Traveling with a gluten allergy can be extremely difficult,  especially when you are visiting a country with unique cuisine, a different language, and eating habits contrary to yours. It is already hard enough trying to manage a Celiac diet at home, so I couldn't even imagine the thought of maintaining one in a foreign country. I put together this gluten free survival guide with the hopes that my fellow Celiac people will use this whenever they struggle to eat while traveling abroad. 

I was lucky enough to spend a few weeks in Greece this past summer. However, the thought of not being able to devour traditional Spanikopita and Pastichio was gut-wrenching. What a painful sight it was to watch my family shove authentic Greek food down their throats while I sat there enjoying my vegetables and rice with pure envy.

There were many concerns that I had before traveling outside of the country in regards to my gluten allergy. Was I going to find gluten free options on restaurant menus? Will there be gluten free sections in grocery stores? And the most concerning, will anyone even know what a gluten allergy is?! These thoughts consumed my mind weeks before I left for vacation. Yet, after visiting Greece, I have compiled some essential tips and tricks on how to enjoy your travels and eat well while still having diet restrictions. 

In fact, I follow most of these tips and tricks even when I am not traveling abroad. 

Tip 1: Do your research.

Before you start eagerly packing your bags, do some homework. It is important to familiarize yourself with some of the traditional dishes that are served at local restaurants so you know what to stay away from if there happens to be gluten in the dish. It can also be helpful to look up some of the restaurants that are near your hotel to see if any of them offer gluten free menus or gluten free substitutes. If you are a big snacker like me, it might also be beneficial to research the types of gluten free brands that are sold in the local supermarkets. I would also suggest looking up some gluten free food bloggers that have already visited the destination you are going to. Most of these bloggers have already done the research for you and will list some of their favorite gluten free finds. 

Tip 2: Protein! 

Depending on how long you are traveling for, I would suggest packing enough protein bars to last you the entire trip. You are going to be out and about exploring most days and won't have time to sit down at a restaurant to eat a full meal. Even though eating a protein bar on vacation is not ideal, they will at least give you the energy you need to continue on with your adventures. You could also pack some trail mix or any other protein-filled snack just in case you struggle to find a place to eat. 

candy, sweet
Becky Hughes

Tip 3: Translator Cards 

Using translator cards in countries that are unfamiliar with gluten allergies is lifesaving. The translator cards will let your server know of any dietary restrictions you have in the language that they speak. Once you show the card to your server, they will hopefully give you some gluten free options to choose from. I suggest using the Allergic Traveler Food Allergy Translator that is available in the App store. 

Tip 4: Stick to the basics!

If you really can't find any gluten free options and are worried about cross contamination, I suggest sticking to the foods you already know are naturally gluten free. Foods such as eggs, fruit, rice, potatoes, vegetables, and chicken are almost always served anywhere across the world. When I was in Greece, chicken, rice, and vegetables were my go-to meals, with fruit as my dessert. Although I would've loved to eat Souvlaki and Gyros, my chicken and rice was quite tasty!  

Entering Spring Spread photo by Chelsea shapouri (@thegrainsoflife) on Unsplash

Unsplash on Unsplash

Tip 5: Digestive Enzymes

My final tip for all of you gluten free travelers is to pack digestive enzymes. These enzymes will help break down the food you eat and will aid in the absorption of nutrients. There also digestive enzymes out there, such as Gluten-Ease, that are solely made for people with gluten allergies. The Gluten-Ease enzyme will help break down any gluten particles that may have entered your system through cross contamination. If I am eating out at a restaurant, I always make sure to take one before I eat my meal  in case there were any traces of gluten that may have been in my food. 

It can be exhausting traveling with food allergies; but these tips and tricks are meant to make your travels less worrisome and more about enjoying your relaxing or adventurous getaway!