Whether you eat a gluten free diet because you suffer from Celiac disease or are just one of the millions of Americans who suffer the side effects of being intolerant to wheat, eating out can be a minefield.
Gluten free dieters have even more of a difficult job than low carb dieters when it comes to dining out, because wheat is used in so many food products, to thicken, flavor and stabilize food. Celiacs also have the added issue of cross contamination to contend with so have to be extra careful when it comes to dining out.
Thankfully the catering world is fast becoming more aware of Celiacs and is starting to label their menus and products a lot better and train their staff to be aware of the needs of Celiacs, but it’s not always easy to spot foods that may contain gluten.
Do Your Homework
Make sure that you’re aware of the types of food products and meals which may contain gluten. Also be aware of foods that could have been cross-contaminated with gluten – ie fries that have been cooked in the same oil as breaded products. Most sauces unless labelled as ‘gluten free’ will probably have been thickened using some wheat product so it’s usually wise to give these a wide berth.
Stick with foods you know won’t contain gluten – un-breaded meat and fish, potatoes, vegetables, rice and salad without dressing or croutons are usually safe bets. If in doubt ask your server to check with the chef.
Local Celiac groups and internet forums will be a great place to find celiac-friendly restaurants. Don’t forget to spread the word yourself when you come across an eatery that caters for your needs.
Reseach Your Restaurant
Ring a restaurant up in advance to ensure that they can cater for your needs, or ask them to email you a copy of their menu so you make sure you can order something you know will be gluten free.
If you’re planning on going to an Italian restaurant – why not ring and ask if they’ll prepare some gluten free pasta for you, or take your own for them to cook along with one of their fresh sauces.
Know Which Questions to Ask
If you are in any doubt as to whether a menu item may contain gluten you’ll need to get your server to check with the chef. Here’s a list of questions to ask that will ensure that you don’t accidentally consume any gluten.
Does the Salad come with croutons? Can they be left off?
What is in the Salad Dressing?
Is the soup home-made or canned – if canned, ask to see a can so you can read the label
Has the fish or meat been marinated – if so, what in?
Has anything been dusted with flour?
Are the French Fries cooked in the same oil as breaded products?
Do you use imitation crabmeat or seafood?
Does the ice cream come with a wafer or cookie?
Are the mash potatoes made from scratch or from a mix?
Can this meal be served without the sauce?
Accept That You May Have to eat a Fairly Bland Meal
Sometime the best option will be to get the chef to prepare a piece of plain meat or fish with some side vegetables and potatoes. It won’t necessarily be the greatest culinary experience you’ll have, but it will ensure that you have a good night out with your friends or family and not have to worry about getting ill.