A Celiac Sufferer’s Survival Guide

Where to find gluten-free food

By Sami Wong

BEING A CELIAC IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC

I have almost completely given up on dining out in Prague. What starts out as a fun meal with friends quickly turns into disappointment and frustration as I open the menu. Almost every dish, from the stuffed chicken to the fried cheese, contains gluten. Most of the main courses are either previously marinated in a gluten-containing sauce or drenched in it before serving. I cannot eat any dish containing wheat, barley, rye, or triticale, so I’m usually forced to turn to the sides: boiled, skinless potatoes or steamed vegetables.

Culture Shock

Waiters in the United States, who will customize almost any menu item to please the customer, have spoiled me. In Prague, I carry a sheet of paper with me every time I leave the house that lists useful words in English and their Czech translations. After failing to pronounce “gluten-free” and “wheat” correctly, I always show the waiter my list. Sometimes a waiter acknowledges “pšenici,” Czech for “wheat”. Upon recognition, I am usually recommended the side dishes or a sparse salad. A more common reaction, however, is a blank stare from the waiter after glancing at the paper. Besides the several restaurants in Prague that actually list gluten-free dishes on their menus, I have only come across one or two waiters who are familiar with Celiac disease.

Symptoms and Treatment

I have accidentally eaten foods containing gluten a few times while in Prague, which always leads to uncomfortable stomachaches, painful headaches, and intense fatigue for several days. Ingesting gluten is not only unpleasant but also dangerous because it prevents other nutrients from being properly absorbed. As of now, the only way to treat Celiac disease is to avoid products containing gluten. Celiac disease is often misdiagnosed because many people are unaware of the condition. In fact, according to Dr. Mehmet Oz, who specializes in cardiovascular research and stars on The Dr. Oz Show, “This condition is undiagnosed or misdiagnosed 97% of the time.” This, unfortunately, carries over to restaurants, waiters, and grocery store employees in many countries also lacking knowledge of the condition, making it somewhat difficult for people on a gluten-free diet to dine out.

“Although I initially struggled as a Celiac in Prague, I came to realize, with time, that a Celiac sufferer’s experience need not be problematic.”

A Gluten Free Future

Gluten-free product sales are rising, and hopefully gluten intolerance and Celiac disease will be more widely recognized in the coming years. Maintaining a gluten-free diet in the Czech Republic is slightly more difficult than in other countries where Celiac disease and gluten intolerances are more widely acknowledged. Fortunately, according to the Czech Celiac Society, “the availability and choice of gluten-free products in the Czech Republic is steadily improving.”  Although I initially struggled as a Celiac in Prague, I came to realize, with time, that a Celiac sufferer’s experience need not be problematic. As Luke Ginsberg, a student studying abroad in Prague, said, “while gluten-free eating in Prague may seem extremely limited to the casual diner, one only needs to explore the city’s magical streets, filled with an abundance of restaurants and cafes, including two that are all gluten-free, to find an enjoyable bite to eat.”

WHERE TO EAT OUT

Country Life

Country Life has several restaurants located around Prague. Although the restaurants are well known because of their wide vegetarian options rather than their gluten-free dishes, the restaurants do offer some naturally gluten-free choices. The salad bar is always a safe option. Sometimes the warm dishes, such as the potato soup or tofu with chickpeas, are safe for people with Celiac disease as well. At the Country Life restaurant near Old Town Square, you can ask one of the English-speaking workers which of their meals are gluten-free.

Melantrichova 463, Prague 1

www.countrylife.cz

Restaurace Na Zlate Krizovatce

Prague Wandering Spring 2013 Issue Number 1

Photo by Maki Yazawa

Restaurace Na Zlaté Křižovatce is the only completely gluten free restaurant in Prague – a true gem of the city for Celiac sufferers. It also has a shop in the front of the store with Schär products. This restaurant offers a wide variety of meals and Celia, the same gluten-free beer offered at Svejk.  This eatery even offers gluten-free children’s meals.

For Poricskou gate 382, Prague 8

http://www.nazlatekrizovatce.cz/

La Cantina

While ordering meals that are not definitely gluten-free can be risky, googling “gluten-free” and the country you’re visiting can be quite helpful. In my search for restaurants at which I could actually eat, I discovered one blogger who traveled to Prague and found a Mexican restaurant where the staff was extremely accommodating to his condition. “I showed them my translation card and they were happy to explain what was made with corn which I could have,” the blog explained. The food at La Cantina received an excellent review from him. If you’re craving Mexican cuisine, I recommend bringing a translation card like he did.

