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, with long guides to accompany them.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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.
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 still 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:
They are also offered as direct, digital downloads and sized for your smartphone so that you can use it with ease as you travel.
“If you’re traveling with a health-related dietary restriction like celiac disease, as Ms. Ettenberg does, keep a series of handy translation cards that accurately convey your dietary needs. If you’re gluten-free, Ms. Ettenberg’s own cards account for cross-contamination and many local dish names.”
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.
On that page, you’ll find a description of the card. English translations are also sent upon purchase!
Note: The card is available for purchase via trustworthy 3rd party site that uses https, so you know your information is safe.
Restaurant cards available in 15 languages and regions (click to jump to page for that language):
Latin American Spanish (Mexico, Central America, Cuba, Ecuador, Chile, Peru, Paraguay, Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia, Uruguay, Argentina)
Malaysian (Bahasa Malaysia)
Portuguese (Brazil and Portugal)
NOTE: If you’d like to be an affiliate for these cards, please follow these instructions.
Find out a little more about the translation cards and why I started them:
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:
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.
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.
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:
Celiac Primer: For those who want to understand what exactly celiac disease is, and isn’t, see this guide.
Books to Read:
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.
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.
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!