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IrishGirl71

Which Country Was The Best?

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Just wondering what country (please feel free to mention specific regions within a country) had the most gluten free dining options? I'd love everyone to chime in with their favorites and why....

PS

The first and only time I've been anywhere outside the US since I was diagnosed was Toronto, Canada last year. It was ok, but I didn't see a whole lotta gluten free specialty items like gluten-free bread, beer, etc.

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Just wondering what country (please feel free to mention specific regions within a country) had the most gluten free dining options? I'd love everyone to chime in with their favorites and why....

Since I began the gluten-free diet my wife and I have been to Austria, Germany, Switzerland, England, and Norway. The best of these for gluten-free food options was Norway. Three of the four hotels that we stayed in had gluten-free bread available at their breakfast buffets (and all four hotels had other gluten-free options such as yoghurt, eggs, and fish). There are two pizza chains with gluten-free pizza available (probably made with wheat starch that is under the Codex threshold for gluten, a controversial subject on this board)--Dolly Dimples and Peppe's. We found a restaurant in Alesund that listed gluten-free options (including gluten-free pasta) on their menu. We were able to get gluten-free Wasa Crispbread at health food stores to take with us on our hikes for lunch; we spread caviar from a tube (like toothpaste) on the crispbread. (Ironically, although most Wasa products are made in Scandinavia, the gluten-free crispbread was made in Murten, Switzerland.)

In the German-speaking countries we have usually stayed in vacation apartments and cooked our own meals, buying gluten-free foods at the local Reformhaus (health foods and personal care products). The Nordsee chain of seafood buffet restaurants will usually have at least one fish entree available that is not breaded, but there is probably a risk of cross-contamination there. (I am not particularly sensitive to small amounts of gluten, so my own good experiences there do not guarantee that another, more sensitive, person on the gluten-free diet won't run into trouble.) Raclette is a regional entree available in many Swiss restaurants that is made with potatoes and cheese and is served with pickled onions and cucumbers that should be safe (as long as you are not also lactose-intolerant). Rosti is another Swiss dish made with potatoes and a variety of other ingredients that should be safe.

London has a wide variety of restaurants, including Indian restaurants (which have many gluten-free menu items) and Thai restaurants (be careful here about the noodles and anything with oyster sauce; the curries should be safe). Wagamama's is a chain of noodle restaurants that has a few gluten-free menu items. Pret A Manger is a chain of take-out sandwich shops that also has "no bread" entrees available; you can check the ingredients on their website.

We'll be traveling in Sweden and Finland later this month. I'll have more information about those countries when we return--

Ken

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I had a fabulous time in Spain (I was there 5 weeks and came back a few days ago). There are many restaurants with gluten-free menus, lots of pizza places, and restaurants with two kitchens- one for Celiacs and one for not. More people seemed to be aware of what Celiacs was. Also, there was so much yummie gluten-free food to buy! I ate so well! I am also a vegan so I couldn't enjoy all Spain had to offer, so, for a non-vegan it would be better. I just contacted the local support groups of each city (Madrid and Barcelona) and looked at their restaurant guides, then read reviews on-line, and called some of the restaurants (to make sure they had vegan options, too). It helps to speak some, if not fluently, the language of any country you are visiting especially when it comes to food. Have fun where ever you decide to go!

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Since my diagnosis three years ago I have been back in my home country, Germany, then in Canada, Spain and of course the US. Here is my glutenfree rating with the best glutenfree options named first:

1. Germany

2. US

3. Canada

4. Spain (nobody knew anything about celiac and it was really hard finding stuff here)

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AUSTRALIA is very good and perhaps I am being a little biased as I live here but you can get gluten free products at every supermarket. There is usually a gluten free section where you can buy pasta,cookies, gluten-free flour, pancake mix, cereals etc. etc. Also there is good understanding in most restaurants and cafes and many now have gluten free options marked on the menus.

The best thing though about Australia is that the labelling laws are the strictest in the world. It is the law that any product that has an allergy causing substance in it such as gluten must state it on the label. If you pick up a product off the shelf and it does not state that it contains wheat or gluten than it is okay to eat. You don't have to worry if a thickener has gluten in it or not for example as it must state it on the label.

