If learning to read an ingredient list to check for gluten can be intimidating, then learning to navigate a restaurant menu can be even more so! Don’t be afraid – by asking the right questions you can safely enjoy dinner out.
It doesn’t hurt to do a little research before heading out the door. If a restaurant knows you’re coming they may be more prepared to feed you. Check out the 'Celiac Scene' for gluten free-friendly restaurants in your area:www.theceliacscene.com.
Don’t sidestep around the issue: tell your server exactly what you need. Be sure to specify that you need gluten free, not just wheat free. Other grains contain gluten too so you need to be clear about this. Gluten free means no wheat, rye, barley, triticale or any ingredients made from or with those grains. Commercial oats are out as well, unless they are certified pure and uncontaminated.
Ask About Food Preparation
Unless you find a restaurant that only does gluten free meals you need to ask how foods are prepared as there are many opportunities for gluten contamination. If the restaurant offers gluten free pasta make sure it’s cooked in separate water and rinsed in a separate colander. If they serve toast, make sure they have a toaster dedicated to gluten free breads. If they serve fries, make sure they use a fryer dedicated to gluten free foods. Don’t let a few crumbs of gluten ruin your dinner out!
Ask About Ingredients
Not everyone knows what ingredients may contain gluten. Make sure to read the menu and ask about any cooking method or ingredient you are unsure of. Here are some examples of foods and ingredients you should ask about:
- Soups (broth)
- Sauces and marinades (thickeners, Worcestershire sauce, BBQ sauces, etc)
- Ground meat patties or loafs (fillers and bread crumbs)
- Salads (salad dressing and croutons!)
- Breaded coatings
- Deli style meats
Unfortunately there are no ‘cheat’ days with celiac. If you have celiac disease the above tips are all things you must do consistently in order to eat out safely. If you’re following a gluten free or wheat free diet for other reasons, you may feel comfortable having a bit of gluten here and there. Keep in mind it can be confusing for the restaurant staff if you order a gluten free meal and then sample the (regular) bread basket. For those with celiac disease who must consistently follow a gluten free diet, it’s essential to impress upon restaurants the importance of avoiding gluten completely.