I have celiac disease and was diagnosed in early 2000s, before awareness was as high as it is now. Knowledge of the disease is understandably low in many developing countries, but myths also abound in the West. It is an auto-immune disease that affects not just my stomach when I eat wheat, but my joints, my ability to function properly, and so much more. Gluten free travel is an added component of stress over and above the usual worries about safe and uncontaminated food. When I started this blog, I traveled with gluten free restaurant cards that I found and purchased online.
The problem is, I still got sick when I used them as I traveled.
So I decided to build my own.
DETAILED GLUTEN FREE RESTAURANT CARDS
I understand what it’s like to worry about what you’re eating. The effects of eating gluten for me last for days, and can come from something as innocuous as consuming something that was fried in contaminated oil. So if I eat a spring roll made with rice paper that was fried in the same oil as a breaded product, I will still get sick.
Why Are These Downloadable Restaurant Cards Different?
You may have seen other gluten free restaurant cards, and many are great for those following a GF diet. As a celiac who is extremely sensitive, I got sick using them. I very much appreciate the work and effort that went into the freely available cards — but sadly they were not enough.
In contrast, the Legal Nomads cards are:
- Researched by a celiac who loves to eat.
- Written with the traveler in mind.
- Use local dish names, based on what’s eaten in that country not just a translation.
- The first cards out there with a clear mention of cross-contamination and contaminated oil.
- Double checked for accuracy with two translators familiar with food, who speak the local language.
They are also offered as direct, digital downloads and sized for your smartphone so that you can use it with ease as you travel.
For roughly the price of an appetizer, you can travel more safely, with less anxiety as a celiac — and eat well while you do so. These cards will not only explain your needs as a strictly gluten free diner, but also address cross contamination using local food names to get exactly the meal you want and need.
Click on the card below to land on the purchase page for each. On that page, you’ll find an English translation of the card, so you know what you’re getting.
Note: The card is available for purchase via trustworthy 3rd party site that uses https, so you know your information is safe.
More of these cards to follow!
Find out a little more about the translation cards and why I started them:
Testimonial from a reader named Nicole who used the Japan gluten free card:
Testimonial from a different reader named Nicole who used the Spain gluten free card:
Free, Long (3000-5000 word) Gluten Free Travel Country Guides
In addition to the cards above, I’ve also created long celiac guides that I am offering on this site for for free. Each guide has foods that are safe, foods to avoid, where to shop to buy gluten free products, local celiac societies, further reading, and more.
My “Essential Celiac Travel Guides” series are a continuing project! So far:
- Essential Gluten Free Guide to Japan
- Essential Gluten Free Guide to France
- Essential Gluten Free Guide to Mexico
- Essential Gluten Free Guide to Greece
- Essential Gluten Free Guide to Italy
- Essential Gluten Free Guide to Vietnam
- Essential Gluten Free Guide to Malaysia
- Essential Gluten Free Guide to Portugal
- Essential Gluten Free Guide to Spain
- Essential Gluten Free Guide to Germany
- Essential Gluten Free Guide to Morocco
Since I started offering these cards, readers have asked for an English version with similar text, since it communicates both cross-contamination and roux in soup, soy sauce, mayonnaise, and additional items.
Just send me an email via my contact page (or click the card below to get to my contact page) and I’ll email you a download link for free.
Gluten Free Travel: City Guides on Legal Nomads
In addition to the country guides above, there are region-specific guides on Legal Nomads. These are less about specific dishes to avoid or eat, and more about restaurant recommendations you can enjoy. I try to focus on restaurants that aren’t catered TO celiacs, but rather ones where we can eat safely but without restricting friends who may not have the same food requests.
- New York
- Ottawa (Vietnamese food focus)
- Northern India (not a city, but a post about the region)
- Montreal (general guide for the city, including a celiac restaurants / gluten free bakeries section)
General Resources about Celiac Disease
At the bottom of the page are the city-specific guides I have written for celiacs or for those who are seeking to avoid gluten but still roam the world. These are in addition to the long free guides above.
