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Nov 29, 2011 04:18 PM

Food allergy question

I am traveling to Rome, Venice & Florence in January. I have food allergies/sensitivities to gluten, soy, dairy and nightshade vegetables. I'm concerned about hidden soy (especially) in my foods. Any advice from the travel-wise? I've never been to Europe.

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  1. Can you do it. Of course. Is it going to be easy... no; it will be very difficult. No pasta, no cheese, no tomatoes, no peppers. Basically fish, meat, green vegetables. That's all good, very good, but restrictive in terms of Italian food... particularly no tomatoes

    3 Replies
    1. re: allende

      Does anyone know if soy is hidden in foods so commonly as it is here? Does Italian food contain so much "natural" flavoring (soy lecithin) and do they cook so much with soybean oil? I know it will not be easy. It's very difficult even here. Just wondered if anyone out there has dealt with this?

      1. re: Sherree

        there was a thread on the soy issue recently - you will probably see it if you look below this thread. If you stay away from processed packaged foods it should not be such an issue.

        Personally, I think you are going to have a very hard time with your diet since so many staples (wheat) and common seasonings (tomatoes - cheese - butter) are in your list. If you have spinach, you have to be careful it is dressed with olive oil and not butter, for example.

        you will be well off in a place like venice, which has very simple fish preparations, with olive oil and lemon, - also polenta (corn) and risotto (though you would have to watch out for butter and cheese additions. Simple grilled meats would be good - plain cannellini beans with oil and herbs could be ok, but most soup and bean dishes would be suspect due to possible use of tomatoes. Tried potatoes could be good depending on the frying medium.

        You need to be really realistic about the degree of your sensitivity and carry a card with you.
        IOn the bright side, taly is good on celiac sensitivity

        good luck!

    2. Hello Sherree,

      My wife is allergic to soy in all forms and we had no problems in 2 trips to Italy over the past 2 years. Soy is not as ubiquitous in Europe as it is here in the US. Soybean oil is often used when things are deep fried so that needs to be avoided and of course chocolate always has lecithin in it. She had no problems with breads in Italy that are often made at small local bakeries without lecithin. But if you can't have gluten that won't matter. Same with pastries, most often we found everything made with butter or lard and not veg shortening containing soy, but again your gluten problem makes that point moot as well.

      Most restaurants we visited used olive oil exclusively for sauteing etc and not blended veg oil. Fresh, non-industrially processed food was the norm so it was no problem avoiding the “natural flavors” found in over-processed American foods.

      We carried a card in Italian, explaining in detail that she could not eat soy, soybean oil, soy lecithin, mayonnaise or shortening (“grasso vegetale”), and had zero problems. On our second trip this year, we felt comfortable enough to even stop using the card in many places.

      We are also lactose intolerant but have no problem if we take lactase pills before eating soft cheese, gelato or cappucino.

      Can't help you with the gluten issue, but it is now so common that you should be able to find places that have gluten free menus. This place was not our favorite in Florence, but the meal was pretty good overall and I remember they had a gluten free menu:

      I expect with some research you might be able to find other places that have gluten free menus. The website posted above mentions the “Italian Celiac Association” so you might want to contact them for a list of recommendations.

      Aside from meat dishes (like bistecca, etc) that will be safe for you eat, at a “Celiac approved” restaurant you will likely find pasta made from legume flour that can be quite tasty and I have not been to Venice, but would guess that you could find decent risotto or other rice dished there (risi e bisi?).

      Good luck!

      1 Reply