Being the difficult one

I've been diagnosed for 2 years now and I never really found it too hard to adjust to the gluten free diet. I feel better and I enjoy cooking and baking more so I've just got on with it.

However, lately I have felt a bit bothered shall I say about the limitations this diet has. The other week, for example I met up with a new group of friends for lunch. I suggested getting some things from M and S and sitting in the park as it was a lovely day and I told them I was coeliac so could eat something from there. They decided that they would prefer to go to this Italian restaurant though instead, so I literally had to sit there with my over priced bottle of water starving hungry watching them stuff their faces with pizza and pasta. I felt pretty fed up after this. I take the diet very seriously and worry when eating out, so in a place like that the cross contamination risk was too high I couldn't face even trying to start asking about what they could do for me. A scan of the menu showed everything came with bread, pasta or pizza and even grilled things were likely to contain gluten so knowing I'd feel ill for a week if I chanced it is a no brainer really. I ate when I got home instead and felt a bit sorry for myself!

So my husband said we had been invited to go with his family to Brussels to the Christmas market. I've always fancied going there and was quite excited so we booked it up. It then dawned on me, I wonder what its like to eat gluten free there. A quick search on the internet made my heart drop a bit as there appeared to be limited options. We were trying to find a hotel to stay in that had gluten free breakfast options which may mean we have to stay somewhere different from the rest of the family who are more limited on cost and have children to accommodate as well. Then I can't just go home for lunch so its likely we need to research places to eat and perhaps book somewhere, which takes away any spontaneity and is somewhat limiting. I really don't want to miss out on anything because of this condition but I can't help but worry as it's me who would end up ill. I've just really felt lately like I'm different, the awkward one and I'm not enjoying that feeling very much!

20 Replies

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  • Yes, I'm feeling a bit like that at the moment. I eat well at home, it's just social interactions that are complicated...

    I'm going to Brussels before Christmas as well, with a group of friends, and had been wondering the same thing. Everybody's emails say things like "looking forward to the beer, chocolate, chips and mayonnaise", none of which I'll be having! That said, three years ago I remember going on a similar weekend abroad and wondering if I'd cope because I felt so unwell, so this is a massive improvement.

  • Hi codycat,

    re breakfast in hotel/b&b what I usually do is I take a packet of ricecakes with me, and then I have fruit (if available), sometimes I'll have a yoghurt if I can read the ingredients on the packet, then re cooked breakfast I'll either have scrambled eggs with salmon (if available) or boiled/poached/fried eggs, and the tomato, mushroom, bacon. If you can eat any of these things, then maybe you'd be ok? On the continent they often serve cheese and salami/cold meats at breakfast as well so unless you are avoiding dairy, at least the cheese should be ok? And there should usually be jams which you could have on your ricecakes?

    Re eating out in Brussels, perhaps if you go to a restaurant and take one of those coeliac travel cards in both Dutch and French you would be able to get something safe?

    Are you extremely sensitive? I was so sorry to hear about your friends not being willing to accomodate you re eating together. I understand that cross-contamination in a restaurant is a worry, but (touch wood) so far, every time I've eaten at an Italian restaurant here in Scotland, I've been ok. I've never had 'gluten-free' pizza, but I've had the 'gluten-free' pasta option and seem to have survived it.

    I do hope you manage to work something out to let you continue to enjoy time out with friends and family! Fingers crossed! Good luck! :)

  • Hi codycat, Well try not to be dispondent. Perhaps your new friends do not realise what a coeliac is. I was told by someone close that they honestly thought it just meant cutting back on bread and things and eating it a little less - and they were serious! It is awfully easy for all of us to assume that everyone else that we meet, knows what it means to have this condition - but in truth, there are very few people who really do comprehend what the illness is and what it entails. So firstly, I would take them aside in a one-to-one and explain - but rather then stating the worst bits first - I would tell them how much you enjoy life, experiencing new things, etc then go on to tell them why you have to be careful. Research the area and find out which restaurants, cafes, pit-stops cater for coeliacs - phone them up and ask - and always be cheeky .. if they don't cater could you bring your own - or could they go out and buy a ready-made coeliac sandwich/cake/meal. Always, always ask - your life and happiness is too important not to and it is the only way of producing changes in others - we all have to be a little proactive, I think.

