My gluten-free guide to Europe
Europe – a foodie’s heaven. This beautiful continent is synonymous with French pastries, Austrian Schnitzels and of course everyone’s favourite Italian Pizza and Pasta dishes. For most people, this is like dying and going to heaven, but for anyone with Coeliac Disease, or any form of Gluten Sensitivity, this sounds like Hell on Earth.
However, though figuring out what you can and can’t eat in a foreign country can initially be daunting, it is possible to travel around Europe and eat like royalty, without feeling like you are missing out. Here’s how I mastered my gluten-free travels…
Always carry a snack with you
About half way through my European adventure, I was visiting Italy. I had become complacent, getting so used to easily being able to find Gluten Free food. However, the day we visited Rome and Vatican City – the day we did the most walking – was the day that I missed out on breakfast and lunch because I could not find a single Gluten Free food item in the area we were visiting. By dinner time, I was about ready to pass out from not eating all day, and may have suffered from a minor case of being hangry. The lesson I learnt that day was to make sure that I always had at least one small snack with me, in case this happened again.
Gluten free snacks can be found pretty much everywhere in Europe, from supermarkets to vending machines at the train station. If you are in Italy, you will also find that most pharmacies carry Gluten Free snacks. Hopefully you will never need to pull out your emergency snack, but you can guarantee that if you don’t have something with you, then that will be the day you have to walk for miles to find something that you can eat.
Don’t expect everybody to know what Gluten is
You could be the most prepared person on Earth, fluent in every language in the world, but there will still be people who do not understand what ‘gluten’ is. I found that the further East I went, into central and Eastern Europe, the less likely it was for people to understand what I was saying. Instead of saying that you are gluten intolerant, try being specific and say that you are allergic to wheat, barley and rye.
Most places have English menus
One of my biggest fears before travelling to Europe was that I would not be able to guess what I was ordering because it would all be written in a language I didn’t understand. The good news is that most places, particularly in Western Europe, either have an English translation of the menu underneath each dish, or a separate English menu. Bonus points for the fact that most menus also have a symbol next to the dishes that are gluten free or vegetarian, so it’s just like ordering food back home!
Enjoy Amazing Gluten Free food
I was once told by a friend that “Gluten is the thing that makes food taste good.” Well, this may appear to be true from the outside but I will let you in on a little secret – Gluten Free versions of the famous gluten heavy food can be just as good, if not better than the original! One of my favourite meals on the trip was my pasta dish in Florence, and it was entirely Gluten Free.
Europeans do an amazing job at creating some of the tastiest dishes in the world – sans Gluten. So even though your friends may feel sorry for you because you can’t eat every item on the menu, don’t fall into the trap of feeling sorry for yourself. Just because your meal may be slightly different to everyone else’s, it doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy it. Europe is home to some amazing Gluten Free food; you just have to be wiling to embrace it.