This part of my life began when my very sick partner was diagnosed with Celiac. Even the slightest exposure to gluten can make him very ill for several days, so I have pursued gluten-free options with thorough aggression. In the U.S. a recent surge of gluten awareness means we have more choices than ever, but it still means hunting and analyzing and tracking down parent companies. After several years now of doing so, I want to share my tricks and tips with others who are still struggling.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Gluten-Free in Trondheim, Norway (Part 4: Daily Grocery Shopping)

See my Gluten-Free Travel page for the whole series.  

Part 4: Daily Grocery Shopping

Maybe you'll get into a really swanky place with a full-size fridge, but the majority of places we looked at have a mini-fridge with two shelves, a tiny crisper drawer, and a little shelf space for a freezer.  For two people, there is room for about two days worth of food, maximum.  That's okay though, because fruits and vegetables here don't seem to store as well as in the U.S., and you should plan to use what you buy quickly.  U.S. habits of weekly shopping go out the window. 

The exception is Sunday, when only convenience stores are really open (7-11, some mini-Bunnpris).  These might have milk, but not many other gluten-free items.

The good news is that the vast majority of Norwegians, especially younger folks, speak excellent English and are happy to switch to English if you ask. 

Things you won't easily find here, that you might be used to finding in a grocery store in the U.S.:
  • Trash bags (you buy shopping bags for one kroner at the store, and re-use them for trash and recycling)
  • Vanilla extract (you can use vanilla sugar (vaniljesukker) in the same amount as extract)
  • Sudafed (prescription-only) or oral decongestants like Dayquil.  Norwegians either tough it out, or use nasal sprays to treat symptoms.
Grocery stores usually carry a small selection of cleaning supplies and hygiene items, but you will need to visit a specialty store for some things:
  • OTC meds, mouthwash, vitamins, first-aid supplies:  Visit an apotek (drugstore)
  • Cleaning utensils such as brooms and mops, kitchen utensils, etc:  find a hardware store, such as Jernia or Clas Ohlson
  • Alcohol:  some light beer is available in grocery stores, but all alcohol over 4.75% is only sold in the state-run Vinmonopolet shops, which are not plentiful and have odd hours.

As I mentioned in the last post, these are the grocery stores in Trondheim with excellent gluten-free selections:
  •     Bunnpris
  •     Rema 1000
  •     Kiwi (best produce prices)
  •     Meny (has the best overall selection)
 Look for the closest one using Google Maps; preferably within walking distance.

These stores usually have a full set of shelves of gluten-free items all clustered together.  You still need to read labels though, as they might stick some other special dietary items (like vegetarian) in the same area that are not gluten-free. 


By law, products with less than 100ppm gluten can be labeled Svært lavt gluteninnhold, or "very low gluten."  These might be suitable for people with light reactivity.  Products with less than 20ppm can be labeled gluten-free:


These are all different ways to say gluten-free, depending on the origin of the product (Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, etc.).  In addition, there may be a little picture of an ear of wheat with a circle and cross through it:
Allergen labeling in Norway is fantastic.  If a label has bold-font items, they are potential allergens, and we have found that we can generally trust them to disclose gluten ingredients.  Look for variants on these words:
  • Wheat:  hvete  (don't confuse with hvite, which is "white" or hvitelok, which is "garlic")
    • variants:  hvetemel (wheat flour), hvetestivelse (wheat starch, may be low or no gluten but cause those with wheat allergy to react), durumhvete (duram wheat), Kamut (species of wheat), Enkorn (species of wheat), hvetekli (wheat bran)
  • Barley: bygg
    • variants: byggmel (barley flour), byggmalt (barley malt)
  • Rye: rug
    • variants: rugmel (rye flour)
  • Triticale:  tritikale, a rye/wheat hybrid found in northern Europe and Scandinavia. 
  • Spelt (same as English)
  •  Farro:  emmer 
  • Oats: havre (only an issue if you are high sensitivity or cross-sensitive) 
In addition, there may be a "may contain" warning after the ingredients list.  It will read "kan inneholde <gluten, etc.>" or mention "traces of" (spor av).  "Ikke" negates whatever is after it, so "Ikke inneholde" would mean "does not contain."

We have not yet had an issue with packaged plain raw meat or vegetables having gluten cross-contamination, but tend to wash them off before cooking to be safe. 

At first, your daily trips may involve a lot of time staring at package labels.  After a few trips, you'll have a few favorite brands you buy, and the trip will get faster.  Remember to ask for the number of bags you'll need at the checkout.  They'll cost 1 kroner each, but are nice and sturdy, so they can be re-used either for future trips or trash can liners. 

Next: Recipes

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