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    Gluten-Free Travel: Taking a Cruise Across the Mediterranean Sea


    Sonja Luther


    • Journal of Gluten Sensitivity Spring 2014 Issue


    Celiac.com 05/22/2014 - In September 2013, I found out that if I want to be healthy, I have to eat a strict gluten-free diet. Not only that, but I also have to avoid corn, casein, beef, chicken, shrimp, garlic, yeast, grapes, cantaloupe, and cauliflower. When I go to a restaurant, my diet restrictions eliminate almost everything on the menu. Because of the lack of options and my fear of cross-contamination, I have not been to any restaurant since my diagnosis except for dedicated gluten-free restaurants. But eating at home every day for the rest of my life cannot be the answer. I will not let gluten rule my life and turn me into a hermit. Traveling is one of my biggest passions and if food is my only obstacle to living my passion, I will face my fear of cross-contamination, find solutions, and overcome this obstacle one bite at a time.


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    Of course, my first gluten-free vacation won’t be a trekking trip across the Himalayas although this is still on my bucket list. No, for my first gluten-free vacation I have chosen a less challenging trip. I have decided to go on a seven-day Mediterranean cruise on board the Aida Sol. Aida assures, on their website, that allergy sufferers can find and enjoy a variety of delicious allergen-free (especially gluten-free and lactose-free) food aboard their cruise ships. Additionally, you can meet with the head chef for 30 minutes to discuss your diet options for the week, and there is always a chef available for questions. It all sounds so promising, but is it really as wonderful as Aida claims? Is the food aboard the Aida Sol really safe for someone with celiac disease? I’m ready to find out.

    Day 1
    It is late in the afternoon and we are finally at the check-in desk. I am getting hungrier and more nervous by the minute. When I ask the receptionist how I can schedule my private session with the chef, he tells me to just go to one of the buffets and ask for one of the chefs. That should be easy, but I’m still nervous. This is the first time since my diagnosis that I will be eating at a regular restaurant. What if I get sick tonight? What would I eat for the rest of my trip?

    When we arrive at the Bella Donna Restaurant, one of the buffets on the Aida Sol, a welcoming chef gives me a tour of the buffet. He doesn’t take the time to sit down with me, but he shows me around; he points out the labels right above every dish which say whether the food is gluten-free, lactose-free, and/or vegetarian. What a relief! I immediately see several dishes that I believe I can eat. After a quick tour of the buffet, I take a plate and start grabbing more and more … meat. Yes, most of the gluten-free and lactose-free options are meat and my plate is packed with it except for a few veggies on the side. Ironically, I have never been a big meat eater until now. In fact, before I went gluten-free, I was a pescetarian. The only reason I decided to eat meat again was because I was eating as much as I could but kept losing weight. By the time of my diagnosis I was no more than 106 lb.

    I’m feeling wonderful. I’m at a regular restaurant and I’m enjoying my food like everybody else. Not only can I eat as much as I want, but I also have multiple choices … until we get to the dessert. I’m walking from one dessert to the next. None of the labels says gluten-free. I’m slightly disappointed. But let’s try the fruit bar! And what an amazing fruit bar it is! Besides apples and oranges, I see mangoes, kiwis, papayas, pineapples, purple & green passion fruits, persimmons, dragon fruits, cape gooseberries, and coconuts. I don’t think I’ll go hungry this week. What a relief!

    Day 2
    First day at sea, I made it through the first night without getting sick! I’m incredibly happy. The sun is shining through the window. The balcony door is open. I can hear the waves. What a perfect morning! Until I get up. Wow! The motion of the sea is stronger than I expected. I was feeling great, but now I’m not. I feel sick. Seasick. No breakfast for me.

    Day 3
    We’ve reached Tunisia, but before I explore the cities Tunis and Sidi Bou Said, I need to eat as much breakfast as I can since I’m not sure if I’ll be back in time for lunch and I’m too scared to try a Tunisian restaurant. This is my first breakfast on board. I’m walking around the buffet, trying to find something gluten and casein-free, but none of the dishes have labels. I’m feeling a little lost. I’ve already gotten used to those labels so much so that without them I immediately expect the food to be unsafe. I’m staring at the food, but I’m afraid to touch it. Where is the chef?

    When I ask the chef about what’s gluten-free, he doesn’t seem as well prepared as the first night. Maybe it is because of the lack of labels. When I ask him about the deli meat, he tells me that it is not prepared on board the ship, so he can’t tell me whether it is gluten-free or not. Why not? Why does the chef of a large cruise ship, which claims to be prepared for guests with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, not know whether the food he’s offering is gluten free? That’s not what Aida advertises on their website. I begin to realize that the staff, including the chefs, is not as well educated when it comes to celiac disease and gluten as I had hoped, which becomes even more obvious when the chef suggests that I could probably eat the ham. I’m standing in front of the deli counter, staring at the ham and then the meat-cutting machine. Wait a minute! That meat-cutting machine, is it used for all the deli meats? I begin to hear the word “cross-contamination” ringing in my ear; it’s slowly taking over my mind. I feel a bit of fear rising in my body. My trust in the chefs and kitchen staff begins to crumble. I will need to be more careful from now on and watch out for cross-contamination.

    Day 4
    We are in La Valette, Malta. The weather has been a mix of rain and sunshine, but the city is so beautiful that no rain can cloud its beauty. I’m running around the city, trying to see as much of it as possible before I rush back to the ship to grab some lunch before the buffet closes. The restaurant I usually choose is already closed and I have to try the Markt Restaurant. Usually both of these buffets offer lots of gluten-free options, but not this time. Twice, I walk from dish to dish, trying to find something I can eat. It’s not that there aren’t any gluten-free options, but the number is so small that my other food intolerances make it impossible for me to find any food. I end up eating some fruits and a salad that has garlic in it which makes my stomach hurt. This is the first time I leave the restaurant hungry, and I’m hoping that it will be the last.

    Day 5
    We spent the day in Palermo, Sicily, and are now ready for dinner. As usual, the dinner food is delicious. Every night my plate is packed with meat, vegetables, and fruits. So far, I can say that I haven’t been glutened, but I’ve been noticing other places of cross-contamination. Tonight, for example, you can get gluten-free pasta sauce but not gluten-free pasta. In fact, the gluten-free pasta sauce is right next to the wheat pasta. Not just that, but a few of the wheat noodles have already fallen into the pasta sauce. I will certainly not eat the sauce.

    Day 6
    My breakfast is the same as it was yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that: bacon and eggs. Every single day I’ve been eating bacon and eggs for breakfast. Lots of bacon and eggs! At least half of my plate is packed with bacon while the other half is packed with eggs. I can feel people’s eyes on the back of my neck wondering why I’m eating so much bacon and eggs. Well, it’s pretty much the only thing I can eat for breakfast.

    I’m slowly getting tired of all the meat, and I wish I had other options, but my body feels fine. I am still watching out for cross-contaminated food. Tonight, for instance, I’m avoiding the cut fruits from the fruit bar because the kitchen staff that is cutting the fruits is also preparing the Kaiserschmarrn (a cut-up sugared pancake with raisins) in the same work area. Even though the staff members are wearing gloves, they haven’t been changing them before handling the fruits. It becomes more and more obvious that the kitchen staff is not well informed when it comes to gluten and cross-contamination.

    Day 7
    Last destination: Barcelona. I have heard of the city’s numerous gluten-free dining options, but while I’m exploring the city, it feels like I’m only seeing bakeries filled with pastries made out of wheat. This entire cruise I didn’t eat any pasta, bread, cookies, or chocolate, and I’m craving it, oh, I’m craving it! Even though I don’t eat much of it anymore, it feels like I’m actually addicted to it. I’m not sure whether it’s the flour or the sugar, but it’s getting harder and harder to bear those cookies and cakes behind the shop windows. I’m trying to distract myself from what I’m seeing, which works until I walk into my room. When I open the door, I see a plate with a big piece of cake lying on my bed. Is this a joke? If it is, it’s not a good one. Where does this cake come from? My father is smiling at me. He tells me that he was in the restaurant for coffee and cake and heard someone request a piece of gluten-free cake from the kitchen, so he ordered one for me. I can’t believe it! They had gluten-free cake the entire week and I didn’t know! The chef never mentioned it. I decide to eat the cake as a special dessert after dinner.

