America – the land of the gluten-free? Not so much!

There are a lot of people in America. Which means that there must be a lot of people who are gluten-intolerant. This would lead you to think that there must therefore be a very good range and amount of gluten-free food available and that restaurants would cater for these people.Think again.

Me looking like a drowned rat at Glacier Point, Yosemite, Oct 2011. Gluten-free hot chocolate in hand - or maybe not!!!

We’re on Day 6 of our trip to the USA. Our hosts have been wonderful – gracious, helpful and extremely welcoming and accommodating. We made a trip to a local supermarket (Raleys in Jackson CA) which had a section of an aisle of gluten-free products and I stocked up on cereal, muesli bars and crackers. These have proved to be very nice indeed. The bread selection was very small – 2 or 3 types of loaves, all of which looked OK for toast but not so great for sandwiches. My hostess even baked some gluten-free zucchini loaf, which was wonderful. So eating at their house has been an easy thing to do and very pleasant. Eating out is a different matter.

We’ve been based in California, in and around Amador County and San Francisco. We’ve eaten out a few times now and I can report that there is no gluten-free labelling on menus. Zip, nada, zilch. One menu did say in very small print that if you had food allergies, you should talk to your waiter about what food would be suitable for you (more about this in a later post). I’m not just talking about small local cafes here (which can be forgiven to some extent) but also large chains of restaurants. I have no idea what I am eating half of the time, and am finding that salads are the most successful option as long as I get them with no dressing. And check that the meat in them is not covered in breadcrumbs or batter. Forget the hot chips – many of them have seasoning on them which may contain gluten or are partially coated much like wedges.

So based on my experiences in my first few days, I have to say that the United States is not land of the gluten-free, and in fact is very unfriendly to the gluten-free. Once again, I thank my lucky stars that I am not coeliac, as it would be nearly impossible to eat here if I were. As it is, I see my skin worsening as I travel. I’ll report individually on restaurants I have been to as I go. We’re on our way to Washington and Pittsburgh as I type this, so I will be interested to see how it goes there. My friend who lives in Pittsburgh tells me it’s a real foodie place and that awareness of coeliac disease and gluten-intolerance is very high. Check back and I’ll keep you posted!

UPDATE from Maryland: just had Indian (curry) for dinner. Minerva Indian Cuisine. Nom, nom, nom!

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4 thoughts on “America – the land of the gluten-free? Not so much!

  1. Not sure if you got to read my posts on my recent trip to the US but believe it or not I went hungry in New York for 3 days due to not being able to find restaurants prepared to offer gluten free food. Traveling in the US on holiday as a Coeliac requires careful planning ahead and lots of Internet searching. A great experience and it made me appreciate the ease of gluten free eating in New Zealand.
    I think the ability to sue in the US has contributed towards this lack of gluten free options.

    • I did read your posts and they filled me with fear!!! Haven’t done TOO badly, but thankful I am not coeliac, just gluten intolerant! Makes me REALLY appreciate how gluten-free friendly NZ is!

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