The Gluten-Free Guide to Traveling

Staff Writer
How to master wheat-free eating while you travel

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

When you have a specific dietary practice — whether you keep kosher, are partial to the South Beach Diet, or are gluten-free — travel can become a taxing and frustrating experience. Being gluten-free in the United States alone can be a limiting endeavor and the thought of maintaining your gluten-free diet on the road can seem intimidating, especially if you know you’ll be faced with a language barrier. Rather than feeling like you have to give in (or give up), all it takes is a little planning and prep work to make sure that jetting off into the world doesn’t mean coming back rife with guilt or worse — illness.

If you’re traveling to a country where English is not the primary language, for example, work out how to ask if something has wheat in it before you leave. Just because you can’t tuck into some battered local delicacy doesn’t mean you can’t experience the adventure of traveling to a new locale as much as the next wheat-eater. Trying street foods with rice or potatoes, for example, still leaves you with plenty of options in most countries outside the U.S., from sopes with corn tortillas to dishes in Asian countries that use rice as a foundation for meats and sauces. — Nicole Campoy-Leffler

Breakfast

Many cultures start the day off with breads, pastries, bagels, oatmeal, and other wheaty edibles. Thankfully, many hotel breakfasts offer eggs, cheese and yogurt. You can also grab a bowl of cornflakes, rice krispies or other gluten-free cereal.

Congee, a thick rice porridge, is served for breakfast throughout Asia with a wide variety of toppings from eggs and meat to tofu and pickled vegetables (just beware of soy sauce). In India, fermented rice cakes and lentil crepes called idlis and dosas are a popular breakfast, and in Latin America you can find any combination of rice, beans, corn tortillas, fried plantains and delicious egg dishes to start your day off right. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/pinprick)

Lunch

Lunch is a great time to discover your travel locale’s signature salads and rice dishes. Remember, while you’re on vacation (or any time, really) any number of exotic fried potato specialties are fair game.

Should a sandwich really pique your interest, understandable when you encounter overstuffed tortas and perfectly layered banh mis on your culinary adventures, there’s a simple solution. Grab a few napkins, liberate the filling from the bread and have at it. Many countries have never heard of the “sandwich-on-a-salad” trick. Return any strange glances with a satisfied smile. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/roboppy)

Street food and snacks

One of the best ways to learn about a country’s culinary traditions is through street food. Use common sense when eating any street food for safety’s sake and just forgo the bun, bread, and batter. Anything grilled on a stick is a good bet, the stranger the better! If you’re in a major city, especially in Europe, consider looking up a bakery that offers gluten-free goodies so you don’t have to skip the pastry scene entirely.

Drinks

Sadly, there’s no way around it: You can’t enjoy a local brew.  Make up for it by sipping extra-enthusiastically on nearly cocktail of your choice (most booze is naturally gluten free) and take the opportunity to get to know the wines of the region. Juices, smoothies and some of the stranger sodas the world has to offer are gluten-free as well. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/beepbeep_car)

Dinner

Dining out when there’s a language barrier can be tricky. Before you leave, consider learning how to ask whether something contains wheat in the language of the country. Most kitchens will gladly swap bread or pasta for rice or potatoes (two things kitchens typically have at the ready) as long as you let them know you have a food allergy. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Damien M.)

If there are only a couple of gluten-free options on the menu or making a substitution is too complicated, take it as a challenge: Order it and enjoy! Isn’t that what being a food enthusiast is all about? You may discover a hidden gem you would have never tried before.