    One of the Fruit bars at the Markt RestaurantDay 8
    Last night was a nightmare. I had cramps that kept me awake the whole night, and I had numbness in my fingers. Until today I was convinced that the numbness in my fingers was caused by gluten, but the cake was gluten-free, so was there maybe corn in it? I’m confused.

    In the afternoon, I decide to go see one of the kitchen chefs to ask him about the ingredients in the gluten-free cake. I want to know whether there was corn in it or not. The chef is very accommodating and immediately goes into the kitchen to check the ingredients on the box. When he comes back, he tells me that there is no corn in the cake but that there is a little bit of wheat in it. What? There’s wheat in the gluten-free cake. How can that be? How can it be gluten-free when there is a little bit of wheat in it? He tells me that it says gluten-free on the box. He believes that it must be just traces of wheat. Right! Traces of wheat! That’s enough to make me sick. So, the numbness in my fingers last night was actually caused by gluten.

    Departure
    After my talk with the chef, it’s time for our departure. It was a great vacation, but I’m ready to get back home, especially since my trust in the kitchen chefs has been damaged too much by this last incident. Overall, Aida Sol did not deliver as well as promised on their gluten-free commitment. Yes, Aida offers various delicious gluten-free dishes on board their ships so that no one needs to go hungry; however, because of the chefs’ and staff members’ insufficient knowledge of celiac disease and of the risks of cross-contamination, I can’t declare the gluten-free food options on board Aida Sol to be safe. My advice to gluten-free travelers is to remain careful even when it says gluten-free. Always ask for the ingredients, especially of those foods that are not prepared on board the ship.

    Despite their ignorance of cross-contamination, I value Aida for trying to be accommodating to allergy sufferers. There are not many hotels and restaurants that are as accommodating as Aida, but I would appreciate even more if Aida had better informed staff that is more aware of the risks of cross-contamination. It’s of no use to allergy sufferers if the great gluten-free food that is offered on board the ships gets contaminated because of ignorant kitchen staff. Furthermore, there should be at least one chef in each restaurant that is familiar with the ingredients of the foods that are not prepared on board the ship. I only got sick once at the end of my time on  the Aida Sol, but I am not sure if it was pure luck that it happened not more than once.

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    Guest Mark Roseman

    Posted

    Thanks for sharing your experience, which sounds pretty typical of what one might expect. Most people do what you do, and go by what their website and/or head office people say, but it is as you found out a bit on the idealistic side.

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    Guest Cindy

    Posted

    I swear by gluten free dining cards in all languages, even English for this type of issue. I have traveled China, Russia, S. America, all European countries, and Africa without being glutenized. With my OAT tour in Africa, the camps cooked gluten-free for my whole group of 16 with the exception of bread and desserts, and made special ones for me. How great is that? I am sure that you can get cards made that include your other allergies as well. And being a self advocate, I would have spoken to the chef multiple times about the seriousness of it and insisted on a sit down discussion early on since that was offered on the website. Sending the information in writing prior to the trip is also a good idea. Could they not prepare a meal other than buffet that would have worked? I also carry backup as well! Thanks for making other travelers aware of the issues. I hope that you sent a copy of this to the cruise company and requested a partial refund. You will certainly learn that we have to be our own advocates with celiac.

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    Guest debra

    Posted

    I recently returned from a 10 day cruise on Crystal Cruise lines from Istanbul to Venice. I always had the same waiter and head waiter (and avoided the buffets). They always had gluten free bread for me and everyone, including the chef, knew what was in the food and how to handle it. We also had excellent fish meals on shore most places.....just asked for it to be grilled. hope you have better luck next time.

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    Guest Karen Kurokawa

    Posted

    You didn't mention whether you alerted the cruise company, the head chef and the captain about your experiences, but I hope you did. I also hoped you gave them information about the affordable food service training programs that help create celiac-safe experiences. Among them are The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness's GREAT Kitchens program, which is an affordable, effective and efficient (on line or in person) way for commercial kitchens to keep their customers safe. If you haven't already, please do send a letter to the company about your experience with a recommendation that they undertake training like GREAT Kitchens.

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    Guest Sonja

    Posted

    You didn't mention whether you alerted the cruise company, the head chef and the captain about your experiences, but I hope you did. I also hoped you gave them information about the affordable food service training programs that help create celiac-safe experiences. Among them are The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness's GREAT Kitchens program, which is an affordable, effective and efficient (on line or in person) way for commercial kitchens to keep their customers safe. If you haven't already, please do send a letter to the company about your experience with a recommendation that they undertake training like GREAT Kitchens.

    Hi Karen,

     

    Thank you for your response. Yes, I have sent a review to the cruise company. However, I didn't tell them about the affordable food service training program by The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness since this cruise was not in America but in Europe, and I am not familiar with European training programs. Do you know of any in Europe? I will mention it the next time I talk to the company.

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    Guest Mary

    Posted

    In Italy you can find a lot of gluten free bakeries like Fralenuvole Pasticceria Senza Glutine (artisanal gluten free bakery). You can find the entire list in the Italian Coeliacs Association web site (AIC)!

    Check it for the next trip.

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    I am new at this and your story is horrible, its very scary to see there's not much to eat on trips. I was actually just trying to look up ideas of what to take in the car with me when I'm out just for the day. Any good ideas? Other than fruit.

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  • About Me

    Sonja, who was born and raised in Germany but is now a happy Austinite, is currently finishing her Ph.D. in English at The University of Southern Mississippi. Besides her studies in literature, Sonja has been involved in film projects and is now focusing on her documentary film 100% Gluten-Free.

    In September 2013, Sonja found out that the symptoms she had been suffering from since early childhood were all due to the gluten in her diet. After months of research, Sonja decided to make a documentary film to raise awareness of the rising prevalence of celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) as well as to provide educational and emotional support to everyone who has recently been diagnosed with celiac disease or NCGS. You can follow her project on Facebook, Twitter, and on the film’s website 100percentglutenfree.com.

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  • Related Articles

    Phyllis Morrow
    Celiac.com 11/15/2007 - When I was diagnosed with celiac disease a number of years ago, I had the misfortune of being directed to the local hospital’s dietician for counseling. After she confessed that she, too, was celiac I anticipated some great tips for managing the new dietary regime. To my surprise and disappointment, she gave me less information than I had already learned from the internet between the time of diagnosis and my appointment. Then she sighed, “You’ll see. After a while, food just becomes less important to you.”

     

    To someone who has always enjoyed good cooking and good company, that was clearly unacceptable – and it was utter nonsense. I promptly went to the bookstore, bought Rebecca Reilly’s excellent cookbook, “Gluten-free Baking,” and made a delicious gluten-free French apple tart. I put some whipped cream on the side and brought a slice to my internist, leaving it at lunchtime with thanks for a life-improving diagnosis and a suggestion not to send celiacs to that dietician. There have been too many fabulous gluten-free meals in my life since then to count.

     

    When I retired in July, I was ready to take on new gluten-free adventures. My husband and I decided on a six week self-guided bicycle trip, variously camping and staying in inexpensive lodgings throughout southernFrance. Of course, I had to figure out how to manage celiac disease in this land of patisserie (pastry) and pain (bread). But I was determined to have a “pain-less” trip.

     

    To cut to the chase, we had an incredible time and I ate wonderfully. We had gourmet picnics, restaurant meals, and dinners cooked on our camp stove. I only got sick once. For fellow celiacs contemplating European travel, I’d like to share here what I learned, including specific brands and general suggestions for how to get along. I do have the advantage of reasonable fluency in French, but with a little help you can manage without that.

