For people with celiac disease (an autoimmune disorder), or those avoiding gluten by choice, restaurant dining can be very challenging. Here are some tips on how to stay gluten-free when eating out:
- Get acquainted with the gluten-free diet. To dine out safely, know what grains to avoid, the hidden sources of gluten and how to avoid cross-contamination. Cross-contamination occurs when foods or ingredients come into contact with gluten, generally through shared utensils or a shared cooking/storage environment. For example, restaurants may use toasters for both gluten-free and regular bread.
- Review restaurants. Look online for celiac-friendly/gluten-free restaurants (www.glutenfreeregistry.com). Or download one of many apps available for your cell phone. Review menus online. Call the restaurant, during its non-busy hours. Discuss your menu choices with the staff.
- Speak with your servers. Tell them you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity and ask if they understand what that means. If they don’t, tell them that you can’t eat anything that has flour, breadcrumbs or soy sauce. If you do, you will become very sick. Remind servers that your food must be prepared on a clean cooking surface, with clean utensils. If your servers do not understand, speak with the restaurant manager or the chef.
- Have a backup plan. Don’t assume that anything is gluten-free. Even if a menu item looks safe, you might not realize that the chef’s secret recipe includes gluten. If you’re not sure about a dish, ask the chef to sauté some plain meat or fish in olive oil or butter and steam some vegetables for you. Or bring gluten-free foods such as bread, crackers or pasta with you. Ask the chef to cook in a clean pot.
- Tip well and tell others. If you have a positive experience at a restaurant, share the good news with others online. Express your gratitude with your servers, the chef and the manager.
Did you know? Many prescriptions contain gluten. Tell your pharmacist that your medications must be gluten-free. Remind them every time you get a prescription filled. Get the drug company’s phone number and call it yourself.