Monday, May 5, 2008

Snack Bars in Paradise

A friend’s daughter is headed to Africa and Europe in a few weeks, for a summer’s worth of adventure. She’ll be visiting friends and relatives, as well as doing volunteer work while she’s there. She’s about twenty, full of energy and life and enthusiasm and joy.

And she’s allergic to a whole bunch of things. Her mom’s a tad worried.

But the best way to travel safely is to be prepared, so that’s exactly what the girl and her mom are doing. The mom asked me if I’d found any protein or snack bars that were free of nuts, milk, and eggs. I got on the UFAN forum and asked for recommendations, and everyone agreed that the Enjoy Life snack bars are tasty, and they’re free of all 8 of the “Top Ten” allergens. The mom went online that very night and ordered several boxes. (Click here for the Enjoy Life Foods website.)

When you’re traveling – especially in other countries – finding food without your allergens can be tricky. Sometimes you get lucky and find waiters who speak English, foods you trust, and markets that look reputable. Sometimes you don’t. So carrying your own food with you is essential. Even if you end up not needing it, it’s better to have it than wish you did. And it doesn’t really matter if it’s all that yummy or terribly balanced. You just need to survive for a few days or weeks, and you can do that on bottled water and snack bars if you have to. You can always get back onto a healthier diet when you return.

The other thing this mom and daughter are doing is finding translations for “I’m allergic to…” in all the languages where she’ll be traveling (which is a lot!). A great place for preprinted cards that can help you tell waiters what you’re allergic to, or ask someone to get you medical help fast, is Their website has all kinds of helpful tips and resources, and preprinted cards in more languages than you can shake an EpiPen at.

Watching this friend of mine plan for her daughter’s vacation, I realize that it doesn’t matter how old and self-sufficient our children get. We will always worry about them and we will always do anything we can to keep them safe – even when they’re all grown up and heading to the other side of the planet.

I ordered some of the Enjoy Life snack bars myself, to let my son try them. He liked them, and took one in his lunchbox to school today. Someday, my son wants to travel to Japan. We travel a lot and have always had good luck wherever we’ve gone, but Japan makes me more nervous because we don’t speak even a jot of Japanese and I know they use a lot of peanut oils and nuts in their cooking. But even so, someday he may get there, and I know I’ll be just like this friend of mine – stocking up on safe snack bars and other suitcase-friendly foods that will turn his vacation from a trip through a land mine into the trip of his dreams.

I’ll have to do it. It’s in the mom handbook. I’ll be standing there in the airport with all the other moms, saying, “Have a nice trip! I love you! Here’s a snack bar!”

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