     

    First, I suggest you go to: www.afdiag.org. This is the website of the “Association Francaise des Intolerants au Gluten” (French association of the gluten-intolerant). On this site, there are several particularly useful pages. One has a handy chart of foods that are “interdits” (forbidden) side by side with those that are “autorises” (allowable). I carried a print-out of this page and used it in restaurants, butcher shops, etc. I found it considerably more detailed than something like a “cuisine card” (such as the gluten-free restaurant cards available at Celiac.com). It shows particular types of regional sausages, for example, that are safe for celiacs, and so helped me pick out pates and cured meats after consultation with each charcutier (butcher) that I encountered. Of course, there is no substitute for being able to explain your needs and discuss a menu with the chef, but this page is a great aid. With this page and the help of a bilingual friend, I suggest you study up in advance, as well, on basic terms for wheat, rye, barley, oats, and food starch, as well as words for celiac-friendly grains such as corn (maiz), buckwheat (sarrasin), rice (riz), etc. Also, a restaurant card might be more helpful to someone who doesn't speak French than it would be for me.

     

    Another useful afdiag.org page, if you are lucky enough to be invited into any French homes, is titled “Recevoir un Intolerant.” This gives information and advice to anyone who offers to host you. Through a biking network on the web, we had arranged contacts with a few people who gave us meals and a place to stay, and I sent them e-mails in advance politely explaining that I am gluten intolerant, and giving the link to this page.

     

    The site also has a list of gluten-free product lines and distributors. Brand names that are exclusively gluten-free or that include some gluten-free products include not only those that are typically imported to theU.S., such as Dr. Schar, but also French and other European brands, including Valpiform, Gluta Bye, France Aglut, Barkat, and many others. By the way, the site also links to an alphabetical list by country of national gluten-intolerance organizations, which is a great resource for any traveler.

     

    Grocery Stores

    My travels were in southernFrance(the Dordogne/Lot/Vezere area, the Luberon,Provence,Carcassonne). We shopped frequently and I combed grocery stores in larger cities, includingAvignonandToulouse, smaller ones, such as Apt, and tiny villages and hill-towns for gluten-free options. In general, groceries, including the big chains such as Hyper Champion, did not seem to carry exclusively gluten-free products, such as baked goods, and I had to watch for hidden gluten in many brands, including yogurts and canned goods that, from myU.S.experience, I might have expected to be gluten-free. This was something to be cautious about in the organic food (“bio” or “biologique”) sections of regular grocery stores, too.

     

    Rice cakes were easily available in a pinch, and instant polenta made a quick camping meal after a long day on the bikes. Both were common products even in small stores. Where buckwheat crepes are a regional specialty, you can sometimes find them, pre-packaged, in the refrigerated section of grocery stores. They were delicious filled with fromage blanc and heated on our camp stove, then topped with fresh fruit and/or one of the many fabulous jams that are available everywhere. Of course, you can find many other delicious gluten-free foods to eat at any grocery, particularly in a country that excels in  cheeses, olives, fruits, vegetables, chocolate and wines. French stores also often have roasted or vacuum packed pre-cooked beets and potatoes, which make simple additions to a meal if you have no easy way to cook.  And there were some serendipitous finds such as a wonderful tinned almond cake, a regional specialty of Provence (made by “L’Amandier de Ventoux” from Biscuiterie de Provence). In the town of St. Remy, the artisanal cookie bakery also made several gluten-free almond-based cookie variations that were exciting.  

     

    “Bio” Stores

    But the real treasure troves are found in just about any “magasin bio.” “Bio” or “biologique” is the French term for “organic” and a “bio” is a health food store.  When I inquired about products “sans gluten,” I was often told that there is increasing interest in gluten-free foods, and even the smallest “bio” stores had them. We celiacs are benefiting from a trendy idea among health-conscious consumers that gluten is suspect – and hey, let’s enjoy the sudden proliferation of choices! The bigger “bio” stores had very wide selections. There, I found packaged gluten-free muesli, cereals, muffins, small cakes, and cookies of all sorts. Some stores carried cookies from “Aux Biscuits d’Antoine,” a dedicated gluten-free French bakery; I was leery about trying their buckwheat and grapefruit flavored cookies, but they turned out to be tasty, especially with hot tea. In general, the gluten-free cookie brands ranged from numerous types that resemble good non-gluten-free European packaged cookies (filled wafers, “sandies,” etc.) to purist health food-type selections (whole grains and unprocessed sugars). While salty snacks are not as prevalent inFrance as they are in theU.S. (the French think of us as a country of between meal nibblers and over eaters), some choices are available (Barkat brand pretzels are terrific). Some snack bars were gluten-free, including an interesting if crumbly one made from chestnuts (Domino Chataigne from Grillon d’Or).

     

    Bread

    Best of all, just about every “bio” carried several types of bread, all of which were vastly better than the dense, flavorless rice breads that are the default choice in U.S. health food stores. The breads included both “white” breads (including baguettes) and whole grain options. In my pre-diagnosed life, I always preferred European type breads, so I enjoyed sampling these. There are many choices in the Schar line, including “Sunna,” which resemble whole-wheat rolls.GlutaBye,FranceAglut and Valpiform all make different varieties of “pain campagnard” (country-style bread) based on rice flour, buckwheat flour, nut flour and other ingredients. Quinoa or teff flours are sometimes included. All have a nice sour taste, like that of a good light rye, because they are based on a levain (sourdough). I used to be very fond of the dense, German-style, thinly-sliced rectangular whole rye breads, and I was thrilled to find several gluten-free versions of this type of slow baked, long shelf life bread. Pural (“Bio c’est la vie”) makes a levain based “Glutenfrieies Volkornbrot” (German whole grain gluten-free bread/ “pain complet sans gluten”) with whole rice, millet, buckwheat, lupin flour (lupin is a type of bean but, thank heaven, it does not have the bitter beany taste of garbanzo and fava bean flours), and sunflower seeds. A similar bread, also German-made, was the Bio Kerniges Buchweizenbrot (organic buckwheat bread) based on buckwheat sourdough, corn, sunflower seeds, millet, buckwheat, soy, rice, apple fibers and honey. The wide variety of languages on the labels for these products suggests that they are distributed in many European countries. [by the way, friends traveling inNorwaybrought back a box of gluten-free Wasa crackers (Knackebrod) that were phenomenal. I contacted the company but found that this particular product is made by their Swiss subsidiary and they were unaware of anyU.S.distributors.]

     

    In two “bio” stores, I found the holy grail of gluten-free breads: freshly baked, with an excellent crumb and chewy European-style crust. These were 100% buckwheat (“pur sarrasin”) breads made by local bakers. The two stores that carried them only got them once a week and had a few loaves, which were quickly snapped up by eager customers. While I was never able to chase down the bakers, from whom I wanted to learn a few tricks of the trade, I was astounded at how good these breads were. They were nothing like the leaden buckwheat loaves that I have eaten (or rejected) in theU.S. I once bought one of these at the Flying Apron in the University district inSeattle, a bakery that has otherwise delightful gluten-free baked goods, and it became a running joke – we used it as a doorstop for a while. I brought home some levain sarrasin (buckwheat sourdough starter) fromFranceand have been experimenting in my kitchen, but have yet to get beyond the brick phase myself. Searching for recipes on the internet, to date, has not helped. Anyway, these breads are treasures to seek out.

     

    I was, however, happy to find a German-style whole-grain gluten-free bread when I returned to the U.S. Made by “Bavarian” (which also carries a number of similar but non-gluten-free products, so be careful) this gluten-free bread has a several month shelf life and contains whole rice, whole corn, millet, and sweet lupin flour.  It has a very good taste and holds together well.

     

    If readers have other sources for gluten-free European breads in this country, please do share them. And happy travels!

     

     

    Daniel Moran
    Celiac.com 05/14/2008 - Staying at a Hotel or Bed and Breakfast with Breakfast Included
    With your trip you will have to stay at a hotel or resort. I am going to discuss my thoughts on how to eat and stay safe. I will be talking about breakfast because some hotels and B&B’s offer free breakfasts. Lunch and dinner are different subjects that need to be discussed in great length.
    It is very important for you to keep the Gluten Monster away during your trip.  If you are in a hurry just grab some fruit, clean it, and leave.  If you want to stay, you have to monitor how the wait staff warms the food up.  In the past I have asked to see the ingredients from various boxes so don’t be afraid to ask to see packages.  You are looking for a variety of things. After I find out if I can eat the food I again observe the staff and how they handle the food I will be eating.