    Regarding Belgium - have you contacted the Belgium Embassy? Ask for their help .. hopefully they will be able to help you find suitable places to stay and to eat at:

    belgium.embassyhomepage.com...

    belgium.embassyhomepage.com/

    belgium.embassyhomepage.com...

    I hope that you have the time of your life! :)

  • Hey Codycat

    Wow, that's some insensitive friends! I've clearly bored my mates witless with what I can't eat, so they always check FOR me before going anywhere and are ready to stand up to waiters when I can't. My best mate is vegan, so we're a nightmare when we go out for a meal! Like you though, I would NEVER trust an Italian restaurant when eating out. I made a point of researching all the GF places I can eat locally, so if a spontaneous moment comes up I don't have the faff of trying to work out where I can eat.

    RE: Belgium, it's not the most accommodating country I've been to but you can get by pretty well there. I ate steak and chips in one restaurant, salads and other stuff. Belgian cuisine is a bit dull generally but I didn't starve and there were decent options.

    I stayed with a (non-cooking) friend when I was there so skipped the continental breakfast. When I've had that in other countries there is usually lots of fruit on offer, including apricots, prunes, etc. I tend to take some DS ciabatta with me to have with ham & cheese, and a bowl of fruit. The ciabatta takes a couple of days to go hard when you've opened the packet, so it works out ok.

    It can be hard to be coeliac sometimes, but as my son once said, "I wish I was coeliac Mummy, you get so excited when you find new biscuits!"

  • I eat out in Brussels all the time and have never had a problem. Take with you a travel card and you will be okay, there are even a few bars which serve gluten free beers. In Brussels you need the French card if you go to Antwerp you will need the Flemish one

    celiactravel.com/cards/

    And check out this site

    travelglutenfree.co.uk/Euro...

  • Thanks for all your responses and kind words. Mia can you recommend anywhere to eat in Brussels then?

  • Also ask on our facebook page: facebook.com/glutenfreeguer...

  • We were recently in Quebec on vacation. I baked GF scones and GF muffins to take with me. I also took my own butter, bread and jam. I've done this before with success. Sometimes the hotel will keep my food in the refrigerator for me to use when I come down to breakfast. I keep it in a labelled bag. Some rooms have refrigerators right in them for the mini-bar that you can empty and use to store your food. The last hotel we were in actually sent up a second refrigerator just for my food. I also always travel with dried nuts, dried fruit and GF dark chocolate in my purse for emergencies.

  • As some have already said, breakfasts should be no problem. There are generally lots of fruit, cheese and meats to choose form and they often have bacon ( usually cooked to death ) and eggs, either boiled or scrambled. I have never had an issue there.

    Don't think of yourself as the awkward one, try to think that your the special one ! I find it provokes conversation when you reveal your "special needs" as my wife

    lovingly calls me.

  • I suggest you contact the Belgian coeliac society. My friend has done some work with them and apparently they were very nice and helpful, and they write and speak English. If you email them they will help with a list of places to go. Brussels is apparently fine for gluten free, you just need to know where to go! Good luck!

    international@vcv.coeliakie.be

    vcv.coeliakie.be

  • I was very disappointed to hear about your new friends! I was recently in Belfast and the hotel went out and bought not only bread but gf crumpets to make up for what I would miss from the buffet! In Glasgow the hotel was a bit more difficult, but they eventually agreed to get some bread in for me to toast - just needed to ask each morning. I let both hotels know in advance and would suggest anyone else doing the same

  • This is all such good advice. My husband used to live in Brussels and keeps threatening to book a weekend to show me around, so now I'll be able to refer back to this page!

