Traveling abroad with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity may pose a challenge at first. But once you do your homework you may find it quite manageable. The key is to do your research so you are not left starving or unsure if what you are eating is in fact gluten-free. Make sure you are well-versed in avoiding cross-contamination with gluten. Don’t let your diet restriction stop you from enjoying this amazing experience on which you are about to embark!
Remember these three areas to familiarize yourself with: the food customs, language and the new surroundings.
1. Food customs: have an understanding of how traditional dishes are prepared and the ingredients used so you know what is gluten-free, what to avoid and what can be modified.
2. Language: be able to communicate your needs and identify key words that indicate sources of gluten. Have a smart phone? Download a translation application to ease the language barrier. Google Translate is a user friendly app. Although English may be spoken as a second language in your city of travel, it is unlikely the word gluten or celiac is understood so know the translation in the area’s primary language. An excellent resource for gluten-free dining out is the app GF Card (free for iPhone or iPad) which contains gluten-free dining cards in fifty languages. Simply show your iPhone to your server. If you don’t have an iPhone, visit www.TriumphDining.com to order gluten-free dining cards.
3. The surroundings: know where you can stop in to purchase packaged snacks or fresh fruits to fuel your travels. If you are staying in a place with a kitchen it may be a good idea to stock up on gluten-free dried pastas, bread, cereal, quinoa, crackers and rice to break up the meals eaten out.
Pack gluten-free snacks to avoid searching aimlessly for gluten-free options, taking away from valuable sightseeing time. Airports are also a great spot to stock up packaged snack foods. KIND bars, NuGo Free Dark Chocolate Trail Mix protein bars, dried fruit and nuts are some examples. Dehydrated rice noodles, bean soups and gluten-free oatmeal packets are easy to carry along and just require hot water, easy to come across in most hotels, cafés or corner stops. Look for gluten free wraps you can carry along so you can simply request the sandwich fillings be made in your wraps and even bring along plastic gloves just in case. Know that continental breakfasts will unlikely have gluten free breads/cereals and the risk for contamination is likely going to be quite high. Yogurt, cheese, eggs and fresh fruit are good options for breakfast when dining out.
Before booking a hotel, it would be wise to ask if special arrangements can be made depending on your length of stay. Request to have a small refrigerator in your room. Stock up on inexpensive grab-n-go breakfast food such as gluten free granola bars, dried fruit and rice cakes with a nut butter spread. For eating out, research the area beforehand to find those restaurants which will accommodate the gluten-free traveler. Look on the Internet for restaurants which serve gluten-free dishes. Choose those places that understand risk of cross-contamination. –
When ordering here are a few requests you might need to ensure cross-contamination is avoided:
1. Make sure your meat is cooked on a clean surface, meaning not the same grill where bread/buns are toasted.
2. Make sure the vegetables have not been cut on the same cutting board as any flour products.
3. Gluten free pizzas need to be cooked on clean surfaces and gluten free pasta needs to be boiled in clean water, not the same water previously used to cook wheat pasta and the same thing goes for any fry order
4. Tip generously especially if the restaurant or café makes special plates and is very accommodating. This will only encourage similar behavior for the next traveler.
Italy: the land of bread, pasta and pizza, is very conducive to the gluten free traveler. The Italian Coeliac Society certifies restaurants claiming gluten-free on their menu to assure the consumer there will be no risk for cross-contamination. Florence is home to several restaurants offering gluten free pasta and there is always the option for a Caprese salad, freshly sliced meats, antipastos and risotto.
France: Many restaurants and bakeries offer gluten-free fare. The Chambelland Boulangerie in Paris is a gluten-free bakery located in the 11th Arrondissement.
Spain: The Attic Restaurant in Barcelona offers selections specific for those with celiac disease. Menu options included pastas, fries, and other gluten-free selections.
A terrific website is www.glutenfreepassport.com for finding info on restaurants, traveling tips, travel language guides and a variety of gluten-free and food allergy apps. Take the time to review it before you embark on your trip. For more specifics by country: if you are traveling to Mallorca, France, Indonesia, Bolivia, Chile, Easter Island, Thailand, Finland, Australia, Montreal, Abu Dhabi, Sweden, Italy, Columbia or Sri Lanka just to name a few, follow this link for stories from gluten-free travelers. http://www.celiactravel.com/stories/
Lisa Stollman, MA, RDN, CDE, CDN is the author of the new ebook The Trim Traveler: How to Eat Healthy and Stay Fit While Traveling Abroad (Nirvana Press 2014) and The Teen Eating Manifesto (Nirvana Press 2012.). She is a nationally-recognized Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a specialty in teen and adult weight management and diabetes. Lisa received her B.S. in Food and Nutrition and her M.A. in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. She consults with clients in Huntington, New York and on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. To find out more about Lisa or to book an appointment, please visit: http://www.lisastollmanrd.com