Make Real Food

On a Journey to Love Myself and (the food in) the World Around Me.

Traveling with Food Intolerances – Toronto

by Chelsea @ Make Real Food on November 21, 2013, 7 comments

Where have I been hiding?  Well.  The title of the post should give you some kind of hint.  Last week Nathan and I traveled to Toronto.  He had a conference.  I went to hang out in the city.  And to see some awesome friends.

Traveling with Food Intolerances - Toronto

This wasn’t our first time traveling as almost-vegans.  But it was our first time traveling as almost-vegans-mostly-gluten-free – ers.  And, I’d be lying to say I wasn’t nervous, but I’d also be lying if I said that I was terrified.  Let’s call it – a healthy level of anticipation.  I knew I’d be able to find food to eat.  I just didn’t know what it would be.  And, traveling with others had me a bit on edge.  Would they choose a place that had NOTHING I could eat?  How would I handle that?

The bonus was that 3 of the 4 people we were traveling with (and then two of the other people we met when we arrived) were vegetarians.  Having the meat-eaters out numbered did give me a bit of ease.

I also did my homework, and already had some ‘safe’ places picked out – that I could suggest when the ‘where should we go to dinner’ question arose.

But most importantly – I packed food.  This is something I’ve really done for years.  When I was a teenager I was diagnosed with reactive hypoglycemia.  In other words – processed sugars made my body dump resources, which took my blood sugar on a roller coaster ride.  To combat this, I ate many small meals throughout the day – and was never without some type of protein source quick at hand.  Today this problem is much more under control – with the avoidance of processed sugars.  But, packing my own food is something that still makes me feel better, and this trip was no exception to that rule.

So what did I pack?  Below is a list.  I packed each of these items into Tupperware containers in my checked luggage (unless otherwise noted)

  • 1 loaf of homemade bread – I baked it the night before we left, with plenty of time for it to cool.  I also sliced it before we left, and put it in a Tupperware container

Traveling with Food Intolerances - Toronto

  • Peanut Butter Packets – I originally considered packing peanut butter in a travel shampoo-style container, but that seemed incredibly messy to fill, so I found these packets.  They do contain oil, which I normally avoid in my peanut butter choices, but I figured one weekend wasn’t going to kill me.  They were really tasty, just make sure you ‘kneed’ them before opening – as the oil and peanuts separated a good bit.  Note – peanut butter is considered a liquid in your carry on – so make sure it’s in a smaller than 3 oz container, or check it!Traveling with Food Intolerances - Toronto
  • Rice Crackers – These were a great alternative to the bread towards the end of the trip.  The plane ride did not do the bread justice, and it was rather dry towards the end.  They also were a great snack for during the day, too.  This is my favorite brand. Traveling with Food Intolerances - Toronto
  • Pretzels – Nathan and I have just recently taken a huge liking to eating pretzels again, and Snyder’s has a great gluten free kind.  I’m not sure why I needed pretzels AND crackers, but they were both open before we left, so I packed them! They ended up being a life saver on both flights, so I was glad that I had them!
  • Chocolate Chips – We buy bulk chocolate chips from Costco, so I threw a Tupperware of them into my suitcase, but I actually didn’t end up eating any of them
  • Hot Tea – I brought a few of my favorite hot tea bags with me, to compliment my breakfast, or to help me warm up in the evening
  • Lara Bars and Macro Bars – These are prefect ‘I couldn’t find food’ and/or ‘a meal isn’t happening when I need it to’ safety nets.  I love the Peanut Butter and Jelly lara bars, and Nathan is a fan of the Macro Bars.  I always had these with me.
  • An empty water bottle – If you’ve flown in the past few years you know of the ‘liquid restrictions’ in your carry on bags, so we always pack away an empty water bottle, to fill up at the water fountain once we’ve passed security

Things I didn’t do/bring, but considered:

  • A small blender – This Hamilton Beach one is a beast for the cost and size.  It would be awesome for making hotel-room smoothies.  I decided to not bring it this time, because it was cold – and I don’t drink as many smoothies in the cold!
  • Utilizing the fridge in the hotel room – I ALWAYS make sure my hotel room has a fridge.  (this trip we stayed in The Bond Place hotel – and loved it!).  When you arrive, you can hit a grocery store and stock up on hummus, salad fixings, or smoothie supplies, or even refrigerate leftovers from big meals.  We didn’t end up doing that on this trip – but the fridge was great for keeping our drinks cold!

