Travelling as a celiac may seem daunting and may lead you to think that travelling won’t even be worth it if you have to literally plan each meal. But never fear, beautiful people! I have some helpful strategies on how to hack gluten-free travel like a boss!
It is already crazy enough living everyday life with celiac disease – now you have to balance that with travelling as a celiac?! Yikes. At home, you have your pantry carefully stocked with your favourite gluten-free foods. Your friends know to buy you a gluten free cake for your birthday. But while you are travelling – no one else knows that!
Research the Culture + Their Foods
If you have celiac disease you should do some research before you travel. Learn about the food from the places you are visiting. Research about the cuisine to find out information like what will have sauces you should avoid. It is always a great idea to also map out where the best gluten-free restaurants are. Most cities around the world have exceptional gluten-free dining options. The restaurant below in Panama is one that I enjoyed.
Gluten-Free Travel Suggestions
Based on my experience, I would say travelling as a celiac disease is easiest in Europe. In fact, I would start with Italy! Say whaaaat?! Yep – Italy, the home of pizza, pasta, and everything else you can’t eat. But here’s the thing – they are actually extremely knowledgeable about celiac disease because they are a country that loves to eat but also knows that a majority of their food contains high amounts of gluten. So, they have recreated all of our Italian favourites without gluten. Not only is this helpful to Italians, but those like us to enjoy their world-renowned, incredible foods! Not to mention all the other specialties like polenta you can eat! In the photo below from Cinque Terre, the gluten and dairy free pizza was AMAZING!
Harder to Eat Gluten-Free
From personal experience, I had more difficulty with gluten-free travel in Asia. It is a little more difficult to translate the knowledge of cross-contamination within their kitchens and often a language barrier makes it challenging to explain your needs. That being said, I have travelled to several locations in Asia without many problems, but I was very diligent. The image below is from a culinary trip I took to Thailand where I learned to make a number of delicious Thai dishes.
Nothing Is Guaranteed – Plan Accordingly!
From sauces, to cross-contaminated oils, to hidden pieces of dough under a bunch of ingredients on the plate in front of you – gluten-free may not equal stress-free. Although the task at hand may seem difficult just to eat, pack snacks for a long day in the off-chance that you can’t find a place safe to eat. It happens, so if you are prepared it isn’t going to ruin your experience. Nuts, peanut butter, and veggies are perfect to travel the day with since they don’t smell or go bad through a day without being refrigerated.
This tasty meal was one of my favourite restaurant on the Gili Islands in Bali. We ate there a few times!
Street vendors are an easy way of being able to see for yourself if your food is being prepared correctly and most are kind enough to customize your order! You will also find markets as a great options when you are trying to eat gluten-free. If you are on a budget, markets are a great place to source gluten-free food for meals and snacks.
You may even want to stop by some local grocery chains to see what products you may not be familiar with to see what they contain. Many countries have special sauces or bouillons that they add to dishes that have the possibility of having gluten – so check it out before going out on the town!
Gluten Free Translations
Bring gluten-free restaurant cards to aid in the sticky language barriers to see if it is possible to have your food prepared fully gluten-free. You can save on your phone or translate something with your specific allergies to show to restaurant staff if you are like me with multiple allergies. The meal below was from a trek in Cusco, Peru and everything was locally grown.
What To Do if You Are Cross-Contaminated
No one likes this thought, but it has a possibility of happening. Just like having the risk of going to a restaurant where you are from, there is always that slight chance you may consume some gluten. Other countries may not have the remedies that you are used to taking (digestive enzyme, Imodium, etc.) so bring extra along with you when you travel. The tasty meal below was served at a remote hut on a hiking trip through the Alps.
If you Have Been Glutened
Here are my 3 go-to tips if you think that you may have ingested food you shouldn’t have:
- Take a digestive enzyme. It isn’t for you to take after eating gluten freely – only if you think there has been an incident. What this does is assist in breaking it down thoroughly and let it pass quickly so that it doesn’t stay in your system for long.
- Stay heavily hydrated. If you are like any other celiac who doesn’t feel like eating much when a flare up occurs, make sure you keep water in your system if anything.
- Rest. Although you may have made plans to go to all the city’s museums today, save it for later on. Give yourself time to relax and let your body process what is going on internally.
If you are travelling with others, don’t hold them back and explain what is going on. Maybe they can pick you up some food while they are out while you deal with your reactions to the gluten. Below is a photo from a culinary trip to Tahiti where I ate and learned to cook many traditional Tahitian dishes.
Don’t Fret, You Can do This!
Although it seems like another job trying to find ways to enjoy food in other countries and travelling as a celiac, but it will be so worth it when you find a pattern or cuisine that matches your needs. This image below is from Naxos, one of the Greek Islands. The food there was so easy to navigate as a celiac and so fresh!
Food is something that brings people together from all around the globe (hello Eat, Pray, Love!) and you won’t let that get in your way of enjoying your time travelling the world! Au revoir, adios, or auf Wiedersehen and onto your next adventure, love!
Do you have any tips for gluten free travel or suggestions for travelling as a celiac? I would love to hear your approach.