Travelling abroad when you have allergies and or coeliac disease to contend with is a pretty daunting task. You don’t want to let it spoil your fun, but you know you need to feel confident enough to find the foods you will need, as inevitably you will be mostly self-catering, as eating out is scary enough at home.
Before we went to Spain a few weeks ago, I had a look on the websites of the supermarkets I know out there to see if I could find some gluten free, dairy free brands. It looked like there was a good selection so I felt relatively comfortable. I still packed a good selection of bread rolls, bread sticks, biscuits, crackers and breakfast cereal – just to get us through the early days. I knew that dairy free was easy enough to manage, as Zac was DF last time we were there. The gluten free thing came on since then, and that was what worried me the most.
As usual, I was quite disorganised in the run up to the holiday and did not get round to ordering any translation cards – http://www.allergyuk.org/getting-help/translation-cards But as I did a bit of Spanish at University, I thought I could probably work most of it out for myself. To be honest I am sure there must be a translation app for it, but I never bothered to look. Oops.
However, it didn’t really matter as I am happy to report that not only are gluten free foods very easy to come by and very clearly labelled (in the part of Spain that we went to), they are also easy to spot. SIN GLUTEN seems to appear more prominently and more often on food labels out there than it does here. I even noticed it on those little picture menu cards next to the ice cream freezers on the beach.
Sadly, ‘SIN LACTOSA’, – dairy free, is less often marked up. The yoghurts and milk are easy enough to find, but as in the UK, you have no chance of finding dairy free ice cream or anything on a menu that is suitable.
Alpro is a big brand in Europe and their soya milk is easy to come by in pretty much any supermarket. Never seen the yoghurts though. The supermarkets closest to us were SuperSol, Mercadona and there was a big Carrefour a bit further away in Estepona. As in England, there is a mix of what they carry and you have to shop around if you want to find the right selection of replacement foods for you. They do ‘range’ their products slightly differently. So you are less likely to find a specific ‘free from’ aisle, but you may well happen upon dairy free yoghurts in the chiller beside the normal ones, the dairy free milk with be with the other UHT milks, the gluten free bread was in bakery and biscuits with baked good. So keep your eyes peeled.
As there is, happily, much to choose from, I decided to take photos of all the products we tried and got on well with. So if any of you are travelling, you might be able to recognise them and bung them in your trolley with confidence.
Here’s a few insights:
Gullon was the main free from brand in Carrefour, and as they are French, I believe, carry French, Spanish, Portugese and English labelling. Our favourites were the cookies pictured. The chocolate ones were not marked dairy free, like the plain ones. They did say may contain traces of milk. This was printed in English on the side. In bigger writing they did say – in French Sans oeufs (no eggs) and Sans lait (no milk) and Sans fruits a coque(no nuts). In Spanish this is Sin Huevos (no eggs), sin frutos secos (no nuts). In Portugues Sem Ovo is no eggs and Sem Frutos Secos is no nuts and Sem Lactose – no milk.
While in Carrefour I also spotted Genius gluten free pittas in freezer section. Lovely.
Also marked on other products/phrases that you may want the translation for:
Sin gluten(Spain)/sem gluten(Portugal)
Baja en sal – Spanish for low in salt
Puede contener trazas de leche – Spanish for ‘may contain traces of milk/dairy’
Alergenos – allergens
Bajas en grasa saturada – low in saturated fat
Sin azucares… – no sugar
Associacao de portugeusa celiacos – Portuguese Coeliac Association, they have a little no wheat symbol in their logo, so do the Spanish, their ‘stamp’ seems to be ‘Controlado for FACE’
Spaghetti de maiz – this is corn spaghetti, made Gallo, who make lots of lovely rice products widely available in this country. Delicious.
Tortitas de maiz(Spanish)/tortitas de milho(Portuguese) – these were like rice cakes, but made from corn. They were lightly salted and tasted like pop corn. A big hit with my little man – and me. A nice snack to go with an aperitif!
Hacendado brand – I believe this is the own brand of a big supermarket close to us called Mercadona. They have plenty of dairy free yoghurts with this brand.
They mark their soya(soja) yoghurts nice and clearly
No contiene trazas de: (does not contain traces of)
Proteinas de leche de vaca (cows milk protein)
So all in all very pleasing. We were not brave enough to order any food in a restaurant because I just could not be bothered to start asking about cross contamination, but I have to say the supermarket shopping was actually quite fun – as much for the trying new brands, as it was for me to brush up on my rusty language skills. Hope this is of some use.