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For the over 2 million people in the United States living with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance, dining out can be a difficult challenge rather than an enjoyable evening out. The key to dining out gluten-free is planning ahead.

Know your condiments

Know what foods are safe for your diet. Seemingly innocent condiments and sauces, such as soy sauce, can contain wheat.

Carry a food list or food guide to help you navigate unfamiliar condiments. Double check the ingredients in sauces that the restaurant serves with your meal. Gravies and sauces can be made with cornstarch or arrowroot which are safe choices or with wheat flour which will contaminate your gluten-free meal. When in doubt, leave it out.

Best bets for restaurants

While a few restaurants especially in larger cities may have gluten-free menus it is necessary for the gluten-free diner to be prepared for limited or non-existent gluten-free menus.

If you have the opportunity to choose the restaurant yourself, dining out is much easier. Many ethnic restaurants have menu items that are naturally gluten-free. Consider Mexican restaurants with corn tortillas, fresh salsas and grilled meats. Or choose Chinese restaurants which often use cornstarch for thickening sauces along with plenty of meats, vegetables and rice. Even Italian restaurants can be an option if you consider dishes like polenta.

If you can’t choose the restaurant yourself, read the menu carefully and look for items with the fewest ingredients possible and talk to the restaurant staff about the ingredients.

Make friends with restaurant staff

When dining out gluten-free, the restaurant staff is your greatest resource. Don’t be afraid to let the wait staff or chef know that you have a serious food allergy. Restaurant staff is generally more willing to go the extra mile for a diner with a medical need than for someone that they determine to be picky or difficult.

Ask lots of questions about how food is prepared. Cross contamination is one of the biggest challenges when dining out. Gluten-free foods that are prepared on grills or in fryers where gluten foods have been prepared may become contaminated. Since many wait staff and chefs do not have training in special diets, it is the diner’s responsibility to provide clear instructions about their order including insisting that bread or croutons are not served with the salad course.

Adhering to a gluten-free diet does not mean that you will never be able to enjoy special meals out with friends and family. Plan ahead, know your options and make friends with the restaurant staff and you will be able to enjoy dining out on occasion.

Source:

  1. Coeliac disease
  2. Cleveland Clinic Diet
  3. What is Celiac Disease? – Celiac Disease Foundation

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