For those with any kind of gluten intolerance, dining out at restaurants can seem daunting. Supposedly gluten-free dishes may be contaminated by flour or gluten-containing sauces during the preparation process. The following are some tips for dining out with celiac disease:
1) Check beforehand if the restaurant serves gluten-free options. The Internet is an amazing resource and chances are someone has reviewed your restaurant’s ability to handle the gluten-free diet. If that fails, the restaurant may have its phone number listed – go ahead and give them a call. And you never know, there’s a pretty good chance nowadays that the restaurant even has an exclusively gluten-free menu.
2) Inform the wait staff. Let them know you have celiac disease and ask if they understand what that means. If they don’t, give a short explanation. Include common foods and ingredients (such as flour, bread crumbs, and sauces) that staff might not immediately realize contain gluten. Note the importance of preventing cross contamination.
2a) Be assertive, but polite. Answer as many questions as possible! Happy staff means better service. If you can teach a server how to deal with gluten-free eaters then you’ve added another safe place to eat for those with celiac disease.
3) Order easy dishes. The fact is, keeping gluten out of food entirely can be very tough for a fully operational restaurant. Try to stick with more familiar entrees that can be made sans-gluten without too much worry. Avoid dishes with sauces and dressing, unless the restaurant can confirm the additions are gluten free.
3a) Be prepared to eat something that isn’t your first choice. It may be a pain now, but realize that next time you come the restaurant will (hopefully) be better equipped to handle the gluten-free diet.
4) Bring in your own sauces, breads, and crackers. This works even better when you call ahead and inform the restaurant of your diet. Bringing food allows you to snack at the table (particularly nice if everyone else is eating bread) and substitute for gluten-filled ingredients.
5) Double check all dishes. Many foods may contain hidden sources of gluten that may be overlooked at first. It never hurts to double check!
6) Don’t be afraid. Go out and enjoy yourself! The gluten-free diet becomes easier and easier to handle with experience. It’s tough to find a restaurant nowadays that doesn’t serve at least a few gluten-free dishes!
7) Stay positive! There are plenty of gluten-free options available for you to enjoy. Take advantage and see every outing as an opportunity to try something new and be creative!