Just over a week ago, I was lying on the beach in sunny Punta Cana with my husband and four of our best friends. Then I came home to my reality: a snow covered Pittsburgh… I’m pretty sure I would have appreciated the snow more if I hadn’t just been in paradise with these guys (p.s. Roby and I are in the middle):
This was my first time traveling out of the country while following a gluten-free and mostly paleo diet. For small trips, it’s easy to pack your own food and snacks but when you’re paying to visit an all-inclusive resort, that’s not really an option. I learned a few tips during my trip that I think will be helpful to you – whether you go to the Dominican Republic or well, anywhere really.
So here they are, my 5 Tips to Eating Gluten-Free at an All-Inclusive Resort:
Our group spent a couple weeks researching different resorts. While we were all looking for a fun place to stay, my main focus was on finding a place with decent food. Make sure you spend a lot of time reading reviews (hello, tripadvisor) – people are always talking about the food. You can also always send the resort an email to find out if they can accommodate a gluten-free diet.
Stick to What’s Safe:
A lot of all-inclusive resorts offer buffets, which are really tricky especially for those sensitive to cross-contamination. Since you can’t really speak to a server, it’s probably best to stick to what you (hopefully) know is safe: fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and meat (without sauce). Some days my breakfast/snacks would just consist of a huge plate of mango, which obviously has a ton of sugar but… if that’s the worst thing I’m eating, whatever.
Don’t trust menus! Ask questions (if you can):
The resort we stayed at (Breathless Punta Cana) had gluten-free symbols listed on their menus but some of the items listed as gluten-free were suspect. One night, we went to the Italian restaurant and saw that the chicken parm and the tiramisu (along with many other items) were listed as “gluten-free.” At first we were all incredibly impressed, but then suspicion started to sneak in. After all, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is, right? After asking the waiter and then the manager at the restaurant some questions, we learned that there was literally nothing in the restaurant that was gluten-free. Yes, this actually happened – I instagrammed the menu.
Take a Translation Card with you:
I was lucky to be in a group where nearly everyone was fluent in Spanish (except for me… I need to learn!) so I was fortunate to have so many people looking out for me. If you’re at a resort where English isn’t the primary language, then try to seek out someone who can speak English (usually your concierge) and ask them to write a note for you explaining your allergies so that you can take it with you to restaurants. If gluten is your only allergy, then check out this website where you can print out a card in 54 different languages explaining your allergy – make sure to check this out, it’s so useful!
Know Your Alcohol
Alcohol is a big part of visiting an all-inclusive resort, so if you’re going to drink, make sure you know what’s in your alcohol. Wine and champagne are safe (to my knowledge). Tequila is made from agave cactus and so that should also be fine. Rum is mostly distilled from sugarcane. Vodka you have to be careful with – some brands are made potatoes and corn but other brands can be made with cereal grains. Here’s a guide to what brands are gluten-free. The one thing to be aware of with going to some resorts is that even though they will have brand name bottles on the shelves, it may not always be the same as what they are serving you (one waiter actually told us that). When we’d order drinks, we’d go to the bar and ask them to open a new bottle before making our drinks (and then we’d tip them heavily for doing so). Find a good bartender and become friends with them.
- Our resort had a Hibachi restaurant, which was one of our favorite places to eat. If you’re eating Hibachi, ask your chef to make your portion without soy sauce and you should (hopefully) be good.
- If possible, pack your own sauces. I wish I had brought my coconut aminos with me – it would have been nice at the Hibachi restaurant or with sushi.
- If you want eggs for breakfast, opt for hard boiled eggs or a fresh omelette (where you see them crack open fresh eggs). I don’t trust scrambled eggs in the buffet line – they can sometimes have milk or pancake batter mixed in (I’ve only ever heard of iHop adding in pancake batter, but you never know).
I was sick for a couple days during our trip, but honestly it was worth it (in my case). Roby and I really needed a vacation from real life and this trip was good for the soul. We loved every minute spent on the beach with our closest friends and I really hope we get to do it again soon. I think the only thing I’d do differently next time is to make sure and take some activated charcoal with me (yep, definitely forgot to pack that).
Do you have any tips/tricks to staying healthy while at an all-inclusive resort? Gimme your best tips!