Gluten Free Dining Out

When you’re gluten free and dining out, those with a gluten sensitivity or Celiac Disease are often taking a big risk in coming in contact with gluten. Unfortunately, most servers and cooks are very uneducated about the dangers of gluten and the ways that one can come in contact with it. A few simple rules to follow when gluten free dining out include:

  • When possible become educated on the restaurant where you’ll be eating and try to avoid restaurants that are particularly busy if possible. When deciding where to eat, it’s always a good idea to call ahead during slower times to speak with a manager or the chef prior to dining to get an idea of what their steps are for preventing cross contamination.
  • Speak to the manager or server before ordering to see if they have current practices in force to prevent cross contamination. If there are no practices in force, you’re dining at your own risk and may be better off finding another restaurant or simply bringing your own meal (yes it sounds silly but it’s better than getting sick). Fortunately many restaurants do have gluten-free menu options, however this is not a guarantee that the cooks behind the scenes truly understand or care about your Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
  • When ordering, make sure that your server understands your food needs. Don’t downplay your sensitivity as they need to know that it is serious. Dr. Jason Kremer recommends always letting the staff know that you have a severe reaction to any potential cross-contamination with very serious health complications. Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease and only takes a very small amount (1/8th the amount of you thumb nail) to cause an immune and inflammatory response. Those who “feel” sick after consuming gluten are fortunate, as these individuals have a built-in warning system much like a smoke alarm. Unfortunately, many who suffer from the detrimental consequences of gluten don’t necessarily feel a significant difference although the inflammatory response and level of damage is the same.
  • Request your server educate the cooks and food prep staff about using CLEAN frying oils, cutting boards, utensils, grills, and work space to avoid cross contamination. If your needs cannot be fulfilled, a simple solution is to instruct your meal to be cooked in foil to prevent it from coming in contact with gluten.
  • When ordering your meal, avoid sauces and fried items when possible. Fried items are often fried in oil that has held gluten-containing foods. In addition, sauces (soy, salad dressings, bbq, marinades) can often have gluten hidden in them without the cooks and servers knowing. Please note that sometimes gluten-free noodles can even be cooked in the same water as wheat noodles.
  • Make note that most chain restaurants have little control over the ingredients in their foods as food often comes to them pre-marinated or seasoned so they have little control over making your meal 100% gluten- free. Many restaurants do seem to be making an effort to have gluten-free options on hand, however it is up to you to ask questions and make sure that you know what is in the food that you’re ordering.
  • Carry a gluten-free dining card to give to your serve and cooks to provide basic information about your dietary needs.
  • The product GlutArrest was specifically formulated to be used an “insurance” to protect against accidental gluten exposure. Dr. Kremer recommends all Celiacs and gluten sensitive individuals have this on hand to take prior to dining out and lessen the  potential damage caused by gluten-exposure when dining out.
  • Bottom Line: When ordering ALWAYS make a big deal about your meal being 100% gluten-free and not coming in contact with any other gluten containing items.

While the idea of eating out may seem daunting (and really should be done with caution), there are some restaurants that are going the extra mile to ensure they are offering the safest dining experience to their customers. The Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program (of the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America) is a program that works directly with restaurants to educate managers and staff on the practices necessary to ensure a gluten-free dining experience to customers. By visiting the above link you can actually find a list of restaurants in your area that have completed the Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program training.

In addition to above restaurant education program, a number of gluten-free food apps have come out in recent years to make the gluten-free dining experience even easier on customers. Apps such asFind Me Gluten-Free (which is the app often used by the Kremer’s when they travel) allows customers to post their experience with certain restaurants around the country. Of course, these reviews can be biased at times and one’s experience can vary quite drastically from one visit to the next; however the Find Me Gluten-Free application (and others available) can still be a useful tool in educating yourself prior to deciding where to dine (or whether to bring your own food if you have no choice of dining elsewhere).

When it comes to dining out, the most important thing to remember is that it is vital to educate yourself as much as possible, as you really are putting your health in the hands of the restaurant staff. Ask questions, make requests, and remember you can always walk out if you’re doubting the safety of the restaurant!

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