Last week I went to San Francisco for a few days. Since being gluten free for several years now, I know that finding something gluten free at the airport is a super challenge. My advice to people is always to research before you go however, in the midst of packing and planning, it sometimes slips my mind to do my investigation into what airports offer to eat. And when I have looked into it, I am typically disheartened by the lack of choices.
What do other people eat? I cannot be the only person who struggles with this, can I?
I will never forget being in the United Airlines lounge a few years ago, where there was a nice spread full of delicious looking food, but not a thing was gluten-free.
Let me paint the scene for you- I’m traveling with friends and we are exhausted and hungry. I’m the only one who cannot eat gluten. I ask if there is anything available that is gluten-free and am told NO. My stomach is rumbling and you know that hangry feeling that makes people unbearable to be around? That’s me.
I leave the lounge to find something I could safely eat which takes me quite a while and I only find a small salad and package of gluten free crackers. I wait to eat so I can be with my friends however upon my return to the lounge, I am not permitted back inside. They offered nothing gluten free yet would not allow me inside with “outside food” once I tried to return with something I could eat.
What I felt that afternoon left a lingering feeling of frustration from not being able to find food I could eat in the terminal, frustrated from a lack options, followed by humiliation over being treated like I was a criminal upon my return with a salad in a small white bag. I was told I could sit outside and eat and at that point, I wanted to cry because I was upset and hungry and tired and just wanted to be with my friends.
When I do research, often the spots with gluten free items are not in the terminal where I am leaving/ arriving . I can take snacks but during my most recent trip, I didn’t have much room in my carry on to load up on things to eat.
Many people are gluten free, I have the added bonus as dealing with an inability to process oxalates and a case of chronic candida which limits my sugar intake severely. Things like fruity yogurt or a package of almonds must be avoided. No chocolate or sweets for me. I would stay away from those things anyway as sugar tends to bring me down, not give me energy.
The one staple for me that has been safe to eat and has really saved me from a growling stomach many, many times is the Gluten Free breakfast sandwich from Starbucks. Here’s what I like(d) about it: heated in its own little package so no cross contamination, protein kept me full, small enough to eat on the go yet filling enough to keep me full for a while until I can find something else.
This past trip, I made my pilgrimage to a Starbucks so I could order my sandwich and a coffee but was told they didn’t have the gluten-free sandwich. Returning home, I found out that Starbucks is completely doing away with this sandwich and I could almost hear the collective sigh of disappointment from my fellow gluten free friends. I can’t tell you how many times I have been to Starbucks when I have been on the go and this sandwich has been sold out.
Now its gone for good!
“Starbucks is under fire for cutting its gluten-free breakfast sandwich from the menu. The coffee chain cut its Canadian bacon, egg, and cheddar cheese sandwich after just a year on the menu, the New York Post reported. Customers with celiac disease and others who do not eat gluten were quick to respond — and they were not pleased.”
“Very upset to hear you are discontinuing the Gluten Free breakfast sandwiches,” one person wrote on Starbucks’ Facebook page. “Really Starbucks? Gluten Free people have a hard enough time finding a safe Gluten Free option – especially a convenient one.”
“Starbucks finds itself in a sticky situation as celiac sufferers are furious with the coffee chain for dropping its only certified gluten-free breakfast sandwich. The Canadian bacon, egg and cheddar cheese sandwich was barely a year old.
Customers vented their frustration on social media, with a number of them vowing to drop Starbucks as unceremoniously as the java giant axed their favorite meal, with some pointing out that May is Celiac Awareness Month.”
Traveling, especially through the airport as a person who needs to be gluten-free is usually beyond challenging. I have been to many airports when I couldn’t scrounge up a single thing to eat. I’ve flown in somewhere at night, so hungry that I was feverishly looking on my phone to determine if Wendy’s chili is gluten free because that’s the only thing I *might* be able to consume. I have been to sit-down restaurants inside the airport where its usually easier to find something gluten-free and I’ve also had the experience where the server has no idea what gluten is. Why is it so hard to find gluten-free food in airports?
There is nothing consistent about traveling with a gluten intolerance/celiac.
I have my Find Me Gluten Free app which is a lifesaver when I am in an unfamiliar city. What would really be great is if airports began including a place which offered allergen friendly food (no gluten, no nuts) that is not only gluten-free but delicious enough that people who aren’t gluten free would eat there. An airport version of Find Me Gluten Free would be helpful too.
An estimate of 30% of Americans are gluten-intolerant/have celiac according to an article I just read. The number of gluten-free adults has tripled over the last couple of years which I would guess means I am not the only one trying to find something to eat in an airport and I cannot be the only person disappointed that Starbucks no longer offers their gluten-free sandwich.
What are your thoughts on traveling while being gluten-free? And what do you think about Starbucks removing their sandwich from their menu?