    Are they careful or sloppy? Do they use the same plate in a manner that might cause cross contamination? Once I decide that I can eat the breakfast I wait until they bring fresh food out and I take food from the fresh plate. I do ask for clean plate if they use the same plate for everything. If the staff does use the same plate I ask if they can use a different or fresh plate for me.  I also sometimes give them my plate and ask them nicely if they could put some of the cooked product on my plate before they do anything else with it.
    Always explain your diet the best you can and let the staff know that you have a special diet and that they have to be very careful with your food.  Tell them you get very sick and you must be extra careful.  If the staff doesn’t speak English well you can try using a gluten-free restaurant card in the language they speak, or just keep it short and try to explain in the easiest possible way.In the hotels where they warm up sausage, eggs and pancakes I have found that I was able to eat the breakfast sausage and the eggs.  These products came to the hotel already cooked and frozen so all the staff had to do was put them into the microwave and heat them up. I just asked to look at the boxes that the food came in so that I could read their ingredients. As mentioned, I always wait for a fresh batch of food to come out, and I even go as far as to use a clean fork to serve the food out of the pan or plate before it is dumped into the chafing dish. 
    I would have already explained to the wait staff in detail of my special diet needs so they will already know that I take my health very seriously. By taking the food out of the pan I hopefully take care of the accidental cross contamination from other patrons.  If you take the food out of the pan as it sits there for all to use you are taking the chance that somebody has spilled a crumb into the pan.  Be kind to the wait staff and they will help you.
    For the other products served at the hotel like fruit be sure to wash it to make sure it is clean.  If they are using bulk cereal it is probably not a cereal that you can eat so stay away unless you read the ingredients on the box or are certain that it is gluten-free.  Remember that bulk cereals might have different ingredients than the versions that you are used to—or it could be another brand or another type. Hard boiled eggs are sometimes available—just be sure to ask for them right out of the pot or wash them very well.  Some of the eggs have vinegar in the buckets to preserve them so be careful to read it thoroughly and also ask the staff if they have poured the end of a bucket into the bucket you are looking at.
    In small kitchens like these you will find that the staff will often pour the remaining food back into the container if it can be reused. You have to determine if this is happening. Notice if the containers are very full or empty—will the staff let you open a fresh bucket or box if you ask?  If it is early they won’t have much trouble doing that for you because they are going to use it anyway, but if it is at the end of breakfast they might not want to open a new container. 
    Remember to always have a plan B and to be nice. If necessary have your Chef Daniel's restaurant paper that can be used to explain your illness.  Sometimes it is easier for people to read celiac disease so they can understand.  I always grab a piece of fruit for later in case I have trouble finding lunch and it is a good snack to have.  Once you have your breakfast it is out to lunch.
    Gluten-Free at Buffet Breakfasts
    If you are at a hotel that offers a buffet breakfast for free it is the same procedure as above.  Always try to get a fresh pan as it comes out to eliminate cross contamination from other customers.  Try to talk with someone in charge like the manager who could help you if they are not busy. Be nice and explain your illness and how sick your will get.  Don’t be afraid to ask for the ingredients.  Ask for them to cut or tear the ingredients out of the box for you if possible.  Sometimes they have written them down for me and brought it out to our table.  Make sure you ask whether they using fresh eggs or “egg products.”  Also ask if they are putting something in the eggs to keep them from turning green.  If they are using real eggs they have to keep them from turning green.  Real eggs turn green from the heat and the chefs sometimes put lemon juice or vinegar in the eggs while they cook them.
    Always ask—no matter how silly you think it is—whether they add anything to the food. Seasoning salt sometimes has wheat in it, so ask if they use something besides just salt
    and pepper. Remind them how sick you will get if you eat a little piece of gluten and never be ashamed to ask.  Always ask for your food to be unseasoned—that also eliminates the risk here.
    Whatever you want make sure that you try to get the freshest that they have and also use a clean fork to retrieve your food. Most of the tongs or spoons are going to be used from one container to the next.
    If the staff can help you they will, so ask and be patient don’t expect to be out fast.  If you are expecting to be fast then you probably will be sick.  In some cases you can ask for some fresh products from the back.  Find the person who has been helping you and if the food you want is taking a long time to empty or just isn’t getting refilled on the buffet line.  Ask if someone can go to the back and get you some food.  Hand them your clean fork and ask them nicely if they can use this to get the food on your plate.  As long as you are nice they will help you. Always try to ask someone who seems to care about the establishment where you are eating—you will know them.
     Don’t forget to ask how they cooked your food.  Just because the sausages are gluten-free doesn’t mean they cooked them that way.  They could cook them on the same grill that they cooked the pancakes on and you will have bread on your sausage!  Most places cook sausage and bacon in the oven but you need to ask how they cook everything.  Are the scrambled eggs cooked on the grill—if so can they cook you a small batch on the side?  Keep that in mind with all of the food you are going to eat.  Don’t forget to be careful and remember about cross contamination  
    A Sit-down Gluten-Free Breakfast
    For your sit down breakfast you want to make sure they cook your entire meal ala cart.

    Cook your eggs in a fresh pan. Use olive oil or real butter to cook them not the spray can of oil. Have your Chef Daniel's restaurant paper or gluten-free restaurant card that tells the cooks about you and your illness and let them know how to cook your food. Tell them in great detail how to prepare your food, Ask them to use a fresh fork to grab items if need to be.. Not to use garnish or spice on your food. Don’t be afraid to ask for a clipping of the ingredients from the box if you want to check to see if you can have the sausage or ham. Tell them about the cross contamination from cutting boards, knives, tongs and the table they work on.
    I can’t emphasize this enough—you have to judge for yourself how busy the place is.  This is the most important thing you have to remember.  As humans under stress do stupid things and the cook could fall under that.  Just think of how you would do if you were working there.  Would you, for example, have enough time to get part of a box that you threw away two hours ago when you started breakfast?  The type of restaurant matters to.  Is this a Motel or is it a very successful chain that pays well and has good benefits.  This usually means the staff is very good.These tips can help you but you do have to make sure that you inform the staff, waitress, manager and hopefully the person who is cooking your meal.  It doesn’t do any good if you tell one person and they forget because they got busy.  That is why I always try to tell the manager when I enter.  In your Chef Daniel's restaurant paper make sure you give them exactly how to cook your meal.  Don’t assume they will do it because you told them you get very sick.  As a chef myself, if I read something and it told me to use olive oil and not salad oil—I would do as it said.  If it said use oil I would grab the closest product or even margarine.  Even when busy if you read something it should stay in your head.  When you’re busy and someone tells you that table #22 has celiac and needs gluten-free food…well it could get lost if I am busy listening to 20 different orders, so bring a form or gluten-free restaurant card that they can read.


     
    Gluten-Free Travel Hints:
    You should always try to getthe manager to help you.  In any restaurant they have the most time tohelp you and they will help you because they typically care more thanthe regular workers (today’s restaurants have employees that come inone day and are gone the next.help.  It is sad but that is the way itis so at least try to get the manager. Don’t be ashamed to askfor anything. If you want a hot dog or the chips they put on the sideof the plate ask for a bag with the product inside.  Take out your safeand forbidden lists if needed and look at them to see if you can eat aproduct. 
    Always have your Chef Daniel's restaurant paper with you in your walletor purse.
    Always have a copy of your safe and forbidden lists with youin case you need it to read ingredients. Always have a gluten-free restaurant card in the language you need.
    Crosscontamination is the greatest risk for a celiac when traveling.  Crosscontamination can happen and you would never know it, such as when thechef uses a knife to cut a piece of bread, and then they use the sameknife on your vegetables, or when the chef uses a pair of tongs to flipa breaded chicken and then uses them to flip your sauté chicken.Thereare too many other ways to mention, but the main thing is that glutencould be on the tool before it is used on your meal, and it doesn’tmatter how safe the chef thought he was because you got one crumb andyou are sick for days and that ruins your vacation.

    Keep the comments coming and together we will get rid of the Gluten Monster!