The other country that I would think would be good is ITALY as there is a very good level of awareness there and there are an abundance of products available.

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We recently took a trip to the west of Ireland (ranging from Galway down to Kinsale, along the coast.) It was a great place to visit. Everyone seems to have an understanding of what celiac means (in restaurants, anyway) and gluten-free food is not hard to find. At some restaurants they had designations on the menus to denote which items were safe for celiacs, and gluten free bread was available widely. Add that to the fact that Ireland is a gorgeous, friendly country, and it made for a wonderful trip!

Rho

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I had a great experience in Argentina, not only I found special diet stores, but some big supermarkets have a Gluten free section!

and when you say that you ar celiac they know what you are talking about.

Abi

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I would second Argentina and would add Uruguay as well, especially if you eat meat and fish (emphasis on meat, which is delicious in both countries).

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Practically every country I've been to is much more accommodating than the United States when it comes to needing a gluten free diet. However, my experience in Italy was amazing. I had tons of gluten free crackers, breads, rolls, and pasta! The gluten free food in Italy tastes so much better than anything I've tried anywhere else.

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Thailand has a virtually gluten free diet. They use fish sauce instead of soy sauce (no added wheat) and eat rice noodles. They don't eat bread and have very little wheat/oats/rye anywhere in the country other than in their beer. Excellent and safe cuisine is available throughout, albeit spicy. There is no real need to deviate from the normal Thai diet, and one can intelligently order at most restaurants without any modification. Highly recommended!

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Wow - all your posts make me want to travel more!

I would say that the US is definitely difficult but it's getting better at stocking gluten-free food. The Midwest region seems to be better at this than the West Coast, but even so the better-tasting gluten-free breads are frozen where Europe's are fresh.

I found England and Scotland very easy for celiacs. Germany was a little more difficult for me, since I barely speak rudimentary German and kept seeing all those great sandwiches all over Munich! But even the small grocery stores carry gluten-free bread, at least.

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I had a fabulous time in Spain (I was there 5 weeks and came back a few days ago).

Your message is very encouraging. We're going to Portugal & Spain (on a tour) in mid-Oct. I noticed both countries have gluten-free group websites.

Did you contact these gluten-free organizations before you left home or while you were there?

Did you find some of the restaurants (pizza places!!! I'm dying for a store-made pizza!) you mentioned through the gluten-free organizations? I guess what I'm really asking is, how up-to-date is the list of restaurant names & addresses that are on the web?

We'll be in Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, & several small towns. Main concern for me is Barcelona, where we'll be completely on our own.

AND what about your plane flights? How did you cope with that? (We're going on Lufthansa & were able to order gluten-free meals! United, however, is a different story, as in.....huh? what's a gluten-free meal? So I expect to starve on the return flight.)

Thanks for your help.

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Since I began the gluten-free diet my wife and I have been to Austria, Germany, Switzerland, England, and Norway. The best of these for gluten-free food options was Norway.

We'll be traveling in Sweden and Finland later this month. I'll have more information about those countries when we return--

The Swedish grocery stores that I visited in Stockholm had plenty of gluten-free pastas and cookies available, and at least one brand of gluten-free muesli (usually Finax). We didn't eat out much while we were in Sweden (we stayed in Stockholm and Norrtalje), but whenever we did the servers were able to get answers for me about which menu items were safe. (I enjoyed the anise soup at the Vasa Museum!)

Finland was fabulous! We were in the Aland Islands and more-or-less along the King's Road between Naantali and Helsinki. All of the grocery stores that I visited had gluten-free foods, even in the rural areas. Many of the products clearly indicate whether they are "naturally" gluten-free (no wheat starch) or not. (I'm willing to eat foods prepared with Codex-standard wheat starch, but I know that many others on this diet are not.)

At every Finnish restaurant that we ate in the servers were able to tell me immediately which menu items were gluten-free--if I had to ask at all; a number of restaurants label the gluten-free foods on their menus. Also, all communication was conducted in the only language in which I am fluent (English). All of the servers spoke English well. (This was true in Sweden also.)

