Traveling with children is never easy, whether because the kids don’t ride well in the car, or sleep well in a different bed, or because you have to pack up the whole house to take with you! But this past year has brought a new level of challenge for us. We used to be able to go with the flow fairly easy being gluten and dairy free. Most of the gluten free/dairy free options on the road aren’t very nutritious, but we usually could make it work even if meant conceding to a less healthy option. But over the past several months my son’s sensitivity to accidental gluten exposure has left us in a place of rarely being able to go with the flow. We have been racking our brains going through this process of removing other foods from his diet to see if there was something else that was causing his flare ups (besides accidental gluten exposure). And with that said, we were at a loss. We are tired of living in a bubble and wondering if we can ever do anything outside of our home. To give an example, the Saturday before we left for our mountain trip I ran a race that was about an hour from our home. We decided to eat at one of the local restaurants afterwards that is a farm to table type of place thinking it’d be okay. Parker chose to eat a cup of chili and had a 3-4 bites of a flour less chocolate cake. I had the server to check with the kitchen to make sure there wasn’t any gluten or dairy in the chili or cake. And according to the server there wasn’t. I think my gut intuition knew better then to trust but I had just ran a 15k and my hangry stomach was telling my brain it was okay. The next day Parker woke up with a flare up and was complaining of his skin itching and burning (see picture). This is just one of the many examples of where we don’t know what is going on and why he’s reacting but this only happens when we go out to eat. It is rare we do go out to eat as a family because of this. But almost every single time we go somewhere outside of the places I know are safe (which are few), he reacts!
We are truly just at a loss and desperate for help. So I sought out the help of a GAPS Practitioner to help us undertake the GAPS diet. I’m not sure what our outcome will be, but we are going to give it our all to heal our sons gut. We hope and pray that we will have success and will be able to reduce his sensitivities. There is a very methodical process to this diet. The GAPS Practitioner is giving us the appropriate steps to take to transition to the diet. Right now we are removing all grains and dairy (including ghee). As of December 1st, we will be removing all forms of sugar except for honey. And as of January 1st, we will start Full GAPS and will remove plantains, potatoes and cassava flour (the three non-compliant foods we are still eating). Full GAPS will come with specific requirements for preparing the food we eat as well as a very specific supplement intake. I will keep outlining our protocol, but for now we are in the phase of no grains and no dairy. With that said, we had a family trip planned to the mountains to take the kids to the Polar Express. The mountains are one of our favorite places to visit. We love the fresh air, hiking, the beautiful fall foliage, and all there is to do. The mountains always make me think of roasting S’mores and drinking a glass of red wine by the fire pit. I wasn’t sure how we would accomplish these things with our diet restrictions, but I was determined to give us all the same experience if possible. A few days prior to our trip we decided to tag along with my husband’s business meeting that wasn’t too far from our cabin. It just made sense for us to all go together because his meeting was where my in-laws live and it gave us a chance to visit family as well as helped us avoid traveling separately to the cabin. So on top of packing up for the mountains I also packed for 3 days in a hotel. So here is a little re-cap of the prep work that went into our trip. First, I write out meals for each day: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. I map out where we will be around the time we will eat and see if there’s a place we might could stop. Although we don’t go out often, there are a handful of places I feel comfortable taking Parker to. So those are the places I look for when searching. Once I get my list going, I prepare any necessary food and pack the rest. We have a large Yeti cooler which legitimately gets the job done when we travel long distances. It really all comes down to being planned and prepared, and thankfully God gave me an extra dose of OCD when it came to that. So I might be an over planner and packer, but it is suiting me well right now.
So we hit the road on a Wednesday to North Carolina. Upon mapping out our meals, I couldn’t find any place on the road worth stopping at, so I packed a lunch for the kids. They had turkey and pepperoni roll ups, plantain chips, cucumbers, carrots, berry medley, and cashew yogurt (homemade) topped with cacao nibs and honey.
