5 Options for Gluten-Free Restaurant Cards

These cards explain the gluten-free diet in many different languages

gluten-free restaurant cards app
© CeliacTravel.com

When dining out gluten-free, especially in another country (or even in an ethnic restaurant in your own town), language obviously is a barrier to getting the safe meal you need. That's why many people with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity have developed restaurant cards that explain the gluten-free diet in a variety of languages.

The idea is that you carry these cards (or pull up electronic versions on your phone), and then provide them to the chef or manager at a restaurant to explain exactly what foods you can eat (and can't) eat.

Restaurant cards are pretty essential if you're really hungry but don't happen to be fluent in the local language. They're not perfect (restaurants still can make mistakes), but they definitely help improve your odds of getting a gluten-free meal.

Restaurant cards are included in several travel books aimed at the gluten-free community, and they're sold by a variety of vendors. The explanations and translations vary in their level of detail and thoroughness. I've listed five sources for the cards below—review them to see which might work most effectively for you.

1. Celiac Travel

Celiac Travel offers free, printable restaurant cards in 54 languages, ranging from Albanian to Vietnamese. The cards aren't as detailed as some others (they don't list specific dishes or ingredients that contain gluten), but they cover the basics... and did I mention they're free? The owner of the site (who does ask for Paypal donations) has celiac disease and also has compiled various well thought-out tips and advice for those who travel gluten-free.

If you're planning a trip off the beaten path, this site should be your first stop.

For those who prefer to keep the information on their phones instead of in paper form, Celiac Travel also offers a free iPhone app (available on the iTunes store) that includes images of the cards in 40 languages.

2. Triumph Dining

Triumph Dining sells laminated gluten-free restaurant cards in English, Chinese, French, Greek, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Thai and Vietnamese, in addition to disposable cards with English on one side and Spanish on the other (meant to be given to restaurant staff members). Their cards list hidden sources of gluten specific to national cuisines.

3. Special Gourmets

This site offers free restaurant cards in English, Spanish, and Portuguese that briefly explain the gluten-free diet, and provide space on the back for you to personalize the cards by writing in particular dishes you cannot have. Special Gourmets also has versions of the cards for those with other allergies, including: milk, eggs, soy, wheat, shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts.

4. Dietary Card (U.K.)

Dietary Card sells several different types of dietary alert cards, including gluten-free diet cards and cards that can be customized to include the gluten-free diet along with other food allergies and sensitivities. Their cards are available in Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese, Czech, English, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Thai and Turkish. Prices are in British pounds but the company does sell internationally.

5. Allergy Translation

Allergy Translation sells customized downloadable cards in 43 different languages you can use in restaurants and in stores. The cards warn about single or multiple allergies (the options include more than 200 foods, ranging from the most common allergies to very rare ones). They also allow you to specify the severity of your allergies. In addition, Allergy Translation offers free “Chef Sheets” with cross-contamination warnings. Available languages include: Arabic, Bengali, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French,  German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Latvian, Lithuanian, Malay, Macedonian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian Simplified Chinese, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog (The Philippines), Thai, Traditional Chinese, Turkish, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese.

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