Coeliac Disease – Travel challenges

I’ve just had a great week staying at the St Nicolas Bay Hotel in Crete who catered well for coeliacs with a wide range gluten free dishes available, and gluten free bread on offer as part of the breakfast buffet.


On the Thomas Cook flight I enjoyed their gluten free meals which I had ordered in advance. I had a tasty James Martin hot breakfast on the way out, and beef paprika on the way home. Images of both the regular and gluten free afternoon in flight meals are included to illustrate the difference. By the way, the gluten free chocolate chip muffin was delicious!

Gluten free in flight meal

Gluten free in flight meal

Regular in flight meal

Regular in flight meal










Although I had a good experience checking out gluten free options on my trip, problems experienced by those travelling with Coeliac Disease are highlighted in a 2013 Canadian study who found that:

  • 69% said travelling abroad was difficult because they could not tell from labels if food was gluten free.
  • 61% said they could not eat many local /national speciality dishes.
  • 54% said they had difficulty finding shops and restaurants selling gluten free food.
  • 53% said that restaurant personnel abroad were unaware of what gluten free means.
  • 46% reported difficulty carrying gluten free food when travelling.

Strategies used by those with Coeliac Disease to enhance their ability to follow the gluten free diet when travelling included:

  • 44% take translated information about gluten free diet when abroad.
  • 28% research restaurants on the Internet before leaving home.
  • 16% contact Coeliac organisations (e.g. Canadian Celiac Association) about sources of gluten free food.
  • 15% carry a doctors letter indicating that they require a gluten free diet.

The Canadian study concluded that it is essential for individuals with Coeliac Disease to receive accurate and comprehensive information about the disease and its dietary management.

Coeliac UK has some useful information leaflets to help prepare for world wide travel. The following link takes you to the one for Greece but there are over 30 other guides that you may find useful.  Coeliac UK Guide for Greece.

As for this week, well done St Nicolas Bay Hotel and Thomas Cook, you did great.


Zarkadas, M., Dubois, S., Maclsaac, K., Cantin, I., Rashid, M., Roberts, K.C., La Vieille, S., Godefroy, S. & Pulido, O.M. (2013) living with Coeliac Disease and a gluten-free diet: a Canadian perspective.

St Nicolas Bay, Crete


Mediterranean Diet

Having spent the last few months with my head buried in books and journal articles, it’s great to get a break and this week I’m doing it in style on the beautiful island of Crete with its cobalt blue sea, rugged mountain back drop, and sun filled sky.



The food here is sensational and the traditional Cretan diet of the 1960’s is said to be one of the healthiest with the lowest coronary heart disease and cancer mortality rates.

The Cretan diet includes fresh fruit, vegetables, oily fish, olives, olive oil, cucumber, onions, tomatoes, walnuts, dried figs, beans, melon, chickpeas, cherries, honey, whole meal bread and red wine. This diet is high in fibre, effective at reducing cholesterol, is full of antioxidants and contains a wide range of vitamins and minerals. The impressive results from studies in to the Cretan diet and its positive role in disease prevention and health promotion is also thought to be due in part to periodic abstinence from meat, fish, dairy, eggs and cheese prescribed by the Greek Orthodox Church.

It seems that the Mediterranean Diet is a topical issue across a range of media:

  • In Dec 2013 lead doctors from G8 countries wrote to the UK Health Secretary and Prime Minister asking them to invest in an education programme on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet for children in schools and the wider adult population. Dr Simon Pool led the initiative and you can find out more about his work on his website
  • For a bit of light reading on the subject check out the June 2014 issue of Good Housekeeping which has an article outlining how you can get the health benefits of the Mediterranean style diet using British ingredients. It gives tips like eating red cabbage instead of aubergine as they both contain folic acid, fibre and pigments called anthocyanins that protect against heart disease.
  • The British Dietetic Association also has a link to an event being run by the University of Hertfordshire in October. The study day is aimed at dietitians / nutritionists and is designed to give practical strategies for implementing a Mediterranean diet in dietetics practice, such as meal planning and demonstrations of cooking skills. The day also provides updates on recent advances in scientific understanding of the Mediterranean diet and epidemiological evidence for its health benefits (cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases). The teaching team includes the authors of “The Mediterranean Diet: Health and Science”, Dr Hoffman and Dr Gerber, a leading lecturer in dietetics and a local GP.

I’ve just ordered theThe Mediterranean Diet: Health and Science” book and will be booking my place on the Mediterranean diet event in October.  In the mean time I’m going to relax and enjoy the delicious Cretan food and also the odd glass of red wine. Cheers!


Kafatos, A., Verhagen, H., Moschandreas, J., Apostolaki, I. & Johannes J M Van Westerop (2000) ‘Mediterranean diet of Crete: Foods and nutrient content’ American Dietetic Association. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 100 (12) pp. 1487-93