Hello everyone, welcome back to Gluten Free Hannah!
I have recently come back from a two-week family holiday in Antigua, so I thought I’d share my experience of eating gluten free whilst abroad. If you’ve read my Becoming Gluten Free post, then you’ll know that I had my biopsy tests in the middle of July. There was less than a week between me being allowed to cut out gluten in my diet and flying to Antigua. What I’m trying to say is that I had barely got my head around eating gluten free in England, so I wasn’t really sure how I was going to cope with eating gluten free in the Caribbean.
Caribbean cuisine is famous for rice and chicken, so there was a good chance that the food I would be ordering would be naturally gluten free.
My biggest concern was breakfasts. We stayed in two different hotels, a week in each, and breakfast was included both times. I wasn’t sure what exactly would be included in breakfast each morning so I decided to take my own cereal. In the few days that I had in England being gluten free, I had found some cereal that I quite liked. Before being gluten free I used to eat Weetabix most mornings, so I was relieved to find the Nutri-brex do a gluten free alternative. To top it off, I sprinkle some of Nature’s Path Nice n Nobbly granola over the top. I took with me a box of Nutri-brex and a packet of the granola, so that if there wasn’t any suitable breakfast for me, I would at least have some cereal which I could eat.
The breakfast menu contained the usual cooked breakfasts, eggs in whatever style you fancy, bacon, sausages, etc… but I find that when I’m on holiday, especially in a country where the temperature is consistently 30°C, then I don’t actually want a full cooked breakfast. Coupled with the fact that there is the risk of it containing gluten. So, I steered clear of all that.
Instead I opted for the seasonal fruit plate almost every day, which came with a selection of melon, watermelon, pineapple, mango, grapes and strawberries. The hotels did have gluten free bread so I also had toast on most days too.
Breakfasts turned out to be fairly successful, apart from the couple of days that my cravings took the better of me. Having just started eating gluten free, and having not eaten out in England since being gluten free, I was not used to choosing from a menu with that mindset. When I first looked at the menus, I was immediately drawn to what I would have liked previously. I’m talking pancakes and waffles. Then I’d remember that I couldn’t have them anymore, and the waitresses said that they couldn’t be made gluten free. Knowing I wasn’t allowed them made me want them even more. After a few days, I just had to cave in and order pancakes, knowing full well how bad it would make me feel. At the time, it was what I wanted, but later on I fully regretted it when my stomach felt 10 times bigger and I was getting stomach cramps. I didn’t learn though, as I ordered pancakes for breakfast another couple of times whilst on holiday. Oops.
Lunchtimes were interesting. For me a lunchtime snack is a sandwich, or a small pasta dish, or a burger, all of which contain gluten. The obvious thing to have is a salad. I’m not the biggest fan of salad anyway, so there’s only so many days in a row that I can face eating a salad. I ended up ordering bunless burgers, and chicken wings with fries. A couple of days we provided our own lunches rather than finding a beach bar, and cooked some gluten free pasta that we found in a local supermarket. Over all, lunches were not the most varied, but they served a purpose.
Eating out for 14 days in a row is hard enough when you don’t have any allergies, so I found eating out when you can’t have any gluten extremely difficult. The first week I played it quite safe and opted for chicken and rice, West Indian chicken curry or chicken and potatoes most nights, knowing that these were all fine to eat. However, it got a bit tedious after a while and I needed to mix it up a bit. I don’t eat much seafood, so unfortunately, that ruled a lot of the menu out. I realised that this is something that probably needs to change, as seafood is likely to be a gluten free option for me, so I should probably try to start eating it.
The second week I started caving in again. The two meals that stuck out to me as mistakes were a teriyaki stir fry, and a chicken katsu curry. Both of them containing gluten, but I wanted them so badly that I just ordered them. I think it’s clear to see that my mentality to resist food really needs to be strengthened! Both times, my sister had ordered the same thing as me, and if I hadn’t ordered it as well, I knew I’d just be staring longingly at her plate wishing that I could have had the same thing.
Overall, I managed to eat most meals gluten free. I have learnt a lot of things from being on holiday, such as asking the waiter or waitress about ingredients in a dish, or asking if the chef can change something to accommodate being gluten free. As for not caving in, I think that (hopefully) over time I will become more and more used to what I can eat and what I can’t, and that I will stop wanting all of the things I had before. I guess we’ll see!
I want to know what you’re experience of eating gluten free in another country is. Let me know, what were your best meals? Do you have any recommendations for gluten free restaurants abroad? Please let me know!
Until next time,