Dining Out with Celiac Disease

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If you have celiac disease (CD), you probably know that effectively managing your diet can take some planning. Avoiding gluten is no small feat, as it’s no longer found in grains alone; it’s also a common ingredient in a host of prepared foods, sauces, and condiments.

While CD patients generally have control over their meals at home, dining out can pose a unique challenge, since restaurants don’t typically disclose all the ingredients they use. A Columbia University study noted that 86% of CD patients found dining out to be a negative experience. But it doesn’t have to be! These tips can help you enjoy restaurants safely:

Select strategically

Did you know there are free, CD-friendly restaurant directories? These include a national gluten free registry: http://www.glutenfreeregistry.com/ as well as one of the world’s largest on-line databases for CD-friendly restaurants, pizzerias, bakeries, hotels, and more─around the corner and across the globe: http://www.glutenfreeonthego.com/

Don’t arrive famished

Hunger is such a basic need that it can cloud our judgment. When you arrive at a new restaurant, it’s a good idea to start with a salad or veggie plate with a simple olive oil and lemon dressing to take the edge off your appetite while you get a sense of which entrées might work for you.

Be assertive

Once you let your server know about your dining needs, they can take care of you. Simply state that you have food allergies and need to know how your entrée is prepared. If staff is uncooperative, politely ask for the manager. They will typically do all they can to accommodate you.

Select with care

You can often spot “red-flag” fare right away, like dishes with batter, coatings or heavy sauces. Simply prepared foods are safest, though even seasonings should be questioned. Tell your server that due to a serious allergy, you need to avoid anything made with flour, bread crumbs, or soy sauce.

Never assume

Be careful about assuming a dish is gluten-free, as it’s a sneaky ingredient, often popping up where you least expect it. Omelets may contain pancake batter, baked potatoes can be coated with flour to make the skins crispy, etc. Ask whether salad dressings, soups, marinades and sauces are made on site, and what they consist of.

Be flexible

If you’re having any trouble, you can often play it safe with grilled meat, fish or poultry served with steamed veggies. While it may seem basic, this is a healthy, nourishing, safe meal, which beats potentially dangerous “gourmet” any day.

It may take some effort to dine out safely, but you deserve the option. Once you “train” a few establishments, your path will be much easier. Bon appétit!

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One Comment for “Dining Out with Celiac Disease”

  • SusanNo Gravatar

    I am highly sensitive to gluten, and although I would love to go out more, there are too many restaurants who don’t understand the cross contamination issue. I had a wonderful pasta dish at one restaurant that seemed to have done everything right, but the flour floating through the air from the pizza-making operation landed on my food (maybe the pasta sauce wasn’t covered?) and I got sick. (At least, that was the only thing the chef could think of when I called the next day to let them know I’d been “glutened.”) I also went to a pizza place that offered GF pizzas, but as I was asking about the GF crust, there was a worker right behind the counter beating on dough (not GF) and the flour was everywhere. I just walked out, knowing I couldn’t eat there without getting sick.
    I’ll eat at PF Changs and Outback, and a few others, but there aren’t many places I trust.

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