Dining out at restaurants or someone else’s home can present challenges, but here are a few tips and cautionary reminders to make your dining experience enjoyable and healthy.
Try to choose restaurants that have a gluten-free menus. More and more restaurants are obtaining certification or training in preparing gluten-free menu options. This is important because you will have confidence that the restaurant has taken precautions to create options that use gluten-free ingredients prepared in a way that prevents cross-contamination. You can find a list of restaurants that have obtained this type of certification by searching websites such as the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, the Gluten Free Certification Organization, and the Celiac Sprue Association.
Of course, not all restaurants have this type of certification, but may still offer a gluten-free menu. And, some restaurants are more careful regarding cross-contamination of gluten, so it makes sense to ask questions before ordering. It’s helpful to do your research ahead of time, if possible, by checking out the restaurants websites as well as calling ahead and inquiring about their menu and food preparation regarding gluten-free offerings. For example, you might ask if fried foods are made in a dedicated fryer? Are gluten-free items prepared in a separate, dedicated area using dedicated pots, pans and utensils or are these cleaned thoroughly between uses? Is the grill cleaned before gluten-free foods are made?
Always let your server know you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance and need to avoid anything with wheat, including flour, breading, soy sauce or teriyaki sauce, and seasoning that might contain flour. Keep in mind that if you are ordering a salad, croutons are made from bread (flour), unless they are specifically made gluten-free, so be aware of hidden gluten-containing options that may otherwise appear on your gluten-free order.
If unsure about gluten-free options at a restaurant, a plain baked potato is a better choice than fried potatoes. Plain vegetables and fruit are also good choices.
Dining in someone else’s home
While some friends and relatives will be aware of your diet needs and work with you to make sure there is something you can eat. others are less aware, and could even be defensive.
Once you ascertain where things stand, you can take steps to make sure you and your host both enjoy the food and the company. Always, always call ahead to see if there is something you can bring. In fact, it is a good idea to always bring something, thus ensuring you’ll have at least one gluten-free choice. If your host is interested in preparing a gluten-free item, suggest something simple. Many potato and rice dishes fall into this category, as do some ethnic recipes.
A few tips:
Providing a disposable serving spoon for any gluten-free food that you bring will help avoid cross-contamination. Discuss that the items is gluten free and that the spoon should not be shared with other dishes. Guests may have preconceived notions about the gluten-free offering, and might avoid it. However, If you bring something like cupcakes or another food that comes in an individual serving size, you don’t have this worry and it can be interesting to see if people enjoy the food if they don’t know it’s gluten free.
When dining at the home of someone whom you don’t know well, it’s a good idea to eat beforehand just in case nothing is gluten free. You can always sample anything at the host’s home that you find that just happens to fit the diet. When the food is served, inquire about dishes that look like they might be gluten free and ask the host about ingredients and preparation.
And finally, it’s always a good idea to have some substantial back-up snacks in your purse, car or bag to tide you over if you find yourself dining somewhere that doesn’t offer an acceptable gluten-free food choice. Plan ahead as much as possible.