Being Gluten Free in Philadelphia

If you have been here before, you know I've had to go gluten free, if not, click HERE to see how I feel about all that...I have gotten better, but then I go on vacation and things get difficult again. Travel throws a whole new twist on the trials and tribulations of having dietary restrictions. If you have any, you know. Trying to follow my strict guidelines is difficult when I'm not cooking my own meals or living in a city where being, what I lovingly call, "Hippy Dippy" is fairly common and easy to do. Seattleites have it so easy when it comes to being gluten free. And dairy free and vegan and paleo and whatever else people can be these days.

Philadelphia, is no such place. It's not easy. Trust me, the food is AMAZING and Alex is eating up a storm and loving it. I am picking at my salad and glaring at him through my iPhone as I take more #alexeats and #alexeatsphilly pictures for my Instagram.

I did breakdown and have a few things of gluten when I first got here. Thinking along the lines of "What the hell! I'm on vacation!" NOT a good idea. My joints started to ache, my skin broke out and I started getting bloated and lethargic. The cold weather wasn't helping, cause all I wanted was all the warm, doughy, gluten-y goodness the city had to offer.

About 3 days in, Rachel and I were sitting at her table, gave me a mini intervention and said "Yeah, you should probably slow down on the gluten." She was right.

Granted, as a tourist, I have it pretty good by being able to make my own breakfast and dinner because of staying with a friend. Lunch is really the only time Alex and I eat out. But even finding the staples to stock the apartment was hard. First, there are no Safeway's, Albertson's, Tom Thumb or Krogers (a few of my favorite go-to's). And there definitely aren't any Haggen's or PCC's or Whole Foods. So on our search for a grocery store, the first thing we find is a Target. Great! I know this place! They should have some things. And they do! But not everything I need. Pasta and frozen waffles, yes. A loaf of bread? No...Strange right? I'm also dairy free. So I could find my coconut milk ice cream, but not any vegan cheese. Thank goodness we found Almond milk and rice Chex. I will survive!

Eating out is still a challenge. How do you come to Philly, with a friend like Rachel, who has a list of (mainly food) things you need to do and try and not eat them all?! I love to eat and love food so I fully prepared myself to fall off the gluten free wagon. And once I get a taste of REAL soft, spongy, crispy on the outside soft and warm on the inside bread, it was really hard to stop. Hence Rachel's mini intervention.

So here are some tips if you are visiting and you have some dietary restrictions.

  • If you can cheat a little...do it. It's an experience you should have. How can you have come all the way to Philly and NOT have had at least a taste of a real, authentic Philly Cheesesteak? Just a bite. Make sure you have enough willpower to not eat the whole thing though.
  • Plan and research before you go out. If you are out for the day, take a look at where you will be for lunch and dinner and find a restaurant close by that can meet your needs. Sorry to burst your bubble...but you may have to stick to salads. In that case, ask for extra protein, like chicken, to bump up the "happy tummy" factor.
  • Pack your own lunch if you can find the means to do so. If your hotel has a mini fridge, stock up on some cold cuts and GF bread if you can find it and make a lunch to have a picnic. Who doesn't love a picnic?
  • Ask the restaurant if they can accommodate any of your restrictions. Sometimes, they have the ability to adjust! It may be awkward, but if it means being able to eat without fear, it is worth it. If they do...tip well! They went above and beyond for you, so be nice.