Here are my top 5 tips for traveling gluten free and loving life, and importantly, eating well!
When I first started travelling internationally almost 20 years ago, I hadn’t been diagnosed with celiac disease yet, however, I did need to avoid dairy. That was definitely easier than travelling gluten-free. However, all is not lost.
Here are my five tips for traveling gluten free and loving life. It is possible friends!
5 tips for traveling gluten-free and loving life
- Learn about the local cuisine (how dishes are generally made will help you get closer to being able to find something that is gluten-free)
- Digestive Enzymes. Digestive enzymes will not negate a “glutening” but at least for me they help support my body in cases of cross-contamination
- Bring Snacks. I keep a ziploc of snacks in my bag at all times.
- Use Google translate to scan labels in the supermarket – you don’t even need to speak the language anymore!!
- Dietary Awareness Cards – I keep them on my phone, but you can carry them physically too. These have made me more fearless as a traveller.
- Eat fresh as much as you can – I find that going to the supermarket and picking up fruit, cheese, GF bread or crackers really helps.
- If you are eating out at a place that requires a reservation, let them know one or more of your party has a gluten allergy. We find this limits the risk a great deal. I also tend to check menus in advance to scope out what might already be made in a way that is GF (or if they have allergens marked).
Do these avoid cross-contamination?
Accidental glutening does still happen (most recently twice in a month) and when it does happen it truly sucks. There isn’t really another way to describe it, and those who know what this is like know that the pain, discomfort and difficulty can really make life not just difficult but disappointing and scary.
It is a challenge trusting people you don’t know to make food that won’t cause pain or a reaction – but this is the reality we all face. The challenge is making sure that we don’t let fear prevent us from exploring the world!
You might also like our travel hacks for happier travel!
Learning about the local cuisine makes for easier decisions about gluten-free food
We are huge fans of food-related television shows – like Street Food Latin America, Street Food Asia. Oh, how we miss Anthony Bourdain! Television Shows that go into local cuisine, especially ingredients, add to our understanding of how dishes are made. Understanding the way different types of food are made goes a long way to eating well while travelling (as someone who needs to eat gluten-free).
Before travelling to a new city I do research to see if there are blogs that talk about the gluten-free offerings of that city. I also like the Happy Cow application (which was designed for vegan and vegetarian offerings but also has gluten-free as a category).
Learning about the cuisine of the city and country we are visiting is probably my number 1 tip for seeking out gluten-free food while travelling. This allows for excitement to build around trying foods that are signatures of the cuisine while knowing enough to make good decisions. Paired with dietary cards, knowledge about the local cuisine is power!
For example, here in Germany if a dish has potatoes (kartoffel) then it is unlikely to also be served with bread (brot). I have also found that learning the words for wheat, oats, barley, and rye, in the local language makes it much easier to read labels in the supermarket – although using a translation app can make even that unnecessary! Being able to learn the local language around gluten and gluten-free has given me so much freedom travelling around the world.
Attitude: Finding Food while Traveling Food is an Adventure!
It is not always easy to avoid frustration while travelling. I get it. Especially when looking at a menu yields only a single option (a plain salad – although in Germany that often involves croutons, so no dice). But, with a little research, our 5 tips for travelling gluten-free and loving life a little willingness to try and some realism, it is absolutely possible to love life while travelling and eating gluten-free!
Seek out local Advice for advising others of Allergies
What a great opportunity to learn more about cultural adaptability than learning how a culture deals with allergies, especially food allergies! In my experience even in cultures and situations where refusing a gift of food normally causes offence, if a polite explanation is made about a food-related allergy, the risk of offence is mitigated. However, it is important to seek out a trusted local about the best way to frame this kind of refusal as words and gestures may matter a great deal.