So as many of you know, one of my biggest concerns before coming to travel here was what I would be eating. That was a question I got a lot. After receiving a Celiac’s diagnosis Summer 2013, then an allergy/sensitivity test came up positive for a list of things, the biggest of which included: eggs, milk, cranberries, and a few more. And after further self-testing of diets, corn finally came up as an offender.
So wheat/gluten, eggs, milk, and corn are on my list of no-can-do’s and I move to a country whose main food staples are corn, eggs, dairy products, and wheat. Really, when I put it that way it sounds insane, but I was so determined to come back here I wasn’t going to hear any of it! Three days in I was sick. Although I spent the first day or so eating everything like normal, including dairy, eggs, and corn, my body finally realized that this was in fact a diet change and it was going to have none of it! So it rebelled and I was sick for 2 days. Of course, that meant my immune system was down as I fought off these foods my body was trying to get rid of and it was all I could eat (at first, and mostly because I was living with a family who didn’t quite grasp my diet requirements, and I was too kind to keep on having to explain). So after healing for 3 days, I got sick, again. And then again; Yes sick three times so far, though the second and third times were bacteria related – back to the immune system being down.
Anyways, even after all those problems, I can still say I’m actually quite impressed with the gluten free products available here in Guatemala! If nothing more than the labels I have found depicting “Libre de Gluten/Gluten Free.” And yes, it might have been on a bag of peanuts, but the fact that a developing nation has better product labeling for something that’s gluten free than the USofA currently does, I mean you really gotta give it to them on this one! And yet, that’s not where it stops! I have found so much gluten free stuff here in Panajachel. There are currently 2 stores I know of that have great gluten free selections, but I have a feeling you can find others if you look hard enough. The closest store to my hotel (name to come soon) is on Calle Santander, underneath Restaurante Jebel (which btw will be saved for another post but DO NOT EAT THERE – horrible service, slow, bad menu; just all around bad experience). In searching for gluten free food to buy & make (because eating out every day is expensive here!), I have found everything from rice pasta (pretty common), to quinoa (this seems a little less common-mostly because it’s Guatemala), to Bob’s Red Mill Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Mix and Bread mix (not so common). Yep, you read that right! Gluten Free cookie dough mix – propped up on the shelf like it’s nothing special. I have a feeling one of these days I’m going to be craving gluten free cookies (if you know me then you know I will be picking out the chocolate chips.) But seriously what a great selection.
If you don’t feel like making something gluten free at home, then you can just pop right over to on of the many gluten free friendly restaurants on Calle Santander. There’s Café Kitsche, the gluten free bakery on the main street (Calle Santander). Yes, you read that right, there’s a gluten free (German) bakery here with chocolate peanut butter cookies, carrot cake, macaroons, bread, and more – all gluten free! And of course they have non-gluten free options (which honestly probably taste better.) Panajachel certainly caters to a tourist community, but I’m not complaining simply because of things like this. Oh and truffles. They have homemade truffles in all kinds of flavors: Bailey’s, mandarin orange, Kahlua, mint, spicy chili… SO many delicious options! Then there’s the crepe place, which has gluten free crepes, the way crepes SHOULD be made. And the crepes are delicious! I had a chicken, cheese and spinach pesto crepe, paired with a piña licuado. La Pitaya is also a great gluten free option mostly because I’m obsessed with their smoothie list. Licuados (smoothies) are very common at pretty much every restaurant you will visit, but La Pitaya takes it to the next level! My beverage choice last time: Mango Tango (made with mango, ginger, and mint) was delicious! And they have at least 30 other crazy combinations available for your dining pleasure, along with a great soup and salad selection. And they sometimes have a gluten free menu, which wasn’t available when I went, but honestly the smoothies make up for the missing gluten free items, and it’s really the thought that counts. 🙂
I have plenty more recommendations for anyone who plans on coming to Panajachel, or Guatemala in general and has to, or wants to, eat gluten free. You are not alone and you are not helpless! There are options! I have been able to eat plenty. Also, if you’re someone who is just sensitive to things like gluten, maybe you just get a small stomachache or get acne – then you might actually want to try the bread products here. It seems that the products here, like corn and gluten, aren’t as chocked full of all the chemicals we have in our foods at home in the states. As someone who was diagnosed with such a sever intolerance, and yet still managed to eat a piece of wheat bread, either I’m cured or the wheat products aren’t as damaging to my body as in the US. Also, I’m not a doctor, so if you think it’s a bad idea, then by all means stay away from what you know is bad for you. No need to ruin a trip because of some advice from a girl who still got sick in Guatemala. Either way, no matter what – severe gluten sensitivity or if you’re just staying away from gluten as a healthy diet choice, you’re going to do fine here! Oh and Panajachel is pretty vegan friendly too, if you’re looking for that.
P.S. A little treat to add. I found these in the Main gluten free grocery store and they are my weakness. So even though they were a bit pricey, I caved and now can enjoy chocolate covered deliciousness whenever I want! I mean they’re healthy right? So it’s not that bad 😉