We’ve all experienced rest-stop regret: you get back on the highway after lunch just to pass your favorite restaurant at the very next rest area. That can be frustrating, but if you’re avoiding gluten, it might make the difference between eating lunch or not.
Instead, plot out an estimated route and lunch-stop plan the night before or get on-the-go info with a mobile app, such as Find Me Gluten Free or iCanEat. The iCanEat app allows you to set specific allergen parameters—such as dairy, nuts or shellfish—and sort fast-food restaurants accordingly. FindMeGlutenFree uses your geographic location to pull up restaurants with gluten-free menus in a 20-mile radius.
Kim Koeller, president and CEO of GlutenFreePassport.com, a website that helps gluten-free and allergy-free travelers eat safely on the road, does plenty of preplanning before she leaves on a trip. Koeller, an international business consultant who logs thousands of miles per year, knows how to navigate most on-the-go challenges—but still says that her best plan is always to pack a snack.
Even if you know a fast-food restaurant has gluten-free items, I feel better knowing that I’m prepared for anything," she says. "Plus, if my traveling companions decide to go somewhere that doesn’t have gluten-free foods, I know I can still join them."
Fast-food franchises generally follow the same safety and food-prep standards across the entire chain, so you can expect to see the same gluten-free menu (and staff training) across all franchises. That’s not always the case at quick-serve restaurants, such as Olive Garden, Applebee’s or Chili’s though—so be sure to ask about food-prep policies. And even if a restaurant has a gluten-free menu—such as Chili’s or Ruby Tuesday—it’s always a smart idea to remind servers to change their gloves and aprons before preparing a gluten-free meal.