After I was diagnosed with Celiac, I didn’t go out to eat for months. I was still learning and knew that eating out would be an extremely stressful experience. After a few months of reading everything I could about Celiac disease, I finally felt confident enough to eat out.
I thought I was doing great. Asking the right questions. Letting them know it would be very serious if I got even a crumb of gluten. I enjoyed my meal and couldn’t wait for my next dining experience.
Until a few hours later, anyway.
I’ll spare you the details, but it was not a pretty first 48 hours. Followed by weeks of brain fog, extreme joint pain, and bloating—all my joy came crashing down.
I’ve learned a lot over the years, and I continue to learn every day. If you’re just getting started with the gluten free lifestyle, here are my top 5 tips to avoid being glutened when eating out.
Take care when choosing a restuarant
Restaurants aren’t created equal, especially when it comes to food allergies or Celiac disease. Before I go out to eat, I always use the Find Me Gluten Free app. It’s a free app that lets people review restaurants, share gluten free features, and vote if it’s “Celiac safe.”
If the restaurant isn’t on Find Me Gluten Free, you don’t need to write it off. It just means you have to do a bit more research. I’ve often found good information on Yelp and Google reviews.
If you can’t find the information you need, don’t hesitate to call the restaurant. A manager, and sometimes even a chef, will speak with you on the phone. When making a reservation, it never hurts to note that you have Celiac so they can be prepared.
Related: From Pastatarian to Celiac | My Story
Ask for your food to be brought out separately
It’s not uncommon for waiters to stack plates to bring them all out at once—it’s just more efficient. A tiny crumb or bit of sauce can easily fall on your plate and make you sick. I’ve been to a few restaurants where the manager brought my meal out while wearing gloves.
Visit the bar with caution
It’s rare that I’ll order a cocktail or other mixed drink when I’m eating out—there are too many opportunities for cross-contamination. Between the cocktail shaker and garnishes, gluten is everywhere. Wine is typically my go-to to stay safe.
If you do decide to indulge in a cocktail, be sure to ask about the type of liquor being used. Sometimes, they’ll use a different liquor than what’s listed because they ran out. Let the bartender know, and usually they’ll pull out a clean cocktail shaker and garnishes from the back that haven’t been touched.
Ask the right questions
If you want fries, make sure to ask if they’re done in a dedicated fryer. Gluten is not destroyed in the fryer. Also, don’t trust reviews stating a dedicated fryer. A few months ago, I went to a restaurant specifically because they had a dedicated fryer. Typically, they do. But on this day, they had a special and had used that fryer, contaminating it. They weren’t going to be able to clean it until the following day.
Color me devastated.
Pizza is also a high risk for cross-contamination. Ask if the pizza is cooked on the same surface as regular pizza. If it is, it’s no longer gluten free. Check that the pizza cutter and toppings are also separate.
Is the pasta cooked in a fresh pot of water? Restaurants will sometimes use the same pot to cook multiple batches of pasta—gluten free or not. It will make your meal take a little longer, but it’s always worth it for your safety.
Related: Fast Facts about Celiac Disease
Get serious with your waiter
If you have Celiac, NCGS, a gluten/wheat allergy, etc., make it known. If you just order “the burger with a gluten free bun,” many restaurants won’t take your request seriously. You’ll get the gluten free bun, but it’s unlikely they’ll change gloves and take other proper precautions.
Having anxiety, I can get overwhelmed and forget things when I’m ordering at a restaurant. I love this Gluten Free Dining Card from Good for You Gluten Free. Just pull the card out of your wallet, show it to your waiter, and give yourself some peace of mind.
What are your best tips to avoid being glutened when eating out?