How To Travel Gluten-Free

March 9, 2011

gluten-free guacamole

A gluten-free lifestyle doesn’t mean that you have to say good-bye to your social calendar. You can still enjoy care-free meals at your favorite restaurants.  Eating gluten-free doesn’t mean depriving yourself from your favorite foods, instead think of it as a way to focus on healthy ‘clean’ eating with naturally gluten-free foods that are fresh and delicious.  When you are planning a trip or dining out, be sure to keep yourself safe by planning ahead.

Make a List of "Safe" Foods
Make a list of the gluten-free foods you can enjoy as well as those foods that contain ‘hidden’ forms of gluten.  This way, you can refer to your list when you are faced with a dining dilemma.

Keep it Simple
Vacations and traveling often poses challenges because of the vast array of different ethnic cuisines.  Be sure to ask your server and the chef about the ingredients used in all sauces, marinades and dressings as these are common spots to find gluten.  To keep it safe, stick with plain food when dining out.  Try a piece of poached fish or chicken, baked tofu or a plate of freshly steamed vegetables with avocado, sea salt and pepper.

Call Ahead
Call the restaurant or stop by during the non-busy hours to talk with the chef and managers.  I usually call the restaurant around 3 o’clock, just between the lunch rush and the dinner crowd as this ensures I have enough time to talk with the appropriate contacts and get the correct answers that I need.  Touching base with the chef before you arrive for your meal will alleviate any questions you may have and will help you enjoy your dining experience, giving you the peace of mind that your meal is safely prepared

Communicate With Restaurant Staff
When you arrive at the restaurant for your meal, be sure to also alert the wait staff that your meal requires special handling.  Then, proceed to order your meal with exact ‘gluten-free’ instructions such as, “Please prepare poached halibut with no sauces, marinades or dressings, simply a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, sea salt and pepper along with a side of baked sweet potato and steamed green vegetables.”  Be sure to make the server aware of your allergy or intolerance to gluten and that you become very sick if your instructions are not followed exactly.

Gluten-Free Friendly Restaurants
Many restaurants now cater to us gluten-free folks and offer gluten-free meals and menus.  There is a list of restaurants that carry these gluten-free meals at Gluten Free Restaurant Awareness Program and also by contacting your local celiac support group.

Carry Your Own Snacks
Pack portable snacks in your bag at all times during travel to ensure you have a gluten-free nibble on hand when you are faced with a world of gluten-only options.  I like to pack homemade trail mix with cashews, almonds, dried cherries and dried cranberries along with chopped vegetables such as carrot sticks or cherry tomatoes, gluten-free crackers, pretzels and portable hummus.  These snacks are delicious, ‘clean’ foods that are easy to carry and easy to pop into your mouth on the move.

Just remember to plan ahead, familiarize yourself with the restaurants cuisine and know the alternatives that you can have prepared to ensure a safe, enjoyable and delicious meal.  The fun of traveling and vacationing is to enjoy yourself, your new surroundings and the unique cuisines.  Don’t let your gluten-free lifestyle intimidate you and keep you from living your life to the fullest and eating the foods you enjoy, just be sure to stay focused on keeping yourself healthy and happy while eating fresh, ‘clean’ meals and snacks comprising of lean proteins, heart-healthy fats, vegetables and fruits.  Here are a few of my favorite ‘clean’ dishes that are easy to whip-up and delicious anytime of the day.

  • Edemame Guacamole with rice cakes
  • Greek yogurt with agave nectar, slivered almonds, nut butter and gluten-free granola
  • Fresh crudités with salsa and avocado slices
  • Baked corn tortillas with bean dip, shredded cheese and chopped vegetables
  • Organic turkey slices wrapped in steamed kale with cooked jasmine rice
  • Banana, Swiss chard, spinach, apple and flax seed smoothies
  • Chopped grilled chicken with walnuts, dried cherries, curry powder and spinach

Here is an easy Gluten-Free Guacamole recipe that I enjoy when traveling. I create this guacamole the night before my travels and store it in a sealed Tupperware to enjoy with chopped fresh vegetables throughout my trip.

Smoked Chickpea Guacamole
Serves 2

2 avocados, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks
1 cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 Roma tomato, diced
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 scallions, chopped
1/3 cup red onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon lime juice
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon curry powder

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients; gently toss until combined.  I preferred to keep the avocado chunks in the guacamole instead of completely mashing them, as this gave the guacamole a beautiful appearance and was easier to eat atop crackers.

Serve with gluten-free crackers, atop a salad, spread onto a sandwich or as a dip with crudités.


This recipe can be viewed at The Healthy Apple.

Feature photo by: Juliopfe



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Andy's picture

This is a good article and the recipe looks delicious. However, I do have a critique regarding communicating with restaurant staff.

It is not up to a restaurant to cater to everyone's dietary restrictions. The idea that a restaurant is obliged to follow your instructions EXACTLY when preparing a dish is not practical, and quite frankly, a bit ridiculous. This is an unfortunate by-product of "the customer is always right" mentality that is pervasive in the U.S. Thankfully, there is a backlash developing against these types of requests, as highlighted by this recent NY Times article:

If you become very sick if your instructions are not followed EXACTLY, then perhaps you should not be eating out, or maybe you should only be eating at restaurants that cater to your particular dietary needs. I, as a vegetarian, am not going to walk into a steak house expecting that they prepare me an all-vegetable dish that is not on the menu. Why? Because having worked in many busy restaurant kitchens, I know A.) it is not always practical, B.) any self-respecting chef despises these types of requests, and most importantly, C.) the dish probably won't be very good anyway seeing as how it is not something the restaurant usually prepares.

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