Celiac and interested in photography?
Sweet Light Photos takes the diet hardship out of travel
I have always enjoyed traveling. After being diagnosed with Celiac in 2005, traveling to new and remote places became a real hardship. At the time of my diagnosis, even basic shopping was a challenge. Fortunately, in the U.S., things have changed drastically in the past 10 years. However, we are still not there. Even though various Celiac organizations in the U.S. have advanced the education of Celiac disease and gluten free sensitivities, it is still not main steam in many areas. Overseas, the knowledge of food sensitivities and allergies ranges from extremely knowledgeable (i.e., Italy) to not having a clue (Myanmar). Traveling with Celiac disease is a hardship, and overwhelming at times. There is the constant fear of “will there be anything I can eat?” and “will I get sick?”. There is nothing worse than being sick on vacation, especially if it could have been prevented.
To travel safely requires extensive research for each trip. This is the benefit Sweet Light Photos brings to our workshop participants. Having traveled the world from remote places in the Southwest of our own United States, to Central America, to Kenya, to Asia and throughout Europe, I am familiar with different foods, cultures and practices.
My goal is to provide an opportunity for you to enjoy traveling to new and exciting places without having to stress about what and where to eat.
GF Research & Planning
A tremendous amount of research and education goes into the planning of each trip. It is not hard to plan the photography perspective with items easily accessible via Google as: sunrise and sunset times, angle of the sun at each shoot location, time of year, accessibility to the locations, and weather to name a few. But the dietary perspective is a whole other matter. It is not easy to answer:
- Which hotels and restaurants can accommodate gluten free?
- What is the quality of food?
- What have other people’s experiences been?
- What are the backup options such as what health food stores or grocery stores are nearby?
- What types of food will travel well in a car? On a hike?
Then add on additional complications for overseas travel:
- What types of food are typical of the culture?
- How are they prepared?
- What can I transport via my luggage on the airplane?
Once I understand the common foods and their preparation, I can focus on what is and isn’t safe for a Celiac. For example, research for a recent trip to Myanmar included looking up local Burmese restaurants, talking with local immigrants from Myanmar, buying and reviewing Burmese cookbooks, and online research. In many locations, a Gluten free travel card can be helpful. However, in a country like Myanmar where there are over a 130 ethnic groups and dialects, few people read and write, and the concept of a food allergies of any kind is a foreign concept, thus, travel cards – are not helpful.
After all the planning, the most important part of the research is actually experiencing the food. Every place Sweet Light Photos conducts a photo workshop is a place where we have been multiple times, including all the restaurants. We have paved the way for you to feel safe through testing and retesting these places.
There is no completely safe place for a Celiac
I am very sensitive to gluten. So, when in doubt about any food, I usually opt not to eat. The places we visit and take you to on our photography journeys are places where I have eaten safely (after inquiring with the manager or chef or owner about kitchen practices and foods). However, I cannot control staff education or changes, or what happens in the kitchen of a restaurant. I have been a victim of accidental cross contamination in the kitchen, so I understand even the best efforts are fallible. Some of the places we go have very limited options. For this reason, we may eat at the same restaurant more than once. Although we will take every precaution, we cannot guarantee a restaurant’s offering will be completely gluten free.
In a nutshell, I am Celiac. I’m very sensitive to Gluten. I am comfortable eating at each place we have selected for our workshops.
The Mediterranean Diet
I have also been recently treated for early stage breast cancer which has complicated my dietary restrictions even further. The Mayo Clinic recommended the Mediterranean Diet as part of the treatment plan to reduce the probability of cancer reoccurrence. The Mediterranean diet focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and chicken. When possible, we do follow the Mediterranean diet. We are not fanatical, but it does guide our restaurant choices. For example, we are more likely to select a Thai, Vietnamese, or Seafood restaurant over the local diner for dinner.
That being said, Jeff enjoys diner food, especially for breakfast. So when a diner can accommodate gluten free, we try to eat at one for breakfast.
Food is your choice
When you travel with Sweet Light Photos, all your meals and snacks are included. When we are at a restaurant, you order what you want off the menu. Just because I skip the bacon with my omelet, does not mean you need to be denied. If you want the Vegetarian option or the Filet, by all means, enjoy!
Our goal is to make sure there is an option available for those with dietary limitations like, Vegetarian, Wheat Sensitive, or Gluten Free.
I have been traveling around the world for over 30 years. I have been traveling with Celiac since 2005. Since my diagnosis, I have taken numerous nutritional courses, participated in Clinic Trials at Mayo Clinic, and met with nutritionists and Celiac specialists. I have participated with the local Celiac Group in the Phoenix area and volunteered at Celiac Food Expos.
Recently, we launch Gluten Free Reviews, a website that reviews restaurants based on a set of criteria that is critical for a Celiac to dine safely.
It is my hope that my experience will make your travel easier and more enjoyable.”