Be Aware, But Let’s Go Out To Eat
Gluten Free is more than a lifestyle – while some people are going gluten free by choice, others actually have been recommended by their doctor because of many different reasons.
Luckily, gluten free awareness has grown, and the market has boomed in the last few years, and eateries offer more and more gluten free options. However just because a restaurant claims to provide gluten free meals does not mean you should blindly trust it without doing some homework.
Many places are trying to accommodate but are not properly educated, so YOU need to go through a vetting process to make sure you will have a safe experience. Here are some basics:
- If you’re completely new to the Gluten Free diet, make a list of the restaurants where you eat regularly, and revisit their menu to see if they have any options that can accommodate you. As sad as it sounds, there will be a bit of letting go in this stage as not every restaurant will have safe options.
- Download a gluten free restaurant app. Many members of our organization have been using “Find Me GF” (you can find this link in our helpful sites and apps section of this site), and absolutely love it. Again, do not blindly trust it just because it’s listed there. Look up the restaurant menu and call them ahead of time (if you have the time) to confirm they accommodate GF. A change in management or vendor or any other factor can affect a menu so ALWAYS double and triple check.
Questions to ask when calling the restaurant:
- Do you offer any gluten free options for diners with an allergy?
(Although gluten intolerance or celiac disease are not an allergy, in some incidences this the fastest way to get the staff’s attention because the term allergy implies physical harm if that product is consumed.)
- If yes – do you have a separate dedicated area and cookware to cook the gluten free meals?
If the answer is no, then chances are your food will be cross-contaminated because it is prepared in areas and cookware also used to prepared meals that contain gluten.
- If you are planning to order anything fried, ask if the restaurant is using a dedicated fryer.
Although potatoes are gluten free before they are dumped into the fryer, they can easily be contaminated if the same fryer is also used for breaded fried food, such as onion rings, fried chicken, etc… If they do not have a dedicated fryer, ask if they fry anything breaded in the same fryer. If not you should be fine. For example, Five Guys Burger fries are gluten free if you order the plain version. The Cajun seasoning is not gluten free but they season the fries AFTER they’ve been fried so there is no cross contamination. Again, ALWAYS check and ask when you order.
- ALWAYS tell your server you are gluten free and confirm your meal can be made gluten free, even if the menu says “GF”.
Some restaurants may not be properly educated and label something as gluten free when it’s not. For example, this is what one of our members told us about a recent experience they just had…
“One time I ordered a salad that was supposed to be gluten free and it had Farro in it. I was at one of those gourmet burger places where you order and pay at the counter. The person who took my order said Farro was some form of root vegetable, but when my meal was served, it was clearly Farro, the pasta-like grain that definitely has gluten.” It was an honest mistake on her end, but that’s why you MUST be your own advocate. QUESTION EVERYTHING.
- Unless the restaurant markets itself as a “100% dedicated gluten free facility”, do not rely on the server or staff to know everything there is to know about gluten.
YOU are your own advocate and you need to be asking the questions that will ensure you have a safe meal. If you don’t do your homework before hand, do not get upset at the server or staff for not knowing that the dressing they serve with that salad may contain maltodextrin which may be wheat based. When in doubt, leave it out and ask for basics, like a few slices of lemon to squeeze on your salad or olive oil and vinegar.
- While it’s not always possible, call the restaurant to ask these questions ahead of time rather than doing it on the spot when it’s rush hour.
Preparation will always improve your chances of having a safe meal, especially at the beginning.
One of our members created a Quick Guide To Gluten Free Diet, and gave us permission to share it with you.
Download and print “Quick Guide To Gluten Free Diet