    Chef Daniel P

    Daniel Moran
    Celiac.com 05/25/2008 - When traveling should you go to a restaurant with a gluten-free menu or not—that is the question. It is important to let you know that because of your comments I can come up with discussions like this, so please keep them coming.  Let’s talk about gluten-free menus (this is, of course, only my opinion).
    Gluten-Free Menu Pros:

    Gives the person a chance to order from a menu that was made for them. The restaurant should know about all the ingredients that will make you sick.   
    Gluten-Free Menu Cons (Sorry but experiences when going to restaurants with gluten-frees menus have only been bad ones, although I am sure that there are good restaurants out there.  I live in a very small town that is surrounded by small towns.  I am the only celiac for 100 miles that I know of.  I’m sure that in a big city it would be different. I have eaten in the big city too, and also had a terrible experience with their gluten-free menu):
    The staff often has no idea what gluten-free really means. The staff thinks that it is only wheat and not all the other items that are on our forbidden list. Sometimes they don’t even know that their restaurant does offer a gluten-free menu. The staff has not been properly trained.  That goes for the wait staff and the cooks or chefs who are making your meal.  Cross-contamination occurs and there is nothing that you can do about it. The restaurant is trying to do something nice for us but may be focused more on the extra money that can make with such a menu. The gluten-free menu is so small and only offers a few items, while regular customers have 50 items to choose from. We travel so far to go to one of these restaurants, when we could be getting the same or better service from a nice, local restaurant.
    You can see were I am going with this, so I will stop.  Let’s look at traveling options and my experiences.  I have traveled with my boys around the USA.  Normally we live in a tent and stay at state parks where it is cheap.  We have hit Gettysburg, Niagara Falls, Hershey Pennsylvania, Boston, Florida, Georgia, Colorado, South Dakota, Chicago, New York, and many more places.  I also have gone with my wife to Las Vegas, Washington and some more places.  I have traveled in the USA and do not plan my meals around gluten-free menus at restaurants—and I want to explain why.  I was in New York twice.  I went with my two boys and the other time it was just me and my wife.
    The first time in New York with my boys we stopped at Nathan’s in Coney Island.  We watched them eat hot dogs on July 4th on the TV—you know every year somebody eats 50 or so of them.  So we traveled to Coney Island just to go to Nathan’s.  We went to Nathan’s and I waited until there was no line at the window (Rule 1—always wait until it is slow).  I approached the window with my boys (Rule 2, observe how they cook the item you are going to ask for—are they sloppy when they are serving the food? If so ask them to change gloves or give them a fork to get your food).  Noone was behind us so I knew it would be no trouble to ask for special help.  I told the server I have a special diet request and could they help me.  I asked if they had the package handy so I could look at the wrapper the dogs came in.  They go through a lot of dogs so it was right there.  After I reviewed the package I asked them if they could use a plastic fork to get me a couple of dogs. They did and they were great.  Ask for condiments to go, those had the ingredients on them.
    Another time I was with my wife and she wanted to go to T.G.I.F.—at that time they had no gluten-free menu (they might now, I don’t know).  We went in at a slow time and I gave them my Chef Daniel P. restaurant form and I also ate very well with no illness the next day. I used the two rules mentioned above that I always go by.
    This year my wife and I went to Las Vegas.  My wife wanted to go to the Las Vegas Stratosphere Tower to eat while overlooking Las Vegas.  They also didn’t have a gluten-free menu, and she made our reservations.  She used Rule 1 and made it for the last reservation they would accept.  I asked for the manager and told him I have a special diet request and tonight I would love to have the duck breast if they were not marinated.  He said he would check with the chef.  A few minutes later the executive chef came out to our table to speak with us (this chef is well paid, and this is what I have been saying from day one to you about chefs in fine dining establishments—they care just like I do).  The fact that he had time to come to our table happened for a few reasons I believe:

    They were slow enough that the chef could take time away from the kitchen to help his customer. This is the type of place that cares what you think, what you say about their establishment to others—and they don’t want to make anyone sick. I was direct and to the point in what I wanted to eat and the chef could do it. When the chef came out I told him exactly what I told the manager about my illness and the nature of it.   I asked him if he could sauté me some duck breast. Duck breast was on the menu but it was with a terraki sauce and the soy sauce normally has wheat in it.  I wasn’t in the mood for terraki anyway, so this how I ordered my meal—and yes I did write it down on my chef Daniel P restaurant form: Sauté the duck breast in olive oil until ¾ of the way done.  Pull it out and put it to the side and deglaze the pan with white wine.  Add orange juice, a hint of pineapple juice and tighten it with corn starch or arrow root.  Add the duck breast, orange zest and a splash of lime juice. Microwave some white rice. Microwave any fresh vegetables. No seasonings or garnish.

    I just had them make Duck ala Orange for me—and you can do something like this too if you just believe in yourself and do it. Our meal took extra time but we were on top of the world so who cares?  It is worth the wait to not get sick, and we ended up having a fantastic meal.I have a few thoughts to share with you for when you start to look for gluten-free menus.  Gluten-free menus are good but they are not great.  If I was in Japan and I had to go out to a restaurant, I would want to go to a sushi restaurant.  I would not search around for a place with a gluten-free menu.  I am always going to use Rules 1 and 2 anyway.  In Japan I would look for the restaurant that cuts and serves the sushi right in front of me.  If I was in France, I would use the two Rules first, and also try to find a place that does table-side cooking.  If I was in Louisiana, I would do rule 1 and rule 2 then go to a restaurant that I know has a good reputation and give them my Chef Daniel form and enjoy my meal like everyone else.
    You need to eat where you want to eat and not limit yourself.  How many of you would want to eat at Wolfgang Pucks restaurant?  Are you going to say that eating where there is a gluten-free menu will be better than eating at Wolfgang’s place?  What if you were visiting the Eiffel Tower in Paris or a bistro across the street from it?  It would be nice to have a gluten-free menu in those places, but it is unlikely. We have to come together as one group and order the same way.  In time I will convert menus at the cruise ships or the chains of motels that have chain restaurants.  Traveling is what we do and it doesn’t matter if you have to restrict your diet or not. We all love food and we will pay extra if we have to, but we must expect not to get sick. 
    My ultimate goal is to be able to walk into any restaurant and have a great gluten-free menu. I would love to see a real gluten-free menu with lots of great entrées to pick from.  Ultimately it is up to us to educate workers in the places that we eat in about the gluten-free diet.   We need to come together and start standing up and saying that we are special too.
    Chef Daniel.
     

    Melissa Blanco
    Celiac.com 09/01/2009 - I recently passed a milestone, upon reaching the first anniversary,since my celiac disease diagnosis.  There was no golden coin or awardceremony, but rather a sense of personal accomplishment.  Although itis true that I feel better not eating gluten than I have in years—Istill miss my former diet every single day.  I no longer crave glutenfilled meals, nor do I feel sorry for myself, as often as I did,immediately following my diagnosis.  Yet, I still find it necessary tojustify my condition whenever I get confused looks at dinner parties orpotlucks.  There are also the days when I will pass a pizza shop orhave a craving for a glazed donut with my morning coffee.  It is inthose moments when familiar pangs will resurface and make me long forjust an instance that I could put on my gluten shield and indulge.
    Itwas at this time last year, that I celebrated my first summergluten-free.  I ate at only restaurants with gluten-free selections, Ibegan dabbling in store bought wheat-free mixes, and jumped up and downin my kitchen the day my husband discovered a gluten-free bakery,several towns away.  Last summer was also my first opportunity totravel gluten-free.  It was during those normally carefree months thatI attended a Family Camp, at a retreat center, in the mountains. Although I meticulously planned for the trip; packing clothing, extratennis shoes, swimming essentials, and toiletries—I neglected toremember that I now had dietary limitations which would possibly have atremendous impact on the outcome of this family weekend.  Yes, I packedgluten-free breakfast bars and fresh fruit, but that was it.  I didn’tcall ahead and ask if they had menu options for celiac sufferers, nordid I plan for lunches and dinners.
    Walking into the retreatcenter dining hall among the smell of fresh baked bread, pasta salad,and breaded chicken made my mouth water like one of Pavlov’s dogs.  Iglanced around the table to see salad drizzled with vinaigrette andrealized that was all I would be eating for the day.  My head began toache and tears stung the back of my eyes.  I inwardly cursed myself formy lack of preparation.  I am the mother of three young children, thewife of a deployed soldier, a responsible and organized woman—yet Icompletely forgot to prepare for a weekend in the mountains, withceliac disease.
    I soon learned two of my fellow campers alsosuffered from gluten intolerance and was informed that there wasgluten-free bread and peanut butter, in the kitchen.  I breathed a sighof relief as I walked up to the chef and asked him if I could possiblyhave a slice of gluten-free bread.  He looked at me and responded,“sure, but this is the only loaf we have, so when it’s gone, it’sgone.”  He was completely put off by my request and irritated thatthree celiacs would arrive at his retreat center, simultaneously,forcing him into a position to alter his meals for dietaryrestrictions.  I grabbed the smallest slice of bread in the loaf,ensuring that the young boy with celiac would have food to eat, andwalked out of the kitchen, in tears.
    That was one year ago, andalthough the date on the calendar has changed, I am still coping withmy condition and learning to travel gluten-free.  My husband recentlyreturned from his yearlong deployment to Iraq, and decided it was timeto treat the family to a couple days of fun-filled water adventure;with a trip to Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, Washington.  It wouldbe an understatement to say that my children were excited—rather, theywere beyond ecstatic at the prospect of water slides, swimming pools,and the giant bucket of water which spills and drenches everyone in itspath, every few moments.      
    I packed my morning gluten-freebreakfast bars, alongside of my toddler’s swim diapers, and we hit theroad, ready for an adventure at Great Wolf Lodge.  As I prepared formeals of bunless hamburgers and grilled chicken Caesar salads, minusthe croutons, my children began psyching themselves up for the thrillof a rushing waterslide.  I wasn’t sure how food allergies would begreeted at this indoor water park, as was I nervous for a reoccurrenceof past experiences.  My ultimate hope was that my Celiac Disease wouldbe understood and recognized for its seriousness.   

