Avoiding gluten on your next trip? You’ve come to the right place! Whether you avoid gluten due to an allergy or you simply prefer a gluten free lifestyle, these 4 tips are all you need for safe gluten free travel!
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Let’s face it. Gluten free travel is tough, especially if you’re seriously allergic like I am. It’s hard enough avoiding obvious gluten, but then having to navigate hidden gluten and cross contamination too? It can get super stressful and make traveling an unpleasant burden, instead of the fun, relaxing time it should be. We all know that stress is the enemy of health, so I’m here to help make gluten free travel as safe, delicious, and easy for you as possible! With these 3 amazing tips, you can make travel a regular part of your healthy, happily ever after.
P.S. These tips can be easily applied to other dietary restrictions as well (dairy, eggs, soy, nuts, etc.)
1. Do Your Research
This is #1 on my list of gluten free travel advice. When you’re traveling on a gluten free diet, you’ll likely be eating out for most of your meals. The best way to eat out with confidence is to do your reasearch first! There’s a few different ways to do this.
1. Find Me GF
I absolutely love the free app Find Me GF. If you follow a gluten free diet and you don’t have this app, download it immediately. It’s a godsend. The app allows you to search for any restaurant in any location and gives you user ratings based on how well the restaurant handles gluten free requests. I generally look for restaurants that have at least 4 stars on Find Me GF and then read through a few reviews to get an idea of how gf is handled, the best dishes to order, etc.
Although, Yelp is a more general ratings and reviews app, it’s still helpful for gluten free travel. Similar to Find Me GF, you can search for gluten free restaurants on Yelp using a specific location. Once you find a restaurant, you’ll want to search the reviews. You can get to “Search within reviews” by scrolling to where it says “____ more reviews” (i.e. 240 more reviews) toward the bottom of the page and clicking on it. I like to search the words “gluten”, “gluten free”, “celiac”, or “allergy” and look through reviews that contain these keywords. This will give you a good idea of how gluten free is handled at that restaurant.
While ratings on Find Me GF are mostly based on how well the restaurant handles gluten free requests, Yelp gives you a more general idea of the quality of the restaurant in terms of taste, service, ambience, etc. I always find this helpful, since I don’t want to eat at a bad restaurant just because it serves gluten free food. I usually like to use Find Me GF and Yelp together to find the absolute best and safest options.
3. Restaurant Sites
Another way to do your research, instead of or in addition to Find Me GF and Yelp, is to go on a restaurant’s website. From there, you can check to see if they 1) have a gluten free menu (jackpot!!) 2) mark gluten free options on their regular menu or 3) have options that could be made gluten free. If the menu offers one of these three possibilites then you can call the restaurant and verify with them directly. If you’re really concerned about gluten, particularly cross-contamination, it never hurts to call the restaurant and make sure they’re knowledgeable before eating there.
2. Bring Snacks That Work As Meals
Travel can sometimes be unpredictable– that’s part of the fun! Remote villages, hiking in the wilderness… You never know where your travels could take you. That’s why it’s always a good idea to have a few safe gluten free snacks on hand that can double as meals, if necessary. For example, a healthy and tasty portable gluten free travel meal could consist of turkey jerky, gluten free crakcers, and apple slices with almond butter. Get the idea?
Here are a few of my favorite portable gluten free “snack meal” options. Mix and match any way you’d like!
- Zora Bars (protein + fiber!)
- Collagen Peptides Stick Packs (super easy– just add to water and drink!)
- GoPicnic Ready-to-Eat Meals (everything you need– no thinking required! just make sure you choose one that’s gf, not all of the varieties are)
- Fawen Soups (vegan & super nutritious plus they don’t need to be heated up! just drink right from the container)
Bonus: These “snack meals” are also great options for long plane or car rides too!
3. Bring Gluten Free Travel Cards
Gluten Free Travel Cards have been all the rage the past few years and for good reason! They’re indispensable when traveling abroad in a country where you’re not familiar with the language. Gluten Free Travel Cards are basically small, laminated cards that explain gluten free in the native language of the country you’re traveling in. When you go to a restaurant, you can simply hand the card to the waiter and he/she will usually get the chef or manager for you.
There are lots of different kinds of Gluten Free Travel Cards. I like this kind here because it’s simple and straight to the point. Some other types of cards are more detailed and contain extra information, such as, specific foods or dishes common to that country that usually contain gluten (i.e. soy sauce in Japan).
How well these cards work will depend on the restaurant and the chef, but they are a good resource for when you find yourself in a place where no one understands a word you say. At the very least, it saves you from having to play gluten free charades with your waiter (I’ve tried this before– it doesn’t not work). 😉
P.S. They have similar cards for other allergies too, including milk, nuts, and others!
4. Take an Enzyme
NOTE: For your safety, please consult a health care provider before trying an enzyme. Enzymes don’t work for everyone, especially if you have Celiac Disease or other severe forms of gluten intolerance. Please see full health disclosure here.
As hard as we try to avoid gluten and take the necessary precautions when traveling, we don’t live in a gluten free bubble. There’s always some risk of cross contamination, no matter how hard you try. It sucks, but it’s unavoidable. This used to really stress me out until my nutritionist suggested I take a digestive enzyme before eating meals that could potentially contain gluten (i.e. restaurant meals, meals at friends’ houses). The enzyme helps my body break down any gluten that could creep into my system. I use this one here.
It is important to understand that these enzymes aren’t magic or a “get-out-of-the-consequences-of-eating-gluten” card. They can be helpful for some people, but you should still always avoid gluten as much as possible if you’re allergic and not rely on an enzyme on a regular basis. I use it only as an occasional extra precaution if I feel uneasy about a certain meal. Some people swear by gluten enzymes and some people claim they do nothing at all. I have felt that they are helpful for me personally, but everyone is different, so always practice the proper precautions when trying something new (see note below).
See? Traveling on a gluten free diet doesn’t have to be stressful. You just need to plan ahead and take some necessary precautions. Now that you know all my best gluten free travel advice, you can travel anywhere in the world with confidence!
One final tip. After you plan, research, and do everything you can to stay safe, let go and relax. There’s no surefire why to avoid gluten 100 percent, but you shouldn’t let the fear of gluten stop you from living your life amd enjoying your trip! Do the best you can and trust that you’ll be okay. You’ve got this! 😃