Újezd 38, Prague 1
http://www.restauracecantina.cz/poledni-menu/

Maitrea

Tucked away on a narrow street behind Old Town Square, this vegetarian and vegan restaurant recognizes gluten allergies as well. Maitrea’s menu uses symbols to denote which dishes are safe for vegans, vegetarians and people with allergies, such as honey, onions and even gluten. Keep an eye out for the small square, which marks all gluten-free dishes on the menu. Be careful with the drinks though, which do not use any of the symbols. Some of the blended drinks and juices use young wheat and barley, which are not safe for people with Celiac disease. The waiters speak and understand English well, so finding a safe and delicious meal should be effortless.

Týnská ulička (ne ulice) 6, Prague 1

http://www.restaurace-maitrea.cz/

WHERE TO SHOP

It is always safest to eat at home if you’re unsure whether a restaurant has gluten-free options. Health food stores are usually a safe place to shop for gluten-free products and luckily there are many around Prague. Many of these shops offer the same, somewhat limited products, so visiting a few of the ones listed below should provide a good range of products.

Svet Zdravi

Surprisingly enough, Prague’s main train station, Praha Hlavni Nadrazi, has a health food shop with a wide variety of Celiac friendly options. The store, Svet Zdravi, sells Schär products, Bio products, and smaller brands’ bars and cookies, all carrying the ‘no gluten’ symbol on their packaging. The shop also has gluten-free lollipops, licorice and gummies.

Dlážděná 1003, Prague 1

http://www.svet-zdravi.cz

Drogerie Markt (dm)

Drogerie Markt (dm), a grocery store chain from Germany, also carries Schär products. The range of breads and crackers can be scarce depending on the overall size of the dm store, so try shopping at larger ones for a better selection.

Locations across Prague

http://www.dm-drogeriemarkt.cz

Tesco and Albert

Several main grocery chains also sell Celiac friendly products. Tesco sells packaged cookies and crackers by a company called Celi-Hope. Tesco also sells corn tortillas, but unfortunately the first ingredient is wheat flour.  Be careful when browsing their rice cake and corn cake selection as some of the wrappers have a wheat logo on them. Albert offers the same limited variety of products as Tesco.

Locations across Prague

http://www.itesco.cz/

http://www.albert.cz

Country Life

Country Life, in addition to being a restaurant chain, is also a health food store attached to the restaurant that offers vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free foods at reasonable prices. The stores sell two types of gluten-free bread products, Schär and Bezgluten. In the bread section of the store, Country Life also has fresh gluten-free bread – a rare find, even in the United States. There are also several chocolate bars, meal replacement bars and snack bars that are gluten-free. The products here are very trustworthy; Celiac sufferers should feel safe eating foods from Country Life’s stores.

Melantrichova 463, Prague 1

http://www.countrylife.cz/

Helpful Words and Translations

  • Barley – ječmen
  • I am a Celiac – mám celiakii
  • Gluten – lepek
  • Rye – žito
  • Triticale – tritikale
  • Wheat – pšenici

Czech Celiac Website

http://celiak.cz/en

Sami Wong is in the NYU Class of 2015, majoring in Nutrition and Dietetics.  Her hometown is Moraga, California.

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Categories: Food, Spring 2013 Issue Number 1

Author:The Prague Wandering

The Prague Wandering is an NYU based study abroad webzine- the only one of its kind. It focuses on issues in contemporary Czech culture and the city of Prague, exploring beyond the study abroad bubble.

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3 Comments on “A Celiac Sufferer’s Survival Guide”

  1. Jiri Donutil
    March 28, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    Just quick comment- most Czechs will not understand “mám celiakií”, but will if you say “jsem bezlepkovy/bezlepkova” (first is male, second female) and try to help

  2. zuz
    March 28, 2013 at 9:46 am #

    http://www.restauracepodolka.cz/nabidka/
    they offer gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan meals in their daily menu.

  3. Bobvy
    March 28, 2013 at 9:55 am #

    One advice from me. I was born in Czech Republic and to be honest, this is first time when I hear about celiakii and tritikale. I think that it is much better to use expression “bezlepková dieta”(gluten free diet) than specific medical term being a celiac. I don’t know, how that is in English speaking countries, but in CZE it is not common expression. And I even went to school with boy for 8 years, who has gluten free diet, and never heard from him anything like that. Plus Czech waitresses usually suck in knowing anything about food or drinks they sell, so, especially in cheaper restaurant, I wouldn’t get anything. For sure.

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