    The Loose Moose Cottage

    Onthe first evening of our stay, my husband suggested eating at The LooseMoose Cottage, to partake of their dinner buffet.  After being seatedin a comfortable booth, we ordered our drinks, before I perused ourselection of food for the evening.  The buffet was quite organized witha variety of offerings assembled in different ethnic sections featuringMexican food, Italian food, and Chinese cuisine.  There was a selectionof sautéed vegetables, potatoes, and sliced roast beef; a kid’s stationwith macaroni and cheese and mini corndogs, a salad bar, and a dessertstation.  After preparing my children’s’ plates, I approached a chef,as she refilled the nacho tray, and asked if the enchiladas were madeusing corn or flour tortillas.  She informed me that they were madewith flour before asking if there was something she could help me with.I told her that I have celiac disease, and expected to explain to herwhat that was; yet was surprised as she began walking down theselection of foods, informing me one-by-one which were safe for me toeat.  As I kept up with her, amazed at her accommodating demeanor, sheworked all the way from the Mexican food to the salad bar.  She thenwalked back to the kitchen and returned with two pieces of gluten-freegrilled chicken breast.  As I was thanking her, she offered to make megluten-free pasta.  When I declined, she told me that if I would likethem to make me pasta the following day, to let the kitchen know andthey would be more than happy to prepare it for me.
    My personalreview of The Loose Moose Cottage: The food was good, the service wasexceptional, and the atmosphere was accommodating for my family.  Theonly thing which would have made dining easier would have been if eachdish’s ingredients were listed on a sign beside the dish itself.
      

    Poolside Grill

    During our afternoon of swimming, we ventured outside where staff wereoffering grilled hamburgers and hotdogs, along with potato chips anddrinks.  The smell of the grill was invigorating—after several hours ofswimming, we were starving—so my husband and I decided it was time fora power lunch.  I requested a hotdog, without a bun.  The chef lookedat me and asked, “Do you have celiac disease?”I nodded my headand said, “Yes, I do.”  Then I watched with astonishment as sheimmediately removed the plastic gloves she had been using, beforereplacing them with new gloves, and sticking my hotdog on a clean partof the grill.  When I questioned her about her knowledge of foodallergies, and specifically celiac disease, she explained that GreatWolf Lodge has a lot of guests with food restrictions and the chefsmake every effort to be knowledgeable and helpful.
    My personal review of the Poolside Grill: The food was delicious and the staff was informed and respectful.

    Bear Paw Café

    The smell ofthe Bear Paw Café began wafting through the air the moment I exited theelevator.  This small café is not to be taken lightly by the averagedieter, with the aroma of delicious desserts; fudge, ice cream, bakedgoods and popcorn.  Typically, this is an area I would avoid; however,I decided that in order to fully assess the food selections of theGreat Wolf Lodge, it would only be fair to visit the bakery.  Plus, Ireally wanted a piece of fudge. When I approached the personat the counter and explained that I was unable to eat anything withwheat in it and wondered if they had any gluten-free offerings, shesmiled and went to find a person more capable of assisting me.  A bakercame out from the kitchen and greeted me with a smile, before tellingme that her mom has suffered from Celiac Disease for twenty-years.  Shethen pointed out the assortment of gluten-free fudges and offered tomake me gluten-free cookies.  Although I was tempted to take her up onthe cookies, I rather, chose a piece of fudge.  I can say, without adoubt—it was delicious.
    My personal review of the Bear Paw Café:The fudge was delicious and the service was exceptional.  I do wishthere was more of a variety of baked goods for those with foodallergies; such as wheat, peanut, and egg-free ingredients.

    Camp Critter

    Forour final meal at the Great Wolf Lodge, we ate at the Camp Critterrestaurant.  After a day of swimming, we were all completely famishedand felt at home in the warm atmosphere of this sit down restaurant. The menu had a variety of kids’ meal offerings, as well as adultselections ranging from burgers, to salads, to steaks.  I was onceagain met with a server who was knowledgeable and sympathetic to mydietary restrictions.  I asked for a cheeseburger, without a bun, andwhen it was delivered, I was informed that my fries were made inseparate oil, to avoid cross contamination.  What can I say; it wasAll-American dining, and my entire family enjoyed it. Mypersonal review of Camp Critter: Although the menu did not have avariety of gluten-free selections; the food I chose was preparedgluten-free, cooked well, and the staff was accommodating and helpful.
    After two fun-filled days of water bliss at the Great Wolf Lodge, wedeparted for home, exhausted, and with chlorine seeping out of ourswimming suits.  I rate our trip 5 of 5 stars—it was a great get-away,and I didn’t feel hindered by my celiac disease.  And on a side note…mykids thought the water park was amazing.
      


    Melanie Weir
    Celiac.com 04/16/2012 - Can I eat our at restaurants if I’m on a gluten-free diet?
    Eating out gluten-free is not as easy as it seems.  If you Google "gluten-free restaurants," your bound to find a selection of gluten-free menus and gluten-free yelp reviews.  However, a global definition for gluten-free does not exist in the restaurant world.
    Many times, restaurants, bakeries and deli’s offer gluten-free options like salads (with menu side notes like: order salad without croutons or order meat without bread).  If we define gluten-free as less than 20ppm, then the following factors must be followed to ensure safety from gluten contamination (please note this is only a partial list):
    Eating Salads Out

    Use of a Separate Strainer: Using a strainer that has been used for pastas or other gluten products, can result in cross contamination. Salad Dressing: Many salad dressing utilize gluten containing ingredients like malt vinegar, spices, natural flavorings, wheat, etc. Vegetable Chopping Board: A vegetable chopping board must either be completely sterilized or a gluten-free dedicated board must be used. Knife: Knife must be sterilized with heat before being used on gluten-free ingredients. Prep Area: Salad prep stations are often housed beneath shelves filled with bread.  If bread is stored above the salad prep area, then the area cannot be safely maintained as gluten-free.  On an additional note, croutons and other gluten products should not be allowed in the gluten-free prep area (1/6th of a bread crumb is all it takes to be contaminated with gluten). Salad Toppings: If a topping like chicken, nuts, tofu, peppers or onions are sautéd or prepared on a grill, then the grill and the ingredients must be maintained as gluten-free. Gluten-Free on the Grill
    A grill must be cleaned before a gluten-free product is cooked on it. A separate area for gluten free foods to be cooked is ideal, but not always possible in restaurant settings. Many meats are marinated in sauces containing gluten before they are cooked. Gluten Free Pizza & Bakery Products
    If an exhaust fan is used in the oven, a screen must be used. Pizza toppings for gluten free pizza should be housed in a separate area. Cannot be prepared in a facility that uses gluten containing flours, because flour dust in the air settles on food. Mixing utensils, wooden spoons, scrapes in bowls and cutting boards must be sterile or maintained for just gluten-free products.