A particular highlight was our visits to Rosso, an Italian restaurant chain, in Helsinki. They have two different pizza crusts that are labeled as gluten-free. One is made with oat flour (which is off-limits to many celiacs) and the other is "naturally gluten-free". I had the naturally gluten-free pizza and it was very good. On my other visit there I had one of the risotto dishes, which I also enjoyed.

In Naantali the host of the B&B that we stayed in provided Provena oat muesli, made from oats that are grown and processed so that no cross-contamination is possible. This was the first time that I've had oats since I began this diet; I'd forgotten how much I had enjoyed the flavor. The same host also provided fresh-baked gluten-free rolls from a local bakery. I imagine that the CC risk was a lot higher with these rolls, but we ate them anyway.

Our landlord in the Aland Islands (we stayed in a cabin there) told me something interesting. He had once been diagnosed with celiac, but then later the diagnosis was changed. He said that in Finland, celiac disease is overdiagnosed; there are more people who think they have celiac than there are who actually do have it. If true, that partly explains why gluten-free food is so easily available there.

Ken

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I went to Ethiopia and it is so easy to eat gluten free. Unless something obvious that you cant eat (like a loaf of bread) then it wont have gluten. They use teff instead of wheat, etc. Nothing has preservatives and most meals are meat and veggies. It was increadible going into a resturaunt and not having to worry!!

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Since I've been gluten free, I've been to the following:

UK (just London) - I went to a random pub, and everything on the menu had gluten-free symbols where applicable.

Sweden - I only ordered one thing - burger without a bun. I'd bet this is a great country for gluten-free people though.

Denmark - I only ordered one thing- salad with meat and vegies.

Russia - They knew exactly what I was talking about when I showed them the travel card, although I was with an organized English-speaking tour.

Finland - I only ordered one thing - burger without a bun. The waiter still knew what I was talking about.

Estonia - I went to a random pub, and everything on the menu had gluten-free (and dairy, onions, etc.) symbols where applicable. The waiter knew what I was talking about when I used the cards.

Germany - This was tough. The tour guide knew exactly what I meant and called ahead to restaurants, but they could really only give me a big salad. I was really hungry. There's a lot of bread in Germany.

Australia - I'm here now, and I'm impressed how much better the labeling is than in the US. I haven't been to many restaurants yet, but there are so many southeast Asian restaurants. EVERYWHERE. I can get rice noodles with anything, and SE Asian restaurants don't automatically add soy sauce.

These totally worked! I printed them for every country I visited. http://www.celiactravel.com/restaurant-cards.html

In short, all these countries were better than the US. If I didn't have easy access to Mexican (corn) and Asian (rice) food, I'd be in a bad spot.

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Since I've been gluten free, I've been to the following:

UK (just London) - I went to a random pub, and everything on the menu had gluten-free symbols where applicable.

Sweden - I only ordered one thing - burger without a bun. I'd bet this is a great country for gluten-free people though.

Denmark - I only ordered one thing- salad with meat and vegies.

Russia - They knew exactly what I was talking about when I showed them the travel card, although I was with an organized English-speaking tour.

Finland - I only ordered one thing - burger without a bun. The waiter still knew what I was talking about.

Estonia - I went to a random pub, and everything on the menu had gluten-free (and dairy, onions, etc.) symbols where applicable. The waiter knew what I was talking about when I used the cards.

Germany - This was tough. The tour guide knew exactly what I meant and called ahead to restaurants, but they could really only give me a big salad. I was really hungry. There's a lot of bread in Germany.

Australia - I'm here now, and I'm impressed how much better the labeling is than in the US. I haven't been to many restaurants yet, but there are so many southeast Asian restaurants. EVERYWHERE. I can get rice noodles with anything, and SE Asian restaurants don't automatically add soy sauce.

These totally worked! I printed them for every country I visited. http://www.celiactravel.com/restaurant-cards.html

In short, all these countries were better than the US. If I didn't have easy access to Mexican (corn) and Asian (rice) food, I'd be in a bad spot.

I hope you enjoyed your time in Australia and had many delicious gluten free experiences. If you are still there and haven't visited Melbourne yet I can give you a list of some great places to eat. We even have gluten free hamburgers available in the city now.

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