Gluten Free Travel: Eat Safely As a Celiac, Anywhere in the World

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.

DETAILED GLUTEN FREE RESTAURANT CARDS & CELIAC FOOD GUIDES

“No wheat” drawing commissioned by me & drawn by Ella F. Sanders <3

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Translation Cards for Travel
Essential Gluten Free Country Guides for Celiacs
Gluten Free City Guides for Celiacs
General Resources for Celiacs: Articles and Diagnosis Guides

Digital, 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.

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:

  • 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.
  • Have a clear mention of cross-contamination, care with preparation, 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.

Per the New York Times:

“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.”

For roughly the price of an appetizer, you can travel 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.

The celiac translation cards in action, on an iPhone 6.

CLICK ON THE IMAGES BELOW TO ACCESS THE PURCHASE PAGE FOR EACH.

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):

Catalan (Spain)
Dutch
French
German
Greek
Italian
Japanese
Latin American Spanish (Mexico, Central America, Cuba, Ecuador, Chile, Peru, Paraguay, Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia, Uruguay, Argentina)
Malaysian (Bahasa Malaysia)
Moroccan Arabic
Polish
Portuguese (Brazil and Portugal)
Spanish (Spain)
Thai
Vietnamese

NOTE: If you’d like to be an affiliate for these cards, please follow these instructions.

Catalan (Spain) restaurant card (for Catalonia – Barcelona, Tarragona, Girona, etc):

Dutch restaurant card for the Netherlands:

French restaurant card (for travel to France)


(General French card available
here)

German restaurant card:

Greek Restaurant card:

Italian restaurant card:

Japanese restaurant card:

Latin America Spanish restaurant card (tailored for Mexico, Central, and South America):

Bahasa Malaysia restaurant card:

Moroccan Arabic restaurant card:

Polish restaurant card

Portuguese restaurant card (for Portugal and Brazil)

Spanish restaurant card (foods mentioned are specific to Spain):

Thai restaurant card:

Vietnamese restaurant card:

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:

Hi Jodi, the card is excellent and saved my skin the other night. The restaurant that we went to boils its edamame in the same water as its udon noodles.  The poor waiter kept pointing at the card when I said I could have edamame until he managed to explain the way they cooked them.

Needless to say I didn’t get much for dinner that night, but I wasn’t poisoned either.

Indispensable.  Thanks again

Testimonial from a different reader named Nicole who used the Spain gluten free card:

The waitress in Barcelona looked at the card and said it was fantastic, one of the best she has seen :)  The types of food you listed seemed spot on for me…I don’t feel like anything was missed, and I did not get sick. Thank you!

Free, Long (3000-5000 word) Gluten Free Travel Country Guides

Street food treats in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – for more about how to eat street food safely as you travel, see here.

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.

Click to send me an email for this card!

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.

These cards helped me travel safely as a celiac. 

So I wanted my readers to also travel with less anxiety about getting sick.

Gluten free baked eggplant in tomato sauce and topped with fresh herbs and feta in Athens.

For only $8.99, you can communicate your needs – including cross-contamination – and explore the world with more confidence. 

Testimonial from Janice, who used the Spain gluten free card:

These cards were great when I was in Spain.  Yes, “most” times I could find someone who spoke “some” English, but when my health is concerned, I need better.  These cards don’t just say “gluten free” but talk about cross contamination and hidden gluten. A few times my waiter would ask to take my phone back to the kitchen to confirm a food was safe for me.  I never could have conveyed all the information in this handy little card. BONUS – I downloaded Catalan and Spanish for my trip to Barcelona and used both of them daily.

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:

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.

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!

Jodi