Gluten-free and food allergy-conscious dining is the No. 1 food trend for 2014, according to Restaurants Canada’s 2014 Chefs Survey—and, unlike other top themes like food smoking and charcuterie, it’s not just about consumers’ whims.
Close to one per cent of Canadians are affected by potentially debilitating celiac disease, according to Health Canada, and many more choose to limit or eliminate gluten from their diets due to allergies, intolerances or sympathy for friends and family members unable to eat gluten.
“People are choosing a gluten-free diet because they are in search of greater health,” says Michael Lyons, owner of Vancouver restaurant Graze. “We’re not feeding ourselves well in general these days and this option has helped many people feel better.”
Lyons and executive chef Karen McAthy designed Graze’s original menu with several gluten-free options to accommodate food-sensitive diners; as they went on, they found it increasingly easy to convert dishes without sacrificing flavour, quality or nutrition. “Now there are only a couple of items on our whole dinner menu that are not entirely gluten-free,” Lyons says.
As for avoiding gluten while travelling, it’s easier than ever. Here are three tips to make your trip easier.
1. Do your research
“If you can, plan ahead for your travel dining,” suggests Lyons. “These days, there are many websites and chat forums for gluten-free dining in most major cities.” Treat the research as an adventure—who knows, maybe you’ll find a new favourite restaurant.
2. Broaden your horizons
Gluten is a protein found only in wheat and related grains such as barley and rye. Look to cuisines that have historically used naturally gluten-free grains such as corn and rice for a wide range of delicious gluten-free dishes.
3. Pack the essentials
When in non-English-speaking countries, bring a list of foods you can’t eat and important phrases in the local language, suggests Lyons. And always travel with plenty of tasty snacks, he adds—including treats. “You’re on vacation, after all!