    Daniel Cojanu
    Celiac.com 05/10/2016 - As we all know, traveling with celiac disease can be somewhat challenging. Trying to avoid situations of contamination can be quite difficult, yet we accept this challenge so we can go about a normal routine which in my situation, includes traveling. My wife and I who travel quite often do enjoy a good cruise due to the relaxing atmosphere and great care we receive for my dietary issues. Our experiences on Princess Cruises has been very positive and clearly, they take dietary issues quite seriously.
    Unfortunately, not so much with Oceania Cruises. First of all, this experience is based solely on my recent trip. I suspect some other folks with celiac may have had a positive experience. That's great. This article is based solely on how I was treated by this cruise line in August of 2015.
    Oceania insists that any request for special diets be submitted by the travel agent. Not sure what happens if you book online.
    Once on board, the person in charge of special diet requests met us at dinner and explained we would get a menu in our mailbox every evening. We are to circle our choices and bring it to the desk by 8:30am. We made the mistake of going on a tour and not having it in until noon and guess what? Yup, you order off the menu.
    After this discussion, I was directed to dinner choices that could be prepared gluten-free. I was surprised to see my dinner entrée loaded with croutons. O.K., first day shakedown, let's see what happens. Strike 1.
    As we all know, buffets can be dangerous but I attempted to try and see if they had any gluten-free foods available. I selected a breakfast item that was clearly battered and asked the server if this was gluten-free. He looked somewhat quizzical and said "yes". Strike 2. I then asked for gluten-free toast. It took a full 15 minutes for them to toast 2 pieces of bread. Strike 3. Later in the cruise, we stopped for lunch at the poolside café where I ordered a sandwich with gluten-free bread. "We don't have gluten-free bread on board" was our waiters' response. After I indicated that was surprising since I have it at dinner nightly, he finally went off and secured my lunch. Strike 4 ?
    I could go on and on but I will spare you the rest. Oceania is a high end cruise company with prices to match. Princess on the other hand was exemplary. Once your request is in, you receive an email with a list of gluten-free menu items that will be available. If you want gluten-free beer, this is also offered albeit at a price. Every evening, the maître d comes by so you can order for the next evening. Clearly, they take people with dietary issues seriously.
    Why the disparity? I believe it's what I encounter as many restaurants. Since gluten-free dining has become the latest fad diet, I honestly believe that many establishments (and cruise lines) don't feel the need to take proper care. My suspicion is that they just look at gluten-free requests like "oh good, another one of them" and don't take it seriously. I guess my final advice before selecting a cruise would be to see what the initial reaction is to your request. If they respond like Princess, and I suspect other cruise lines, I would at least look carefully at booking a nice vacation. Would I go back to Oceania? I would not. I have put my concerns into writing to them and two months later, no response. My travel agent also followed up about this situation, again, no response.
    Traveling with celiac is difficult enough, and I hope that certain companies will begin to take us more seriously.

    Yvonne Vissing Ph.D.
    Celiac.com 01/05/2018 - Cuba is abundant with music, color, and people. The countryside is a lush, rich green where fields of sugar cane stretch as far as the eye can see. Streets of Havana are filled with hot pink, lemon yellow, candy-apple red, bright blue and green classic cars. Rural streets have horse drawn carts overflowing with harvested sugar cane and the men (almost always men) with machetes from cutting the crops. It is a country of contradictions, where pillars of ancient affluence intersect with rubble as people yack on cell-phones while throwing their fishing lines off the Malecon.
    As a multiple-time tourist there, I'm overwhelmed with how friendly people are and how safe I feel, even though my ability to speak Spanish is, well, not-so-good. Given that wifi and internet connections are few and far between, my translation app doesn't work so I'm on my own when it comes to ordering food and figuring out if it's gluten-free or not. Between my Spanish being awful and the fact that menus may not be in English, much less contain a list of ingredients, asking the wait-staff if there are gluten-free menu options is a no-brainer. The communication and interpretation challenges meant that it made no sense for me to ask that question.
    So how does one go about being gluten-free in Cuba? Actually, it's not so hard once you keep in mind certain facts. One is to understand the traditional daily diet of most Cubans. Food staples include rice, beans, pork, beef, and sometimes chicken. These are all safe for people with Celiac disease. You're likely to find these foods at every meal in every home or restaurant. Cubans do not tend to use a lot of spices because they don't have them; processed foods are generally unavailable which makes food rather bland but on the other side, pretty safe because the chances of being exposed to gluten-filled flavor enhancers aren't around. Breads may be served but they, like the delicious-looking fried dough sold on the street in baskets or papers by local vendors, can be easily avoided. Pasta dishes are found in many restaurants, and the pasta is always wheat so forget asking if they have corn, rice of quinoa pasta. Eggs are pretty easy to find; cheese somewhat, but peanut-butter is not.
    For many people going gluten-free, vegetables are a life-saver. However, in Cuba this option is something we need to have a serious conversation about. Vegetables are hard to come by. Now, there is a big organic farm program in Cuba. Organopónicos, or organoponics, is a system of urban agriculture using organic gardens that originated in Cuba and is widely used there. The idea is for them to produce organic, highly nutritious vegetables in an efficient way that maximizes the use of natural resources, composting, and recycling. The farm I visited outside of Havana distributes 90% of all the produce to local residents; only 10% goes to hotels and commercial vendors. The organoponics movement is trying to lure Cubans away from their primary reliance on rice, beans and meats into eating more produce. There is a heavy health emphasis related to nutrition there – there are hospitals and health care providers, but they aren't plentiful and tend not to be the first line of health care. Food is a primary vehicle leading to better health. Sweets, salty foods and fats are not nearly as common there, due to the lack of imports of such items in this still largely socialistic country. Foods are simpler, and seem to be more “real”, if you get my drift. Since Cuba is an island, fresh fish is a good choice for meals. If you order a salad, expect them to be small and consisting primarily of lettuce (not iceberg!), thinly sliced cucumbers, and maybe a bit of grated cabbage. Don't go looking for tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, potatoes, Brussel sprouts, squashes or kale. Chances are low that you'll find them. It's more likely that when you find vegetables, they are present more as garnish.
    Fruits, on the other hand, can be easily purchased at corner open-air markets where farmers bring bananas, plantains, pineapple, mangos, papaya, and coconuts. They are beautiful and fresh, and can be served on plates as main foods, garnishes and certainly as juices.
    Food isn't why one goes to Cuba. Mojitos and rum may be (thank God they are gluten free!), cigars are a draw, and a tiny cup of their coffee will keep you rolling all day. People who have to go gluten-free have often gotten used to watching what they eat and having limited options, so in this regard traveling to Cuba is no different. In some ways it's a bit easier because of the lack of processed foods and fancy, hidden ingredients that make their way into both gourmet and convenience foods in the United States. Cuba is more of a what-you-see-is-what-you-get culinary world. Gourmet cuisine hasn't arrived there yet. Neither have fast food items that U.S. people have come to take for granted. It's not uncommon to overhear people at the airport planning what they're going to eat when they get back to the states.

    My advice for anyone going gluten free in Cuba is to pack some nuts, dried fruit, protein bars, and easy-to-keep-and-transport favorite gluten-free food options. Expect when you go out for breakfast to have fruit and eggs. Dinner will likely be a meat/chicken/fish that is simply prepared so it should not usually be a gluten issue. Rice and beans are usually cooked without much seasoning, so you're probably safe eating them. Definitely avoid anything that is deep fried, because chances are high that a bread was cooked in the oil. Plantains that are fried are probably safe because they are cooked in butter or oil in a skillet. Fresh fruits are abundant, just sometimes a bit complicated for tourists to manage when purchased on the street if they don't have knives or ways to cut and serve them in a non-messy fashion. Don't expect to see many veggies, and when you do, relish them. And of course the mantra for most tourists traveling there is – don't drink the water! There's plenty of bottled water, juices and beer around, so you should not get sick from either gluten or water if you're nominally careful. Remember why you're in Cuba – not for fine dining, but to see the culture, listen to music, and have fun.

