissdomCa this year and suffer from Celiac Disease or live a gluten free lifestyle, I’d love to meet up! We can share recipes, trade secrets and snack on some delicious gluten free snacks!