Confession: I Miss Fast Food!
Celiac disease interrupted my love affair with the local drive-through. Before my diagnosis, I was the take-out queen. I practically grew up on McDonald’s. I lived off of Papa John’s pizza in high school and Wendy’s chicken sandwiches and Whataburger breakfast burritos in college. As an adult, finding fast food on every corner gave me a high.
Before you chastise me for loading my body with unhealthy food, I did attempt to reform my ways. As I grew older and my metabolism decreased, I ate Einstein breakfast bagel sandwiches practically every day – which at least seemed healthier than a burger and fries. In the University residence halls, I almost never made my own food (I only had a microwave and mini fridge). But when I moved out and got my own place, I tried to have some sort of normal kitchen full of regular food. But I still went out for meals almost every day. Then one day, celiac came knocking on my door and everything changed.
After my diagnosis, I was stunned to learn I would never again have any of my favorites, like:
- Wendy’s Homestyle Chicken Sandwich
- McDonald’s Egg McMuffin & Breakfast platter (with extra pancakes)
- Subway’s Roast Beef Sandwich
- Taco Bell’s Bean Burrito
- Einstein Bagels’ Bagel Sandwiches
- Sonic Drive-In’s #2 with cheese
Suddenly, all my sandwiches had to be on gluten-free rolls and my fries had to be fried in a separate fryer. It seemed clear that I’d never have a breaded chicken anything outside my own home again.
Why do I miss fast food? Well, it certainly isn’t for the nutritional value. However, being able to grab a bite to eat from a drive-thru window was so easy! You can’t replicate the ease and ability to grab a hamburger from McDonald’s. There’s a golden arches on practically every corner, something that can’t be said for Whole Foods or a dedicated gluten-free bakery and café.
So what’s the solution for a fast-food geek like me after a celiac diagnosis?
- Find the gluten-free food at fast food. At many places you can get a hamburger or chicken breast without a bun or wrapped in lettuce. Some restaurants have stepped up their game and offer not only a detailed allergen listing, but also some tasty and safe food ideas for us, too!
My girlfriend Pretty Little Celiac came up with a pretty good and quick review of some gluten-free options, highlighting Wendy’s, Chipotle and Chick-Fil-A here: http://prettylittleceliac.com/2013/05/07/gluten-free-fast-food-options/
My go-to national fast food chain is Chipotle. Thankfully, they have many locations and their staff has been trained to deal with food allergies and gluten-free consumers (and their food is pretty healthy to boot). They change their gloves and get me fresh ingredients from the back of the house with freshly washed utensils. Note that no fast food brands are perfect and none are as safe as a dedicated gluten-free restaurant.
- Pack food for on-the-go life. Always carry a high-protein bar in your purse or in your car in case you get hungry when you are out and about. If you’re on a road trip, pack a cooler with fresh items (fruit, vegetables, packaged meats, etc.) that help keep you satiated for longer periods of time.
The longer I’ve been gluten-free, the easier it gets to drive on past the fast food chains in my town. Road trips may never get easier, but I know I’m eating better for my own long-term health every time I opt for homemade meals and a safe and allergen-friendly environment.
How have you changed your fast food habits after going gluten-free? Are there any items you still get through your local drive-thru?