Traveling Grain Free? Check the Breakfast Buffet

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Portland River ViewI’m currently traveling in the Portland, Oregon area, and I’m staying at a basic hotel chain.  When I travel, I always choose to stay in a place that has a kitchen so I can cook my own food and stay safe on my grain free, soy free dietary lifestyle for health reasons (read why at this link).

However, this time I booked pretty late for my trip and any reasonable choices (i.e. options that were close to the conference venue and not more than $150 per night) were few and almost non-existent!  I wanted to be close to the event venue, plus I needed space to stash all of our products to prepare for the conference (or else I might have considered a stay through AirBNB!)

So, it’s been awhile since I’ve had the option of a free hotel breakfast.  When I woke up this morning, I thought it might be nice to enjoy a cup of hot tea and maybe a hard-boiled egg.  

BaconAs I approached the breakfast area, I was reminded of all the times I’ve tried things on hotel buffets that made me sick (I just assumed they were gluten free).  Of course, now I know to always ask detailed questions, but back then I was still learning where all these things hide!

Below I’ve compiled a list of the common things I’ve personally experienced, and now often hear from my clients during their personal coaching sessions.  If you travel for work or for pleasure and want to avoid gluten, grains, and soy, be sure to consider these things before indulging! (Better yet, ASK QUESTIONS!  You might even help the kitchen staff to better understand allergens and safely serve their customers!) 

  1. Bacon
    1. Question – it’s just bacon, right?  
    2. Possible issues:  Ingredients, draining process
      1. Ingredients may contain smoke flavoring or other additives that contain gluten or come from a grain source
      2. Draining process: Many restaurants drain their bacon directly on slices of bread to keep them crispy!
    3. SOLUTION:  Ask the chef to be sure!  Sometimes they will even cook you some in a clean pan.
  2. Hard-boiled eggs
    1. Question:  The eggs are in their shell!  What could possibly go wrong with them?
      1. Many times, eggs are shipped in already boiled!  They may be preserved with a soy-based spray.
      2. SOLUTION:  If they have fresh whole eggs, you can boil them yourself using  a mug in the microwave, or scramble them in a mug (just be sure to whisk the eggs first!)
  3. Mushroom OmeletScrambled eggs
    1. Question:  I eat these all the time from the breakfast buffet, and sometimes I feel funny afterward.  I eat scrambled eggs at home though and never have an issue.  What could be causing this?
      1. Things to consider:  The eggs may have had something added to them as a thickener (corn starch or another additive); the eggs may come from a carton (will contain additive ingredients for thickening and preserving); there may be contamination from the pan used to cook the eggs.
      2. SOLUTION:  Ask the chef to make you scrambled eggs from fresh eggs, or make them yourself in a mug in the microwave (just be sure to stir the eggs with a fork prior to cooking).
  4. Sausage
    1. Question:  is it safe to eat the sausage?
      1. I have never found a commercial-based sausage that didn’t contain gluten, grains, or soy (may be modified food starch, MSG, etc.)
      2. SOLUTION:  Avoid.  Trust me, it’s not worth it!
  5. Fruit
    1. Question:  I always eat fresh fruit for breakfast.  Seriously, what would be wrong with a slice of fruit?
      1. How does the fruit stay fresh on the buffet?  It may be sprayed or sprinkled with a food preservative that contains a grain or soy derivative.  Also, is it next to the toaster or the bread items?  Cross-contact may occur.
      2. SOLUTION:  Stick to the fresh, whole fruits (i.e. bananas, apples, and oranges are good options.  In all cases, I suggest washing the outside first if they are near any bread items or the toaster.)
  6. Oatmeal
    1. Question:  I thought oats were gluten-free.  The chef even said I could have it.
      1. Oats are a grain.  Oats may be considered gluten-free under FDA standards, but even certified gluten-free oats have been show to cause villous atrophy and will likely prevent the healing process and damage the gut lining.
      2. SOLUTION:  Avoid.
  7. Yogurt
    1. Question:  What’s wrong with a little Dannon?
      1. What’s wrong with a little corn starch?  Modified food starch?  Pectin?  Natural flavors?  It is not always clear from where these ingredients are derived.  They have made me ill and my clients, as well.
      2. SOLUTION:  If you must have yogurt, choose the plain and add fruit.  Better yet, find a grocery store and purchase plain Greek yogurt (without pectin or flavors) and add frozen fruit & honey.
  8. Plates, napkins, & utensils
    1. Question:  Are you seriously concerned about this?
      1. YES!  Today, the plates were next to the toaster.  I watched as a lady set down her toast on the stack of plates and the crumbs were falling all over the unwrapped utensils.
      2. SOLUTION:  Ask for some from the back, or get a plate from the middle of the stack.
  9. Tea & Coffee
    1. Question:  I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with the tea and coffee, right?
      1. Packaged teas often contain soy lecithin and flavorings.  Coffee should be okay if you are used to drinking it and don’t react (although coffee often contains mold, so avoid it if you are trying to heal the gut lining!)  AVOID THE CREAMERS AND ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS!
      2. SOLUTION:  Get your hot water from the buffet line and add your own herbal tea bag.
  10. Potatoes
    1. Question:  I love breakfast potatoes!  Can I eat them?
      1. They may not love you back if they contain dextrose (a corn-based preservative found in most commercial potatoes) or have been cooked in contaminated pans or corn/soy oil.
      2. SOLUTION:  Order fresh, but ask:  what are the ingredients, and what oil were they cooked in?

The safest option is to always travel with a small electric skillet and stay in places that have a mini-fridge.  I realize that this is not always possible or practical, so just be prepared to ask questions!

What other solutions do you have for traveling with your dietary lifestyle?  I’d love to learn from you!

-Jen of The GGF Gourmet

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2 Responses so far.

  1. pam mutchler says:

    I want to travel aboard to Europe. I want to travel the various countries and am concerning about find acceptable food for the trip without being miserable. Any suggestions?

    • GGF Gourmet says:

      Hello Pam! One major recommendation I have is to get chef cards in the languages of the countries you’ll be visiting. I have a wonderful colleague who makes those, so let me know if you’d like her company information.
      European countries tend to be more aware of food intolerances, allergies, and Celiac disease, so that is one good thing. I would also personally pack something I could cook in if I had access (like a mini pan, collapsible pan, spatula, etc) just in case I was concerned about finding a cooked meal.
      I hope this helps. If you’d like to discuss more specifics, I’d be happy to meet with you one on one and develop a travel plan! ~Jen

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