As soon as we got to the hotel we dropped off my husband and then went to visit my Mother-in-Law. She lives near by and she made us all dinner that we could eat (steak, salad, green beans, and baked potatoes). Now, we definitely could have spent the night there which would have helped me have to pack less. But my husband wanted us all to stay together, which I guess is pretty sweet :). The Grandover was really accommodating to our family, so staying in the hotel wasn’t too bad after all.
We ate breakfast in the hotel just eating the scrambled eggs, bacon, and fruit. I always bring a batch of muffins with us so the kids could have that with their breakfast. I am obsessed with this grain free pumpkin muffin recipe by Recipes to Nourish that is made with my very favorite cassava flour. They freeze and thaw very well.
Since we had a refrigerator and microwave at our disposal I was able to give the kids their yogurt, probiotic, sauerkraut juice, and meat stock every day. My kids actually thought it was funny to drink their meat stock out of the coffee mugs claiming it was their “coffee”. Hey, whatever works!
After my husband’s conference was over on that Friday, we headed off to Bryson City, NC to our rented cabin. On the way there we stopped at Chipotle in Asheville, NC. Chipotle is one place I feel comfortable taking our family to and have to say the service there was outstanding. We told the employees about our son’s gluten allergy and immediately all the staff changed their gloves. They also changed out the spoons they were using and seemed very cognizant of cross contamination. I was very impressed with their service and thankful that a restaurant would take it so seriously. Although a bowl wasn’t on the kids menu, the staff modified the kids meal for us.
We had brought all the food we needed for a weekend’s stay at the cabin. We had some friends meeting us who also brought half the food for the weekend. I am so thankful that we have friends that our so supportive of our dietary restrictions and were willing to adapt the menu for the weekend. We made waffles (made with cassava flour), scrambled eggs, and bacon for breakfast just keeping it simple even if repetitive. Then for dinner we had chili one night and grilled out the second night.
On Friday evening, we took the children to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad to ride the Polar Express. The train reenacts the movie and the kids are served a cookie and hot chocolate. I had made Against All Grains Real Deal Chocolate Chip Cookies and threw together some almond milk, honey, and cacao powder on the stove for hot chocolate. I carried the cookies and a Yeti thermos to keep the hot chocolate warm. Upon boarding I was able to get clean mugs to fill with our dairy free hot chocolate. The look on Parker’s face says it all. He was having a blast and didn’t care that Mom had to bring him substitute treats.
On Saturday we went hiking and packed a picnic lunch. We brought a bunch of snack type food which was a great option for a picnic. The kids ate peanut butter and apple slices, pepperoni (the kind in the casings in the deli section of Whole Foods), yogurt (cashew for my kids), Jackson’s Honest potato chips, carrots, and our friends kids had some cheese cubes. It was a beautiful day and honestly couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend it. That evening we knew we were going to roast S’mores. I had made homemade marshmallows because the store bought brands all have some type of corn starch or syrup in them. And wouldn’t you know there was a fire restriction on the area and we couldn’t build an outdoor fire. OH the irony, the one thing I was determined to make happen! But such is life, and thankfully our cabin had a wood burning indoor fireplace so we had a quick roasting session to check it off the list! I had made Deliciously Organic’s marshmallows, Predominantly Paleo’s vanilla wafers from her Paleo Kid’s Cookbook, and used Enjoy Life Dairy Free Chocolate. They may not be picture perfect, but they were delicious!!
The weekend ending up being a perfect quick getaway. There is a lot of work that goes into getting us prepared, but it is so worth it in the end. The thing is, I don’t want to live in a bubble, or a hole to just get through life. I don’t want to skip out on experiences just because they might involve food we can’t eat or shouldn’t eat for that matter. I want us to live, live life to the fullest, not ever feeling subjected to the negative that can weigh us down when we do things a little differently. We have to change our thinking, our idea of what is socially norm for kids has to change. Be the change, be the good, be the example!