I have spent the past few months travelling a few countries in south and Central America hoping that eating gluten free would be relatively simple. Below is my account of some of the difficulties, surprises and tips for making the journey as simple as possible.
Argentina started off as a bit of a shock to me, I had heard the beef there was amazing and how much 'asado' - bbq I would be eating. It is heavily influenced by the Italian, subsequently there were numerous pizza/pasta restaurants on every street. At some places this was actually all you could order.
In Buenos Aires I did find two gluten free cafes in the suburbs Palermo as well as one in Recoletta. One of the places in Palermo was amazing, I went there with a coeliac friend and we dined on cake and brought numerous goodies for our further travels, it was simply heaven. I also ate at this amazing vegetarian place in Recoletta that was by default gluten free, it was such a nice treat.
Another city in Argentina I visited was Mendoza, another city with numerous pizza/pasta/sandwich options. There was a small gluten free shop on one of the main streets and I bought some gluten free beer, a chocolate cake, some rice cakes and some dried pasta.
Rice cakes are perfect for long bus trips and another favourite in the more Central parts are plantain chips. As I try not to be 'one of those' people who dictates where everyone eats I have also found if there is simply nothing else but pasta and pizza; the kitchen have no problems cooking my pasta separately so I don't have to miss out.
A trick I found quite handy was to order a hamburger and not eat the bun, it's usually always a tasty option and if you state 'Soy coeliaco' they will serve it without the bun (pan). Of course having the asado was also a lovely meal and I have to say being vegetarian and travelling through the Americas would be incredibly difficult with the gluten restriction as well.
Heading north up through Central America is a little more exciting as they tend to make their tacos and tortillas with maize flour, heaven for me! Here they don't understand the term 'Soy coeliaco' and are more adept with 'Tengo allergica con trigo' which means that I am allergic to wheat. It has been exciting to have these tortillas and truly enjoy them.
Another treat was a small surfing village on the coast of El Salvador called El Tunco. It was where I found much delight in a smoothie shop - it sold gluten free chocolate brownie, simply devine to have such a treat in the most unexpected place.
In terms of alcohol on holiday, and as a nutritionist on holiday I am happy to say I have indulged on the odd occasion. Argentina and Chile are incredible if you like red wine, cheap as chips for around $3 for a nice bottle. In Bolivia vodka and rum were better options, and once hitting the tropical areas the cocktails were good (and super strong). I only saw gluten free beer once and it tasted quite awful, winning the surprise stakes all round was El Tunco in El Salvador. I had my first cider on the whole trip here - every last drop was savoured even if it was imported from Sweden of all places.
Beer is king here and very cheap so it's a little unfortunate to have that option ruled out. However if you are gluten intolerant (not Coeliac) then potentially it could be worth trying a beer if you absolutely have the urge. Sometimes on holiday the body relaxes and is able to tolerate things that it usually wouldn't whilst at home. Try one, not 10 and you might be able to get away with one every now and then.
All in all Central America was a lot easier than South but that wouldn't stop me from travelling to any of these areas again. Was I gluten free the entire time? I don't think so - I suffered on a few occasions, there may have been additives in some of the food I ate and can only hope for the best.
It doesn't need to rule your holiday at the end of the day, ensuring you have good snacks is the best way to make sure you never starve!
Vital Health & Nutrition
A few delightful photo galleries, a few controversial topics.