For some people, a gluten-free diet isn’t just a fad, it’s a lifestyle. Celiac disease affects one in every one-hundred people and can suck the fun out of traveling to exotic destinations. But, you can’t just let a pesky wheat allergy get between you and a dream trip! Here are our Ten Tips for going gluten-free.
1) Pick the right room – Finding something to eat that is gluten-free can sometimes be dicey overseas. There may not be anywhere around where you can find something to eat that you can be sure is okay. Having a little kitchenette in your hotel room can help with this problem. You might spend a little more, but it will be well worth it in the long run.
2) Don’t go it alone – A gluten allergy can be a little embarrassing. Sometimes, people get offended if they offer you something and you refuse. Avoid this problem by letting everyone know that you have a problem. Don’t be afraid to tell friends, family and whoever else might be around that you have some dietary restrictions. It will make everyone’s trip much more enjoyable, especially yours!
3) Beware the snack attack! – Finding gluten-free snacks can be tough, especially if you are in a foreign country. One of the best options is to bring an extra suitcase with your favorite gluten-free foods to enjoy while you’re away. It will help you stay healthy, and, if you get a little homesick, it will help in that department too.
4) Call ahead – When it comes to restaurants, you never know what you might be getting into. This is why you should bring snacks and have a kitchen available. But, what can help even more is calling ahead and finding restaurants that can suit your needs. In countries where you don’t speak the language, this can be hard. Luckily, most restaurants have websites, and there is a little program called Google Translate to help you find a gluten-free option almost anywhere.
5) Don’t fear the waiter – If you end up going to a random restaurant, don’t be afraid to ask questions! Many celiac societies offer pre-printed allergy cards in the language of the country to which you will be traveling. For a nominal fee, you can cross that ever difficult divide and not leave your stomach lost in translation.
6) Go ethnic! – Local fare can be just as gluten-free as those snacks in your suitcase! Many places use much less wheat in their diets than we do in ours in North America. Feel free to try something new but…
7) Know where you’re going – A baguette might be new to you, but it still has wheat in it. Do your research before you travel to find out what you can and can’t eat. For example, in Peru, you should be fine having almost any cuisine, with the exception of aji de gallina which sometimes uses a wheat-based product in its sauce.
8) Ask around – Depending on where you are going, there may be a celiac support group in the area. If there is, go ahead and ask them where to eat and where not to eat. The hotel concierge can also help. Unless you’re going to the deep Amazon or a remote island in the Pacific, you probably aren’t the first gluten-free person to have a few questions.
9) Watch for contamination! – Just because that local snack looks good doesn’t mean that it is going to feel good in a few hours. Be sure to check labels and do everything you’d normally do when coming across a new food. Additionally, be careful of which restaurant you chose to go to. Cross-contamination can be just as much a problem as a Mexican wedding cookie.
10) Have fun! – We can’t stress this enough! – Just because you have an allergy doesn’t mean you should be the bubble boy or girl. Don’t be afraid to try new things, but always be safe! You’re going to be on vacation, so relax and enjoy. Just don’t forget to send us a postcard before you leave your happy place!
What challenges and solutions do you face with your gluten allergies or other food sensitivities? Tell us about them below!