You might be a pro when it comes to eating gluten free at home, but if you’re travelling, it’s a whole different ball game. Although it’s hard to get an entirely accurate picture, approximately 12% of Canadians now follow a gluten-free diet and it’s estimated that 1 out of every 100-200 people in North American has Celiac Disease. So if you are trying to follow a gluten free diet, know that you’re not alone! The positive side of more people eating gluten free is that there are ever-growing options being made available. As long as you put some thought into it, eating gluten free while travelling can be manageable.
Don’t Rely on Your Language Skills
If you’re travelling in a country where you’re not fluent in the language, don’t rely on your phrasebook, or an intricate system of gestures, to try to ensure yourself a gluten free meal. Look out for smartphone apps such as “Gluten Free Restaurant Cards” and “Gluten & Allergy Free Travel Translation Cards” which will generate text for you in a language of your choice explaining what you can’t eat. You can show this directly to your waiter and be certain that nothing gets lost in translation. You can also buy printed cards in various languages, if you’re not ready to go high-tech.
Always Be Prepared
Although it’s unfortunate, there may be times when you can’t find anything on the menu that you can eat. As a last resort, always carry some sort of snack around with you, so you don’t go hungry. Snacks that are durable and don’t take up much space; such as GF protein bars or nuts are ideal for throwing in your bag. It’s worth noting that packaged gluten free foods are an average of 242% more expensive than regular food products. If you’re travelling on a shoestring, save money by choosing naturally gluten free foods over pre-packaged items — ditch the gluten free crackers and reach for the dried fruit. You can also make gluten free wraps for meals on the go.
Learn Some Safe Options
Certain restaurants are more likely to have gluten free options than others, so it’s safer to head in that direction. As long as you stick with rice and curry, and avoid the naan or roti, than Indian food is a good choice for those who forgo gluten. Thai cuisine is another safe bet, since even the noodle dishes tend to be made using gluten free rice noodles, just make sure to ask them to lay off the soy sauce. On the other side of the coin, it’s wise to avoid most Italian restaurants, with their gluten laden pizzas and pastas. If it comes down to it, there’s always the trusty hearty salad! Just ask for no croutons and double check the dressing.
Breakfast can be a challenge in hotels, as you often get served up standard options, such as toast, croissants and cereal, all of which can be problematic for the gluten sensitive. Call or email your hotel or bed and breakfast before you arrive, to let them know about your dietary requirements. At the very least, they should be able to rustle you up some fresh fruit.
Eating gluten free on holiday is a lot easier if you have your own cooking facilities. Look out for hotel rooms or holiday apartments with a kitchenette. Although it’s nice to eat out while you’re travelling, at least you can be certain that you won’t be getting any unhappy surprises if you cook for yourself.
While it can be irritating to have to consider your dietary needs when travelling, it really doesn’t take all that much thought and preparation. Even though I don’t need to follow a gluten-free diet anymore, I tend to stick to gluten-free option as it makes me feel better.
One thing to be careful of is food that is gluten-free isn’t necessarily healthier. Watch out for foods that are highly processed, low fibre and that contain strange or dangerous ingredients. Two of my favourite gluten-free brands are Naked Coconuts and Rudi’s. Naked Coconuts produce a sweetener called coconut nectar and a soy-free seasoning sauce, both of which are delicious! Rudi’s gluten-free products are new to Canada but I was introduced to this brand at an event. I’ve tried numerous other gluten-free tortillas that would crumble and fall apart but Rudi’s don’t. I place my ingredients in the wraps and bring them with me as a packed lunch.
My favourite recipe to date is, my Power Green Wrap. Use the following ingredients to create your own:
- 1 Rudi’s Free Spinach Gluten Free Wrap
- Half a handful of baby kale
- Large pinch of micro arugula
- 4 slices of cucumber
- 1/4 container of broccoli sprouts
- Chipotle dressing (I use one from Culver City Salads)
- Anything else you wish
Spread the guacamole on the tortilla, place down the kale, broccoli sprouts, cucumber and arugula. Dress lightly with the chipotle dressing. Wrap it up, stick and toothpick in it, place in container and head out the door. You can easily substitute other ingredients, enjoy!
Do you have any gluten free travel trips to share?
12 thoughts on “The Gluten Free Traveller: How to Cope When You’re Out of Your Comfort Zone”
I have to get me some Rudi’s!
I was surprised how yummy they were and how they stayed together. I’ve had such poor experience with gluten free wraps before but these surpassed my expectations.
I don’t eat strictly gluten free, but also find that I feel better when I do. That wrap sounds delish, I’ll have to give it a try!
It’s super easy and healthy for you too! I agree, I feel so much better when eating gluten free.
These are really good tips for anyone who has particular food allergies or needs to follow any specific diet for health reasons. Sensible, easy to follow advice, and that wrap looks fab!
Thanks Jo! I think a lot of people get nervous when they first have to change their diets but with a bit of preparation and the right tips, it’s not as hard as they think. It just takes some getting use to.
Great tips here. I’m lactose intolerant and although there are pills I prefer not to take them. Hopefully as time goes by there will be more options when it comes to gluten, dairy free alternatives etc.
I think more places, especially in North America, are becoming more aware and creating yummy menus with intolerances and allergies in mind. I’ve notice a huge change within the last five years.
Even though I don’t need to eat gluten free anymore, I tend to prefer it and noticing my options are increasing.
This is really helpful! My father-in-law is Celiac and it’s always hard to find places for him to eat.
Calling ahead and doing some research online can make it a bit easier but with Celiac, you have to be more careful due to having to worry about crumbs and even a tiny bit of gluten. I find most places will be honest with you about their prep as they don’t want to worry about the customers getting sick. It’s usually best to speak to the chef or manager if you have any doubt. Luckily, more and more places are becoming aware of the importance of having a delicious menu for everyone.
Great tips Megan.
I also am really struggling with food allergies and intolerances (I won’t bore you with the details but even LETTUCE appears on the list of things I should avoid) and my doctor told me the only solution was to stay at home and quit my job (I work on the road). Well, that wasn’t an option, and with a bit of preplanning and lifestyle adjustment, I am on the road, happy, and eating well.
I unfortunately can’t stay in apartments and cook for myself (I love eating out anyway) but I have started carrying things like nuts and seeds for snacks, preparing a healthier breakfast the night before and asking the hotels to keep it in the fridge, and just little things like that. I can’t be 100% avoiding everything all the time, but even avoiding things half the time has made the world of difference! Glad to know I am not the only one 🙂
Wow, you have a tougher time then me! Luckily, I can eat gluten, I just don’t it often as I feel run down. I’m glad you didn’t listen to your doctors advice and you are going out, having fun and exploring.
Thanks for sharing your tips as well. Bringing snacks with you can save you.