This year, just like each before, was a wonderful year at The Family Cafe. It is always such a great experience as we connect and reach out to other families that endure the same struggles that we face on a daily basis. The amount of support and encouragement is always so amazing to me. This year I was incredibly blessed to see how much the hotel venue has grown to change and adapt to not only the needs of our conference, but the changing world around us.
Now i went through the process of making and packing all sorts of food items for me to eat, in order to make sure that I would have definite options for food over the weekend. I was pleasantly shocked to see that the coffee bar within the hotel had multiple gluten-free options available for sale. They had stocked up on many of the snack items that I had brought and they even were offering gluten-free chicken nuggets on their lunch menu. Seeing these was encouraging to me as I knew that this coffee bar was recognizing a growing need in this country and helping to minimize the barriers of those on Color Me Sensible Diets.
On Friday night we decided to go out and try to get food at a local chain restaurant. Now, I would be lying if I said I was not completely panicked and anxious at the prospect of this venture, but my family wanted something other than sandwiches so on we went. As I sat down to look at the menu I began to fill anxiety and depression set in. Would I be able to find something that I could eat confidently without fear of repercussion? I was praying that I would.
Now when the waitress arrived to ask for our order, she could see the apprehension and concern building on my face. I noticed that there were Gluten-free designations on the menu, but not any other. I asked what appeared to be a million questions and she answered each one like she was a pro. With her assistance, I was able to find something that existed on the menu and change a few things around to make it something I could eat confidently. I was truly grateful for this waitress and her patience. While I know that this, unfortunately, was probably an isolated incident, it was promising. My family and I all enjoyed having a meal together and not isolating myself from the table.
The next night we opting to go, as we do each year, to a local attraction area to watch a classic car show. Knowing the food choices available, I stuffed my purse with snack items. Walking around the shops, it was disheartening to see that there was not a single items I could possibly entertain eating from there. While my family sat down to eat, I pulled my applesauce and snacks from my purse and just tried to make the best of it. While I knew full well that they would probably not have anything for me, it was upsetting to think of all the families and people who might venture to this location and not be able to eat when they get hungry here.
On our way home, we stopped at a Fast-Food Chain restaurant that I thought should have at least something I could eat. I looked at their readily posted allergen guide and found a salad that seemed to be within my diet. When the salad arrived, I carefully looked at the packaging for the pecans and the dressing and realized a very big error on that restaurant. The salad was supposed to be gluten-free, but the packaging for the pecans clearly stated wheat flour in its ingredients and the dressing had it as well. I brought it to the manager attention only to be told, that the manager did not know nutrition but if the corporate office says it is gluten-free than it is. I was very upset by this.
The world is changing and become more accessible for people on the Color Me Sensible Diets, however, it is still very inaccessible. It is necessary to not just go by the symbols and allergen guides to determine if a food item is safe to eat. It is important that you actually read the ingredients to ensure that they really are free from the allergen. Companies need to do a better job in making sure that they are accurately advertising their items.
The best thing for those of us on the Color Me Sensible Diets to do is to arm ourselves with as much knowledge and tools as we can. It is my hope that I can help people do just that.