Jump to content
  • Sign Up
  • Join Our Community!

    Do you have questions about celiac disease or the gluten-free diet?


Traveling To Africa For Two Weeks

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

Well my church is going on a missions trip to Africa, specifically to Zambia, this November.

I am really worried, as I have no idea how this is going to even work. We will be staying at a mission house but since it is a mission house, we will most likely be taking trips out to "the bush" or where the poorer people live. I won't be able to just make a gluten free meal over a fire in the middle of the grass. haha :P So there are several questions I have and would REALLY APPRECIATE any advice or help I can get! :) Thanks :)

1. Does anyone know the standards for "gluten-free" labeling in Africa? I will not have access to a phone ( I am pretty sure about that) so I will need to figure out exactly what I can and can't eat before I get there. A link to a website that states their rules about "gluten-free" would be appreciated!

2.It would be very helpful if I could bring my own whole suitcase of food with me, so just wondering, will the airport allow a suitcase of food through? Not a carry-on but an actual suitcase that will be packed in the cargo hold?

3. Do airplanes offer gluten-free meals, as this will be a long flight? And if they do, how can we make sure that they have prepared it as carefully as we would?

If not, or even if they do, do they allow food/snacks/drinks in for people with "special dietary needs"? I understand this is not diabetes or something, but it is a special dietary need! haha

4. Has anyone been to Africa, where they didn't just stay in a hotel but actually went out somewhere where they had to carry it around all day? I am afraid it will spoil, and what is there that I can bring with me that won't have to be cooked?

Even just a small answer to any of my questions would be greatly appreciated!Thank you so much!

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well it's been a few years since I've lived in Africa but I could try to answer your questions.

1. Unless a whole lot has changed since I lived there I would think that "standards for gluten free labeling" are fairly non-existent. Sorry. Now I don't know Zambia, but in general African countries import a lot of their canned/processed food. Well actually when I lived there there really wasn't any processed food, just canned things.

2. Yes, you can bring anything you want in a checked suitcase, as long as it's not explosives, guns, etc. However, obviously not food that's fresh -- i.e., no fruit, meat, etc. You can bring that on the plane but you have to eat it before you land.

3. Yes airlines offer gluten free meals, and in my experience they're awful. gag.. I always order one and then bring my own food too. That way I might be able to eat the salad or something, but I don't count on it. I always bring hard boiled eggs, peanut butter sandwich, cooked veggies, bars, etc. Coming home is always more difficult since you will have eaten most of what you brought with you. There's always fruit, and you could probably find cooked meat (like shish kebab things) to bring on.

4. This is harder. If you're traveling around all day you won't be able to bring anything that might spoil. I would recommend that you bring enough (in that checked suitcase) that you'll have several bars (nut bars, lara, glutino cereal ones, etc.) for each day as a back-up.

But, remember that traditionally in Africa wheat is not something they eat. And most Africans, at least most that I ever met especially outside of the big cities, eat naturally. i.e., no processed food except for things like sweetened condensed milk (yummy coffee), or a few other things. Where I lived they cooked some sort of "stew" -- usually tomatoes, peanut butter (locally made, so all it was was peanuts crushed up), some spices. This was served on "toh" which was a thick paste made from millet flour. The people with a little bit more money might buy rice.

In much of Africa the grains are millet, sorghum, and rice, plus yams. All of those are gluten free.

Eating out -- at least for us -- meant street food or bar food. And mostly that was roasted chicken, or skewers of goat meat. (YUMMY!) Nothing on it except maybe some salt or cayenne.

The thing to worry about would be if they have used any type of canned seasoning. In West Africa they use something called "Maggi" sauce. I have no idea if that's gluten free because I lived there before my diagnosis. But I'm sure you could find out. Often the sauce is served as a dipping sauce (like with the roasted chicken or goat kebabs) so you could just skip that and eat the meat only.

The thing is that if you are traveling in the rural areas and are invited to people's homes you really do have to eat what they offer. It would be incredibly rude to turn it down and eat what you've brought. But I would think you could find out what they might be serving before you leave and then you could be prepared.

Personally I think it would have been very easy to be gluten free where I lived because everyone was poor so ate mostly millet and peanut sauce, and occasionally meat. And fruit. (omg the fruit! sigh... )

It sounds like a fantastic trip!

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

My daughter, who has celiac, and I will be traveling to Sierra Leone Africa in a few weeks. We plan on packing a lot of gluten free bars, and my understanding is that there is no problem bringing them into the country. We have been told by another teen who traveled there last year and was gluten free, that there were not a lot of processed foods. She ate a lot of beans, rice, and meat. She also asked, when appropriate what was in the meal and often found that is was gluten free. She had also brought along some cans of Ensure, but said she did not end up needing the cans as she was always able to find something to eat.

Our plan is to be prepared with other options and just keep a good attitude on the trip, realizing that the food is not our main emphasis on this mission trip.

Safe travels!

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I ate at an authentic African restaurant this weekend. The couple are from Africa and their entire menu is gluten free naturally. meat, vegetables, spices, and rice. If you eat what the locals eat and stay away from packaged food you should be good.

happy travels to you

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I lived in Central Africa for two years and traveled around quite a bit, although I never went to Zambia. In Zambia there will be a lot of food imported from South Africa which may have gluten-free labeling, but the quality and standards for such labeling are pretty much non-existent. There may be well-labeled European imports, but they'll be very expensive. Do not necessarily stick to what the locals eat without asking first, as some breads and porridges will be made with wheat flour, but you should find plenty made with teff, sorghum, buckwheat, millet, cassava, plantains, bananas, and rice. You may even find banana beer and sorghum beer (made in some questionable conditions, but I've given them both a try!). There will also be lots of grilled meats and vegetables. If you're eating at nice restaurants, food will be Europeanized and probably be breaded or served with bread. If you're eating at local snack shops, you'll most likely be getting beans, rice, and meat on a stick.

Most American and European airlines have a gluten-free option, so check with your airline. You'll have to request it in advance and be prepared for the meal to kind of suck. I've checked bags full of gluten-free goodies with no problem. As long as you don't have fresh produce in your bags, you shouldn't have a problem getting them through customs.

Have fun! I love Africa!


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...