I’ve been gluten free for about 9 years now and while I have a routine at home that keeps me happy and healthy, traveling while gluten free can be stressful, especially in a non-English speaking country. The last thing you want is to be sick (or even hungry) while on your trip.
Tip #1 Always bring snacks
If you’ve been GF for a while, then you probably do this anyway. The tricky thing is you don’t want to bring too much and you don’t want to get bored. You also want nutritious snacks that will fill you up. Nuts are always my go to snack because they have protein, fiber and a little fat. For this trip I brought a bag of mixed nuts and dried fruit and during my days out, I’d bring just a portion of those in a separate bag. I also brought a few individual packets of almond butter (I bought Justin's brand from Whole Foods) to eat with apples or rice cakes. And while we're talking mini packets, if you enjoy sushi I recommend these mini packs of GF soy sauce (affiliate link). They are kind of expensive but also make a great gift for your GF friends.
For the flight over, I made a batch of Date and Nut balls using this recipe from Food 52. They were really delicious and I plan on making them more often. They held up well during travel and did not fall apart. The recipe says they’ll last 1 week outside the fridge and 2 weeks in the fridge. I made a half recipe and they were great for the flight over. The dates are really sweet so it feels like eating treat. I think this is a pretty easy to customize, swapping in different fruit and nuts.
On long flights, meals are still sometimes served and you can request a GF meal from the airline prior to the flight. This worked on my way to Europe but they did not have a meal for me on the way back. Fortunately, I had eaten before I arrived and had stocked up on snacks. So, double check your reservations more than 24 hours before the flight and always bring snacks just in case.
After arriving in Paris, I stocked up on some groceries including rice/corn cakes, fruit and some GF cookies. Throughout the trip I bought fruit to eat, often with my nuts and nut butter. In all the cities I visited (Paris, London and Dublin), it was very easy to find GF products in the grocery stores. Just like in the US, there's a special GF section.
Tip #2 Breakfast at home
In France the traditional breakfast is coffee and bread or pastry. Not gonna work for me. When I’m at home I usually have a smoothie, eggs or occasionally GF toast. So when I first got to Paris I went grocery shopping. I was really pleased to see that they had a GF section of the store. Look for “sans gluten” on packaging. I bought eggs, salad, cheese, GF rolls, rice/corn cakes (really good), salami and fruit. I made breakfast and lunch in my Airbnb most days and never felt desperately hungry. When I stayed in hotels in London and Dublin, I bought fruit and GF muffins that didn’t need to be refrigerated.
Tip #3 Research GF restaurants
Most cities have GF restaurants and if you do some research ahead of time, you can make a point of checking them out before you get desperately hungry. Some regions are going to be better than others. On this trip, Dublin was the easiest to find GF foods. Many restaurants mark menu items “C” for celiac safe and “CA” for celiac adaptable. I ate very, very well in Dublin. If there’s something specific that you want to eat (like crepes or seafood for me), research before you go so you can take advantage of happy hours and know what days they might be closed.
In Paris, I went to the Breizh Cafe for GF crepes made with buckwheat flour. Called galettes, they are a traditional food from the Brittany region. The restaurant can get very busy so make reservations or go to the take-away shop next door if you don’t want to wait. Most waitstaff in Paris understood what gluten was and were very helpful. However, check out this site for helpful cards in multiple languages that explain gluten intolerance. I would simply tell my waiter “Je ne peux pas manger gluten” which means “I can’t eat gluten” and we’d take it from there. Dinner was much easier to eat out than breakfast. “Pas de pain” is also a helpful phrase to know. :)
In the US, my favorite GF location is Portland, Oregon. Full disclosure, it’s also my home state but over the last 5 years or so it’s become a haven for GF eaters. My favorites are the Corbett Fish House (all the GF fried food you've been missing) and Groundbreaker Brewery (lots of GF beer on tap!!! and an all GF kitchen). Lots of other restaurants offer GF bread from local bakeries too.
When I was younger and eating all the gluten I wanted, it was much easier to find food. I would often grab a bagel or pastry and be on my merry way, never worrying where my next meal would come from. Eating gluten free can be hard and frustrating but with some planning you can eat and travel without (too much) worry. Make sure to check out the rest of the posts in this series and let me know, do you have any tips for traveling gluten free? Favorite places to go?