Since the disease is more and more commonly diagnosed, I wanted to also provide some resources for readers to avail themselves of as they traveled. These are divided into categories, and were articles and sites I bookmarked as I began my own work and started traveling as a celiac. When first diagnosed, I was younger and resistant to learning more. As I started working as a travel writer, I found myself more and more interested in food and certainly needing to know as much as possible to keep me safe. I hope these links are useful!
Celiac Disease Foundations:
- United States Celiac Disease Foundation, including a discussion of related conditions.
- Beyond Celiac
- Canadian Celiac Association
- International celiac disease foundations, listed by country.
Celiac Primer: For those who want to understand what exactly celiac disease is, and isn’t, see this guide.
Books to Read:
- Gluten Freedom: The Nation’s Leading Expert Offers the Essential Guide to a Healthy, Gluten-Free Lifestyle, by Alessio Fasano. As the founder of the Center for Celiac Research, Fasano is one of the pioneers for celiac disease research and management, and his book is one of the more helpful ones out there. Not only does it go through the basics, but it separates facts from myth, and details suggestions for some of the scarier symptoms of glutening, like depression, anxiety, foggy mind, and joint pain. A comforting read from an expert.
- Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic, by Peter H.R. Green M.D. & Rory Jones. This book, revised and updated in 2016, provides thorough information about celiac disease and gluten intolerance / sensitivity, as well as talking about the identity shifts that come with being diagnosed with a chronic illness. It also includes guides for safe eating (what’s safe to consume) and is especially helpful for USA readers as it collates national support groups and manufacturers.
- Mayo Clinic Going Gluten Free: Essential Guide to Managing Celiac Disease and Other Gluten-Related Conditions, by Joseph A. Murray M.D. This book is practical and specific, written by some of the leading experts in celiac disease management and diagnosis. It includes recipes, travel, and how to manage the diet changes as a parent with a celiac child.
Interesting Articles About Gluten Free Eating and Celiac Disease:
I’ve included a few articles below about gluten and other dietary restrictions and diagnoses that might be related to sensitivity to certain foods. While some of these pieces are controversial, I do think they are important to read as the more we know about celiac disease, the better we will be able to eat safely.
- This is Your Brain on Gluten, The Atlantic, Dec. 2013
- When Gluten Sensitivity isn’t Celiac Disease The New York Times, Oct. 2014
- Against The Grain: Should you Go Gluten Free? The New Yorker, Nov. 2014, and the response written by the National Society for Gluten Awareness, here.
- Gluten-free: health fad or life-saving diet? The Guardian, Feb. 2015
- 4 Surprising Facts about Wheat and Gluten Mother Jones, Mar. 2015
- Is Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity a Real Thing? Healthline, Apr. 2015
- Alan Levinovitz on fanaticism and myth in diet The Atlantic, May 2015
- Why Food Allergy Fakers Need To Stop Boston Glove, Oct. 2015
- A survival guide for celiacs who travel The Guardian, April 2016 (by me)
- 5 Myths about Celiac Disease US News & World Report May 2016
- Here’s how an otherwise humdrum virus sparks celiac disease Ars Technica April 2017. “In people with genetic predispositions, viral infections can tip immune responses.”
- The Dilemma of the Gluten Free Diet WSJ April 2018
Recipes from the Road: I have a list of gluten-free recipes that I’ve posted on the site. For other great gluten-free recipes see Viet World Kitchen’s list of Asian GF recipes, Jamie Oliver’s GF recipe page, and this list of Mexican GF recipes. For Indian GF and vegetarian recipes see Manjula’s Kitchen for their landing page on gluten free.
Shop – Tote Bag for Celiacs
Now in the Legal Nomads Shop: a section for celiacs. A percentage of proceeds from the Bull-Woven Tote will go to the Beyond Celiac Foundation. Donations are made on a rolling basis. The celiac section consists of tote bags and t-shirts with the slogan, “I’m not being trendy, I have the disease”.
Thank you for reading and safe eating!