Doing a year of college abroad is one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of college but like anything is made a lot more difficult when trying to manage a gluten free diet. When abroad, the extra obstacles of language barriers and unusual foods make following a gluten free diet even more difficult. Some things to do to help living gluten free easier in a foreign country easier include;
- Do some research before choosing a resort or region. Online forums can be helpful. The Coeliac Society often post member travel queries to their Facebook page so other members can share their experience.
- Check online that there is a supermarket that is well-stocked with gluten free products, close to your accommodation.
- Once you have decided on your destination buy an Eating Out Card in the appropriate language. These can be ordered on the coeliac website or by calling the office on 01 872 1471. Cards are available in fifteen languages and can be given to a waiter or chef to explain the Coeliac condition in their language.
- Research common ingredients used in your destination country – common ingredients may be rice which is naturally gluten free but some countries like Italy love pasta which is not gluten free. Being aware of the common dishes and foods of that country that you can have is important and can help you make your selection. Check to see if some of their most popular dishes add non-gluten free ingredients such as flour for thickening
- Don’t assume an ingredient that is safe at home is safe abroad – different countries make different food items with different ingredients. For example, the soya sauce you use at home may be gluten free but the one abroad may not be. Try do some research on some suitable gluten free condiments and sauces that will be helpful for you to be aware of when living abroad.
- Do your research before you go to a restaurant – does it do gluten free options? Pinpoint some local restaurants that cater to the coeliac diet before you go. You will probably find more options as you explore the area but a couple of go-to options will ease the stress on your first night or two. Online forums and travel articles can help with your research.
- Arrange travel insurance and inform your insurer that you are coeliac. In EU countries, take the EU Health Insurance card as well as arranging normal travel cover.
- Always have snacks and backups with you – you will need to keep energy levels up and safe food on a day out may not be guaranteed. In many countries, snacks are bread-based – sandwiches, waffles, pizza and more. Pack snacks like nuts and fruit when on the go.