So, peanut butter and crackers and pretzels and chocolate chips – what else did you eat on your trip?

On the way up we had a super quick noon-connection.  We ate breakfast before we left, but we were not able to eat lunch until we landed and got to downtown (around 3pm).  We did grab ‘Naked’ smoothies in the airport as we – literally – sprinted to our gates.  They’re not an everyday thing for us, but they filled the void.  I also ate pretzels from my carry on – again – lifesavers.   So, we wouldn’t face how unfriendly airport food was until the trip home.

Once we arrived in Toronto, I set out on a mission to find us awesome food.  I quickly found the Urban Eatery at the Eaton Center (which was – bonus points – right across from our hotel).  The awesome place about the eatery was it’s selection.  We took groups of 5 – 15 there, and everyone could find something they wanted.  It is, essentially, a food court.  Which sounds like ‘Taco Bell and McDonalds only’, but it is so not.  It had foods from every ethnicity imaginable.  Their menu options were clearly marked as vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free.  And every place we went was willing to work with us to make a dish vegetarian.  My only gripe – is that they very clearly did not have designated cooking space for gluten free items.  So, celiacs-sensitive gluten-free-ers would have not been as lucky.  With that said, I did not ask for any special accommodations.  I was just grateful to have food.  We ended up eating at the Urban Eatery for all but one of our meals.  For the other, we ate at The Imperial Pub – which was across the street from our hotel.  They had an awesome veggie burger – but no mention of it’s gluten free status.

On the way back we tried to find lunch in the Toronto airport.  This proved fairly impossible.  They had some gluten free sandwiches, but they all had meat on them.  They had some vegetarian sandwiches, but they all had cheese and gluten.   I finally settled on a packet of hummus (which came with wheat crackers) and dipped my pretzels (again, lifesavers) in it.  I also had potato chips and chocolate almond milk.  It could have been better.  It could have been worse.

In general my overall impression of the trip was that they had awesome selection.  Nothing was perfect, but everyone was willing to help you out, and find you something you could eat.  And the Urban Eatery was an absolute life saver – especially for our ‘mixed crowd’ of eaters.  Traveling with Food Intolerances - Toronto

So, those are my thoughts.  I feel better prepared for my next trip.  Next time I’ll probably skip the bread and just bring more crackers and I’ll definitely do more research on restaurants around us – to ease my mind.  But, the bottom line is – I did it.  And I could totally do it again.

What have been your thoughts on traveling?

-Chelsea

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7 thoughts on “Traveling with Food Intolerances – Toronto

  1. With a restricted diet, I think traveling is pretty scarey! I’m only gluten-free, so if I can get to a grocery store, I’m good. I always take some GF instant oatmeal to eat for breakfast supplemented with fruit from the local store. For lunch, a salad and my favorite crackers that I bring from home. Dinner at a gluten-free restaurant, or specific information for the wait/kitchen staff. I usually ask, “What can the chef make for me that is gluten-free?” Like you, I make sure there is a refrigerator in my room. I’m going to look for some of that peanut butter. That would be great on an apple!

    • GF Instant oatmeal is a great idea! I did a lot of salads on the trip too…but I love salad! The peanut butter was great! I usually bring apples and bananas on trips, but you’re not allowed to cross the boarder with them – but they are the ultimate ‘fast’ food!:) Thank you for stopping by!!

  2. Pingback: Our Thanksgiving Menu [2013] [Vegan/Gluten Free] | Make them whole foods. Make them delicious. And make sure you feel great eating them.

  3. I know this post is not recent, but just came across it today. Glad you enjoyed Toronto. If you ever happen to be ere again, there are a ton of great options for a vegan and gluten-free diet. My favourites are Fresh (4 locations) and Live Organic Food Bar (2 locations) and there are more that have popped up since I moved to Italy, which I’m sure are also amazing. I can’t wait to try the on my next trip back. The Toronto Veg Asociation has a great list on their web site too : http://veg.ca/directory/list/restaurants
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