  • Recent Articles

    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 06/21/2018 - Would you buy a house advertised as ‘gluten-free’? Yes, there really is such a house for sale. 
    It seems a Phoenix realtor Mike D’Elena is hoping that his trendy claim will catch the eye of a buyer hungry to avoid gluten, or, at least one with a sense of humor. D’Elena said he crafted the ads as a way to “be funny and to draw attention.” The idea, D’Elena said, is to “make it memorable.” 
    Though D’Elena’s marketing seeks to capitalizes on the gluten-free trend, he knows Celiac disease is a serious health issue for some people. “[W]e’re not here to offend anybody….this is just something we're just trying to do to draw attention and do what's best for our clients," he said. 
    Still, the signs seem to be working. D'elena had fielded six offers within a few days of listing the west Phoenix home.
    "Buying can sometimes be the most stressful thing you do in your entire life so why not have some fun with it," he said. 
    What do you think? Clever? Funny?
    Read more at Arizonafamily.com.

    Advertising Banner-Ads
    Bakery On Main started in the small bakery of a natural foods market on Main Street in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Founder Michael Smulders listened when his customers with Celiac Disease would mention the lack of good tasting, gluten-free options available to them. Upon learning this, he believed that nobody should have to suffer due to any kind of food allergy or dietary need. From then on, his mission became creating delicious and fearlessly unique gluten-free products that were clean and great tasting, while still being safe for his Celiac customers!
    Premium ingredients, bakeshop delicious recipes, and happy customers were our inspiration from the beginning— and are still the cornerstones of Bakery On Main today. We are a fiercely ethical company that believes in integrity and feels that happiness and wholesome, great tasting food should be harmonious. We strive for that in everything we bake in our dedicated gluten-free facility that is GFCO Certified and SQF Level 3 Certified. We use only natural, NON-GMO Project Verified ingredients and all of our products are certified Kosher Parve, dairy and casein free, and we have recently introduced certified Organic items as well! 
    Our passion is to bake the very best products while bringing happiness to our customers, each other, and all those we meet!
    We are available during normal business hours at: 1-888-533-8118 EST.
    To learn more about us at: visit our site.

    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 06/20/2018 - Currently, the only way to manage celiac disease is to eliminate gluten from the diet. That could be set to change as clinical trials begin in Australia for a new vaccine that aims to switch off the immune response to gluten. 
    The trials are set to begin at Australia’s University of the Sunshine Coast Clinical Trials Centre. The vaccine is designed to allow people with celiac disease to consume gluten with no adverse effects. A successful vaccine could be the beginning of the end for the gluten-free diet as the only currently viable treatment for celiac disease. That could be a massive breakthrough for people with celiac disease.
    USC’s Clinical Trials Centre Director Lucas Litewka said trial participants would receive an injection of the vaccine twice a week for seven weeks. The trials will be conducted alongside gastroenterologist Dr. James Daveson, who called the vaccine “a very exciting potential new therapy that has been undergoing clinical trials for several years now.”
    Dr. Daveson said the investigational vaccine might potentially restore gluten tolerance to people with celiac disease.The trial is open to adults between the ages of 18 and 70 who have clinically diagnosed celiac disease, and have followed a strict gluten-free diet for at least 12 months. Anyone interested in participating can go to www.joinourtrials.com.
    Read more at the website for Australia’s University of the Sunshine Coast Clinical Trials Centre.

    Source:
    FoodProcessing.com.au

    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 06/19/2018 - Could baking soda help reduce the inflammation and damage caused by autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, and celiac disease? Scientists at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University say that a daily dose of baking soda may in fact help reduce inflammation and damage caused by autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, and celiac disease.
    Those scientists recently gathered some of the first evidence to show that cheap, over-the-counter antacids can prompt the spleen to promote an anti-inflammatory environment that could be helpful in combating inflammatory disease.
    A type of cell called mesothelial cells line our body cavities, like the digestive tract. They have little fingers, called microvilli, that sense the environment, and warn the organs they cover that there is an invader and an immune response is needed.
    The team’s data shows that when rats or healthy people drink a solution of baking soda, the stomach makes more acid, which causes mesothelial cells on the outside of the spleen to tell the spleen to go easy on the immune response.  "It's most likely a hamburger not a bacterial infection," is basically the message, says Dr. Paul O'Connor, renal physiologist in the MCG Department of Physiology at Augusta University and the study's corresponding author.
    That message, which is transmitted with help from a chemical messenger called acetylcholine, seems to encourage the gut to shift against inflammation, say the scientists.
    In patients who drank water with baking soda for two weeks, immune cells called macrophages, shifted from primarily those that promote inflammation, called M1, to those that reduce it, called M2. "The shift from inflammatory to an anti-inflammatory profile is happening everywhere," O'Connor says. "We saw it in the kidneys, we saw it in the spleen, now we see it in the peripheral blood."
    O'Connor hopes drinking baking soda can one day produce similar results for people with autoimmune disease. "You are not really turning anything off or on, you are just pushing it toward one side by giving an anti-inflammatory stimulus," he says, in this case, away from harmful inflammation. "It's potentially a really safe way to treat inflammatory disease."
    The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
    Read more at: Sciencedaily.com

    Jefferson Adams
    Celiac.com 06/18/2018 - Celiac disease has been mainly associated with Caucasian populations in Northern Europe, and their descendants in other countries, but new scientific evidence is beginning to challenge that view. Still, the exact global prevalence of celiac disease remains unknown.  To get better data on that issue, a team of researchers recently conducted a comprehensive review and meta-analysis to get a reasonably accurate estimate the global prevalence of celiac disease. 
    The research team included P Singh, A Arora, TA Strand, DA Leffler, C Catassi, PH Green, CP Kelly, V Ahuja, and GK Makharia. They are variously affiliated with the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts; Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi, India; Innlandet Hospital Trust, Lillehammer, Norway; Centre for International Health, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway; Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts; Gastroenterology Research and Development, Takeda Pharmaceuticals Inc, Cambridge, MA; Department of Pediatrics, Università Politecnica delle Marche, Ancona, Italy; Department of Medicine, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, New York; USA Celiac Disease Center, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, New York; and the Department of Gastroenterology and Human Nutrition, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India.
    For their review, the team searched Medline, PubMed, and EMBASE for the keywords ‘celiac disease,’ ‘celiac,’ ‘tissue transglutaminase antibody,’ ‘anti-endomysium antibody,’ ‘endomysial antibody,’ and ‘prevalence’ for studies published from January 1991 through March 2016. 
    The team cross-referenced each article with the words ‘Asia,’ ‘Europe,’ ‘Africa,’ ‘South America,’ ‘North America,’ and ‘Australia.’ They defined celiac diagnosis based on European Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition guidelines. The team used 96 articles of 3,843 articles in their final analysis.
    Overall global prevalence of celiac disease was 1.4% in 275,818 individuals, based on positive blood tests for anti-tissue transglutaminase and/or anti-endomysial antibodies. The pooled global prevalence of biopsy-confirmed celiac disease was 0.7% in 138,792 individuals. That means that numerous people with celiac disease potentially remain undiagnosed.
    Rates of celiac disease were 0.4% in South America, 0.5% in Africa and North America, 0.6% in Asia, and 0.8% in Europe and Oceania; the prevalence was 0.6% in female vs 0.4% males. Celiac disease was significantly more common in children than adults.
    This systematic review and meta-analysis showed celiac disease to be reported worldwide. Blood test data shows celiac disease rate of 1.4%, while biopsy data shows 0.7%. The prevalence of celiac disease varies with sex, age, and location. 
    This review demonstrates a need for more comprehensive population-based studies of celiac disease in numerous countries.  The 1.4% rate indicates that there are 91.2 million people worldwide with celiac disease, and 3.9 million are in the U.S.A.
    Source:
    Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2018 Jun;16(6):823-836.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2017.06.037.