    Like you, I've found the diet itself to be no real problem at all, and as for eating out, planning ahead will make it much easier. Next time you go out with these friends maybe do a little research and ensure you know where you're going to eat ahead of time. Maybe (with everyone's ok) make a reservation so the venue is less likely to be changed at the last minute. I used to be quite passive in this way, but now I find it easier to just find a place myself and be the first to suggest where to eat.

    And I do think your new friends were either ignorant or inconsiderate in ignoring your needs, so you may have to stand your ground or maybe meet them for coffee or drinks instead of meals.

    Since eating gf I find Carluccio's is my new best friend. I've even been able to find one nearby on my GPS when stuck in traffic in an unfamiliar part of town. I know others have said here that they've had problems with Carluccio's, but for me it has been a godsend.

    Good luck! Like you, I find the social aspect the hardest part of having a special diet.

  • Hi, loads of great advice on here. I'm an extremely sensitive coeliac so understand your worries. The restaurant cards are great. I travel loads and eat out loads but normally at smaller restaurants where the chef will cook separately for me and abroad, I have always eaten well if had somewhat strange combinations.

    I do, however, often find breakfast in hotels the hardest meal of the day. So, I take GF crackers and spread cheese with me so that I have something safe. Often the continental breakfast has cheeses and meats which are ok but not always. You could also take your own bread and toaster bags.

    It can be depressing not to be able to eat anything and even 20+ years down the line it still gets to me sometimes. With your friends, my advice would be to make a point of saying 'could we go somewhere that I can eat?' I have to say that Italian restaurants do tend to be the safest places for us..Zizzis are now brilliant.

    Don't let it stop you from enjoying going abroad x

  • Italians are the safest for us Jilip! Yikes! All that pizza-tossed-flour and the thought of eating the wrong pasta that looked the same! I would never eat in a chain restaurant. I'd rather rely on someone who I could talk to face-to-face. I can honestly say I will never eat in another Italian restaurant again (unless it is in a backstreet in a little village in Italy and I can talk to the chef!)

  • I went to Rome on holiday and it was so easy to eat and I wasn't ill once. A restaurant next to the Pantheon offered to get in GF pasta for me and all were very GF aware. They test all their children at a very young age for CD.

    In this country you can always ask to speak to the chef. I make it a rule that when I go to try a new place,I ask to find out how aware they are. If they aren't I go elsewhere.

  • I understood some italian gf has a higher level of gluten allowed.At friends house now, my laptop not accepting e mail again.

  • You don't have to eat pasta or pizza in an italian...they do other meals too

  • Yes, risotto and polenta, as well as soups, stews, grilled/roasted meats, loads of delicious deli-type snacks/antipasti, which are often vegetarian/vegan as well (roasted peppers, artichoke hearts, green beans in garlic and olive oil, tomato salads, etc).

    I find Italian restaurants have so far been the most clued-up on gf/coeliac issues. Not all are of course, but if I had to generalise, there seems to be a better chance of finding knowledgeable staff and a gf menu in an Italian restaurant. .

  • Hollyann, you've made me feel very hungry lol

  • Just come across this website & it is great! Great to hear about the GF options in Italian restaurants over here, will now try some.

    Whenever I go out, I always make sure I have a stock of '9 Bars' - as I am GF & DF so they are a godsend if I can't find anything else. They are natural seed bars, and are so much nicer than the often found sickly sweet ones. One bar actually fills me up, if I need one instead of a meal (& I have a big appetite!).

    Don't be afraid to speak to the hotels/ B&B's that you are planning to visit, I have always found them to be exceptionally helpful, here & abroad.

    Can't believe your friends weren't more thoughtful, but stick with your diet & next time, make sure they hear your concerns & don't be afraid to be more assertive with your choices.

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