Traveling abroad with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity may pose a challenge at first. But if you do your homework before you leave home, 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. And very important, especially for those with celiac disease, make sure you are well-versed in avoiding cross-contamination with gluten. If you feel that you are lacking in basic celiac disease nutrition and how to order in restaurants, meet with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) who specializes in celiac disease before you leave for your destination. You can find a RDN to help you on The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website. Don’t let your diet restriction stop you from enjoying this amazing experience on which you are about to embark!
Here are three areas to familiarize yourself with: the food customs, language and the new locale:
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 http://www.TriumphDining.com to order gluten-free dining cards.
3. Locale: 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 on healthy 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, peanut butter, 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. 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.
Gluten-free in major cities abroad: Do some research online before you travel, so you have a list of GF dining options in your locale. Below are some of the GF establishments that we found in our searching.
Italy: the land of bread, pasta and pizza is very welcoming 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.
La Soffitta Renovatio
Piazza del Risorgimento, 46/a
Via Isonzo, 14
Voglia Di Pizza
Via dei Giubbonari, 33
Ciro and Sons – Ristorante Pizzeria Firenze
Via del Giglio, 28
Piazza del Mercato Centrale, 38R
Ristorante Hostaria Il Desco
Via delle Terme, 23/ r
Paris: Many restaurants and bakeries offer gluten-free fare. Here are a few recommended choices.
The Chambelland Boulangerie
NOGLU – GF Bakery
Niche Gluten-free Dining
British menu in all-day cafe/restaurant
197-199 Rosebery Ave
Gluten-free Italian restaurant
64 Old Compton St
Gluten-free bakery & cafe
2 Charlotte Pl
Calle Santa Anna, 20
Carrer del Perill, 13
Cozy · Casual · Locals
Ristorante Pizzeria Il Piccolo Focone
Carrer del Dos de Maig, 268
Cozy · Casual · Locals
Carrer de la Llibreteria, 1
Casual · Locals
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, here are stories from gluten-free travelers.
Lisa Stollman, MA, RDN, CDE, CDN is an award-winning Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who is passionate about helping people transform their lives with optimal nutrition. She received the 2015 Outstanding Dietitian of The Year from the New York Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Lisa is an entrepreneur, speaker, private practitioner, and writer. She consults with food startups and restaurants to help put health on the menu. Lisa is the author of the 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). In her private practice she specializes in teen and adult weight management and diabetes. Lisa received her two degrees in Nutrition from New York University. She consults with clients in Huntington, New York, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and virtually. To find out more about Lisa or to book an appointment, please visit here.