5 Tips for Eating Out Gluten Free
One of the biggest learning curves in adhering to a gluten free diet is figuring out how to eat out in restaurants and social settings. I mean when it comes down to it, you are putting your well being in someone else’s hands, you are trusting a stranger to take every precaution necessary to ensure you don’t get sick. It is a BIG ask and it can be scary as hell. But living in fear definitely isn’t a choice at all! So let’s tackle what it takes to eat out so you can feel safe and confident treating yourself as often as you please.
1. First things first, you need to make sure you know the in’s and out’s eating of gluten free. You cannot expect anyone else to be able to help you unless you are willing and able to help yourself. Make sure you understand the gluten free diet thoroughly including what products gluten may be hiding in.
A great example of this that I have run into over and over again is soy sauce. Many waiters/waitresses have looked at me like, “Are you for real?” when I told them I couldn’t consume soy sauce because of the wheat. Therefore, it is important for you to know what you can and cannot eat. Just saying, “I’m celiac” Or “I need to eat gluten free” isn’t enough. You need to be ready to politely educate others.
2. If possible, plan ahead. If you know where you are going to eat ahead of time, call them! Speaking with the chef isn’t always possible but speaking with the FoH (front of house) manager or kitchen manager typically does the trick. Let them know that you are Celiac/gluten free and are curious to know what options they offer, if any. Ask them any questions from Step #3 below that apply to you or your situation.
Lastly, inform them if you will be dining with them and give them a specific date, time, and number of guests. This information will help in introducing yourself when you get to the restaurant and serve as a little reminder that you need to eat gluten free.
Before hanging up, kill whomever helped you with kindness, thank them for all their assistance and let them know it will be a pleasure to be able to dine out safely. Showing appreciation goes a long in having managers and their staff take you seriously.
3. Whether you’ve called ahead or just showed up, it’s always good to have an arsenal of questions ready to go. Remember, your intention is not to undermine whom you’re speaking with or outsmart them; it is solely to figure out if you can consume food at their restaurant safely.
Therefore, if someone doesn’t know but is willing to figure it out, let them! It will benefit everyone to have the correct answer. If they don’t know and aren’t willing to look into it, do not lose it. Simply thank them for their time but let them know you will not be dining at their establishment.
Not everyone is going to know, care, appreciate, or understand, and that is okay. Besides, you’d rather eat somewhere that is willing to bend over backwards to accommodate you!
Below are a few questions and comments you can use when calling ahead, just arriving at a restaurant, or when speaking to your server about gluten free menu options.
- Do you have a gluten free menu?
- Are there any menu items that you could recommend for a gluten free diet?
- I have Celiac Disease and need to avoid gluten-containing foods and cross contamination at all costs. Would you be able to help me order to ensure my meal is safe?
- Has your staff had cross-contamination training?
- Is your staff aware of cross-contamination issues?
- Is the griddle cleaned in between cooking GF meals and non-GF meals?
- Even better, do you have a separate cooking space for GF foods?
- Are your pots and pans cleaned thoroughly before preparing GF foods? Or do you use a separate set?
- Has your staff had allergy awareness training?
- How are allergies communicated to the kitchen staff?
- Can you please have your employees do a glove change?
- I see your french fries are labeled GF, are they done in a dedicated fryer?
- Are you fries made fresh in house or do they come frozen? If frozen, can you confirm for me they aren’t coated in flour before freezing?
- I see your Potato Soup is GF, just to be sure, no flour was used to thicken the sauce?
- Wow, this pad thai looks amazing! I know soy sauce is often used to make peanut sauce, is this peanut sauce soy sauce free?
- Man, I love chicken wings, are yours breaded? Baked or fried? Is the fryer dedicated for gluten free foods only?
- Do you season your meats from scratch or are you using premade seasonings? Would you mind if I looked at the bottle to ensure its gluten free?
- Do you use separate cutting boards for bread? Vegetables? Meat? I will need a clean cutting board used when preparing my meal, is this possible?
- Thank you for much for you time today. Unfortunately, I do not believe it will be safe for me to eat at your restaurant.
- Thank you so much for your time, energy, and effort! I truly appreciate you and your staff going above and beyond, not only did I feel safe eating here but the food was fantastic. I can’t wait to come back again soon! (Leave nice tip.)
Remember, do not be rude, snarky, or inpatient; your server is trying to help you to the best of their ability. Also, you want them to have a fond memory of a time when they helped that amazing gluten free client! That way, the server will be just as kind and ever more knowledgeable as time goes on, creating a restaurant environment that celiac can and will feel safe in over time.
4. When possible, chose to eat at smaller restaurants that cook everything from scratch or are farm to table. The fresher the ingredients, the more likely it is that they are gluten free (or at least that the restaurant can accommodate it).
If you do love fast food, here are a few links that guide you through eating out at fast food restaurants:
5. When all else fails, have back-up snacks. I always carry a few protein bars and nuts around with me. This is NOT the perfect substitute for a meal but it will surely hold you over until you can get to somewhere safe to eat. It’s better to be safe than sorry, it’s that simple.
Eating a gluten free diet does not need to hinder you or your social life, it just means you need to be more assertive as to what exactly you need. Remember to communicate clearly and effectively with your server by letting them know how serious your allergy is, educating them on what you can and cannot eat, and by asking lots questions. And above all else, be kind and appreciative of the help and assistance you receive.
Lick The Bowl, It’s Gluten Free!