Aged 57 I finally made it to Greece to experience the beautiful Greek islands and the history of Athens. I’ve been thinking about it and the Mediterranean diet for some time now, as it is a preferred diet for many health conditions that I consult on. I wanted to see what it was like ‘on the ground’ and had a few surprises. My coeliac disease proved to be more difficult to manage here than anywhere else I’ve been in the past.
We had 2 weeks in Greece – one on an island and one on the mainland. My major challenge was that gluten free bread and pasta were not known about, so this blog is sharing some of the dishes I chose and the menus that I chose from along with some hints and tips in case you’re also planning such a trip.
Whenever I travel I take a copy of the Coeliac Australia travel guide for the country/countries that I’m visiting which can be very helpful when English speaking is not fully understood. When I was in Malta, the week before I travelled to Greece, everyone spoke fluent English so it wasn’t as challenging as I found Greece to be.
I found their menus didn’t specify if dishes were gluten free (as they did in Malta) so it was often a case of guessing which might be naturally gluten free – a slightly risky scenario, but one I often had no choice over. And often not everything from the meal was listed on the menu, so every time we ordered we had to ask many questions which weren't well understood. There were definitely a few hiccups along the way.
An example of a standard menu with no clues about what is gluten free
I chose lots of grilled fish/seafood/meats with salads and vegetables. I ate well, but was happy to leave after 2 weeks as I was definitely more restricted here than at home or even in Malta. There was one restaurant that offered a kind of corn bread that they insisted was gluten free, but it was quite difficult to eat as it was tough and hard to chew. No other restaurants we visited offered gluten free bread or pasta. Fortunately I had bought a packet of gluten free crackers in Malta which I carried everywhere with me in Greece.
I was surprised I didn’t find more legumes on offer. The Fava dip, made from split peas, was the only one I found in a gluten free state. My husband had a fish dish with a chickpea sauce, but they’d used wheat flour in the sauce. Sad face…
I was surprised too about some of the foods that I thought would be gluten free but were not. In Australia when we buy Taramasalata it's always gluten free, yet in Greece they make it with bread in it. That really disappointed me. Another sad face...
Here’s a link to my previous blog on Malta in case you’re interested. I felt it was a better country for people with coeliac disease to visit than my experience in Greece.
If you're following a gluten-free diet long-term, especially if you're trying to conceive/start a family, then it's worth checking in with me to see if you're getting all the nutrients you need. A couple of weeks on holiday can still provide you with some delicious and nutritious meals, but it may not give you all the nutrients that you need for best health.
Accredited Practising Dietitian and Certified Fertility Dietitian, Sally Marchini of Marchini Nutrition, has type 1 diabetes and coeliac disease herself and is passionate about supporting others with these and other chronic conditions. You can follow her on her Instagram account @Marchini.Nutrition, Facebook page Marchini Nutrition, and in her closed support group Be Well Gluten Free.