I hate the idea of limiting my gluten-free travel destinations because of my dietary restriction. One of the hardest things about being a gluten free eater is traveling. Between packing food for travel days, emergency back-up options for arrival, and researching restaurants and languages ahead of time, it can be a big ordeal. In this post, I outline some of my gluten free meal favorites using ingredients available all over the world!
My biggest gluten free travel risk was a trip to Namibia. It was the first trip where I was unable to find online information. I waffled on my decision to go, but I was also frustrated by the idea of limiting myself because of my gluten free restriction. For those of you new around here, I am a very sensitive celiac and small traces of gluten make me very sick.
While I initially decided gluten-free travel to Namibia would be too risky, I couldn’t ignore the country’s impressive natural beauty and unique culture. As an outdoor enthusiast, I’m drawn to destinations with opportunities for camping, hiking, and exploring natural beauty. As a traveler, I can’t resist experiencing new cultures and lifestyles. After fully deciding not to go to Namibia, I had a rebellious surge of confidence and told myself that I can eat gluten free anywhere, right? I then chose to dive into the non-gluten free aspects of planning my Africa trip instead of worrying further.
Negotiating Travel Meal Challenges
My first travel day would be 40 hours total including time on a plane and layovers in Dubai and Johannesburg. If you read my earlier travel posts, you know that I don’t eat “gluten free” airline food because it rarely goes well for me (and if you check forums, it often doesn’t go well for other strict gluten free eaters either).
Because of customs regulations and packing space, I brought very little food with me. My packed gluten free meals were mainly to get me through the travel days. I didn’t feel the need to pack much more because the story I told myself was that it would be completely fine and easy to eat gluten free in Namibia.
I’ll spare you the anxiety I felt along the journey, but I was very relieved to find ample gluten free food options at my destination! Though Namibia may not be on your bucket list (but maybe it should be, seriously it’s amazing), these meals use simple ingredients available worldwide. I eat many of them frequently while traveling.
Here are some quick and easy gluten free meal ideas using ingredients you can find anywhere:
Eggs are an amazing gluten free food, aren’t they? They come in a neat little self-contained shell that protects the inside from cross contamination. In addition they provide protein, B vitamins, and are a good source of vitamin D. Eggs can be eaten alone, made into scrambles and omelets, or simply fried and placed on a rice cracker with cheese (or spread for dairy free) like this gluten free meal:
I usually eat eggs at least once a day when I’m traveling (when available). Personally, I also feel safe eating eggs boiled in a non-gluten free pot; this makes for an excellent celiac-safe restaurant meal when out with friends.
Tip: Restaurants are often happy to provide hard-boiled eggs even when they’re not on the menu.
And if I haven't raved enough here, eggs are a safe food staple all over the world!
2. Gluten free rice products with high protein spread
In most regions of the world, you can find plain rice or rice products that are gluten free. In this photo I show peanut butter, a widely available product in North America and Southern Africa. While peanut butter is not available everywhere, most cultures have something similar. Look for nut and seed butters (think Nutella, almond butter, or tahini), hummus, and other bean spreads.
If only plain rice is available, you can mix your spread into a bowl of cooked rice. This idea may be a little unconventional, but I would rather break convention than fall ill, feel hungry, or limit my travel destinations!
3. Beans, rice, and vegetables
I fell in love with this easy gluten free meal made with baked beans, broccoli, and rice! The official recipe will be on the website soon. It is especially delicious with a small block of cheese and a small can of tuna mixed in! Beans, rice, vegetables, oil, and spices can be found almost anywhere in the world and make an excellent gluten free meal for travel.
4. One-pot Stew
Stews are delicious and highly versatile. My favorites include potatoes, vegetables, and meat. This picture shows the prep work for a potato, mushroom, and ground beef version that we made while camping in Namibia. With a little salt and pepper, it was delicious!
Pro Tip: Onions and especially mushrooms are excellent vegetable choices because they add flavor to the water creating a simple broth.
5. Stir fry
I think all of us have been saved by stir fries a few times in our lives! Another highly versatile option, you can combine any protein and vegetable combination with rice. No rice? No worries, substitute with potatoes or other gluten free grains like quinoa or millet. Our favorite combinations include bell peppers and chicken, green beans and onions with tofu, and zucchini and garlic with ground beef.
I am so grateful for this experience eating gluten free meals in Africa. Traveling to Namibia increased my confidence to explore other areas of the world that are still new to gluten free eating. With my DIY kitchen kit, the meal ideas in this post, and prior research on natural foods in the area, I expect I that I can eat safely almost anywhere!
With love and gratitude, ❤️ Jamie
I can’t seem to know how to go about my day , I’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease and allergy gluten free , how do I know what I’m really allergic too when I got my allergy test done I was shocked of what I was allergic too, they only signs was stomach problems. How long will it take me to feel better and I put on a lot of weight.
Hi Becky -- I know the overwhelm and I promise it gets better! I started feeling better after about two weeks but continued to have lots of ups and downs and relapses for a while after that. It took me a few years to finally feel awesome most of the time but I definitely feel better now than I did prior to diagnosis -- if I had the resources I do now I think I would have felt better way faster. Weight changes are super common before and after diagnosis and can take some time to even out. That took about 6 months for me.
If you send me an email at [email protected] I'm happy to share more resources with you! I also have a new eBook to help newly diagnosed Celiacs figure out the tricky stuff faster -- it's what I wish I had when I was first diagnosed. Here's the link to the info page: https://www.vibrantlygfree.com/trust-your-gluten-free-food <3 Jamie